A graphic artist has claimed he added an image of an airship flying over Watford High Street to an old postcard - and has shared a rare picture of an R101 in the skies above the town 90 years ago.

The Watford Observer published the old postcard at the start of last month after it had been shared in our nostalgia Facebook group ‘We grew up in Watford’.

This led to some members of the group stating the postcard had been doctored, suggesting the airship may have been Photoshopped onto the original.

Watford Museum offered to help investigate the picture and was confident the airship had been added to the original. However, volunteer archivist Christine Orchard suggested this may have been done by the company which produced the postcard, Dundee-based J Valentine and Son, first registering it in July 1928.

Watford Observer:

The Photoshopped postcard with the airship added

The tale took another twist though, when Tim Gravestock contacted the Watford Observer after reading about the investigation, subsequently admitting he had created the ‘new’ postcard using Photoshop as an April Fool a few years ago. He also revealed he had previously altered three other pictures – “one is quite obvious, the other two are a little more subtle" – and is interested to know if anyone has found them online.

Christine had demonstrated in her investigation that it was entirely reasonable for an airship to have been pictured flying over Watford in this period – and Tim’s image underlines this.

The Watford-based graphic designer told us the picture of the R101 was captured by his grandfather, Hubert Gravestock, during a test flight in 1930.

Watford Observer:

The original postcard from Christine Orchard's personal collection

Christine has looked back through the Watford Observer’s archives and found an enquiry from 2000, asking: “Do you recall the doomed R101 airship which went over Bushey in 1931-32? It crashed in France.”

These dates are a little late because the R100 and R101 had trial flights in late 1929 but the R101 crashed, with loss of life, in October 1930, effectively ending Britain’s involvement in that method of flight.

The enquiry to this newspaper yielded six responses, one of which came from Mrs L Fuller of Abbots Langley.

She wrote: “I was in a field off Bushey Mill Lane, opposite the end of Parkgate Road. I was born in 1921, so I must have been about ten years old when the R101 went overhead.

“We just stood and gazed at it, wondering what on earth it was, going through the sky. It was quite low and sort of drifted over. In those days, you hardly ever saw an aeroplane, so this was quite amazing.

“It was coming from the Garston side and passing over, heading in the Watford/Bushey direction.

“Later we heard it had crashed and all of those people killed. We never considered there would be people underneath it. We just thought of it as a great big balloon. We were shocked so many had died.”