It was 2am on 5th October 1930 when the R101 Airship bound for India via Egypt suddenly started losing height. A faulty engine had already been giving trouble causing the craft to fly low over the channel after it had set off from Cardington in Bedfordshire. Now it started to dive, water ballast was poured from the ship in effort to gain height but the R101 plummeted to the ground and having been filled with inflammable hydrogen rather than inert helium, it burst into flames. Within seconds all that remained was a charred wreck, only six of the fifty four aboard survived.
Among the casualties was Major General Sir William Sefton Brancker, a distinguished soldier and aviator and the then Director of Civil Aviation. A colourful character Brancker was not only famous for his distinguished career, but also, in an age when peculiar party tricks were all the rage, for swallowing goldfish and, even more bizarrely, for eating his monocle. At the time his celebrity status was sufficient for him to be remembered in the naming of this Plymouth street – laid out during the course of the 1930s.