Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Cramlington’s Airships (NZ254782)

In its pre-‘New Town’ days, Cramlington was a good deal smaller than it is today. It was essentially rural for centuries; and even after the first coal pit was sunk there in the 1820s it remained modest in size.

However, in 1916, the town was selected as the site for the establishment of the ‘No.36 Home Defence Squadron’, with the protection of the coast south from Cramlington all the way down to Whitby coming under its remit. There was already a small base on the site, so the move was more of an ‘upgrade’, and it did its bit during the Great War by bringing down a zeppelin over Hartlepool in November 1916. When the airships were withdrawn from the skies, the base reverted to a training camp and the squadron was disbanded in 1919. Though the outfit has been reformed and disbanded several times since, its base was never again to be sited at Cramlington.

But the town is perhaps more famously remembered in aviation history as the home of a British airship landing ground and shed, from the latter stages of WWI to the 1930s. At a time when Britain was looking for ways to provide additional aerial scouting cover over the North Sea at the height of WWI, a site near Nelson Village to the NW of Cramlington was selected as a landing/technical site for our ‘Submarine Scout’ airships. However, the facility was not completed in time to be of any use during hostilities, with the war coming to an end before the base was finished.

The site was still completed, though, and some post-war activity did take place. But the complex was eventually taken over by a private company, who themselves constructed a modest airship which did some aerial photography and advertising during 1929-30 – before being lost in a storm over Belgium.

And that seems to have been that, with the giant airship shed surviving until the 1960s when it was demolished as part of Cramlington’s ‘New Town’ development.

See here for further information and some pics.


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