the success of HMA No. 9, further ships were ordered by the
Admiralty. Along with the Vickers Company, three new contractors
were required to produce rigid ships. The Vickers Company had
already proven themselves with the design and construction of
No. 9 and were the only company with any experience of building
a large ship.
the trials and design success of HMA No. 9, it was agreed that
the Zeppelin threat had to be tackled head on; the Admiralty required
more ships. There were initial problems at the Admiralty with
regards to change of staff and also general opinion regarding
rigid airships, as the successful non-rigid programme was expanding
rapidly. However in June of 1915, along with the Vickers Company,
three new contractors were selected to produce rigid ships.
24 on the ground at the Beadmore construction site, Inchinnan,
24 on the mast, Pulham (photo courtesy of Iain Crump)
wonderful shot of HMA 24 and the ground handling crew at East
Fortune Airship Station. The shot was taken from 4,000ft (photo
kindly donated by the Fulton Family, Tranent)
crew of the HMA 24, showing Coxwain Crump and other members
of the crew.
three new contractors were Beardmore, Armstrong and Whitworth
and finally Shorts Brothers. All three companies were to become
famous in the world of aviation.
October 1915 the drawings were approved and three ships were ordered.
By December the pace of design and the requirement for big ships
had increased dramatically and a further sixteen ships had been
budgeted for by the Admiralty. All of these ships were to become
known as the 23 Class, which were in effect stretched versions
of the original No. 9. The designs were seen in essence as modified
versions of No.9, with an extra bay inserted in the middle of
the ship. A gun platform was added to the top of the ship designed
to take a two pound gun and two Lewis machine guns. The platform
was surrounded by 18 inch sanctions carrying lifelines. These
sanctions could be extended to double the height in order to carry
a canvas windscreen. Three other Lewis guns were to be fitted
at the extreme tail, in the control car further aft and on the
top walking way.
The bomb load was to be greater than that of HMA 9 but none was
actually specified. The ships each possessed an external keel,
to the same pattern as the No. 9. The cabin being 45 feet long
contain crew accommodation, a wireless room and a bomb room.
the keel further aft were three gondolas which were suspended
below and accessible by open ladders. The ship gondolas also contained
airtight buoyancy bags in case the ships had to alight on water.
This was a technical requirement of all ships since HMA 1 - the
Mayfly. With this rapid expansion of the requirement for airship
production, there were a few problems in that so far, only one
company had actually built a ship and hence had all the facilities.
April 1916 the Government approved for a total fleet of 10, 23
class ships, but this was later modified in the light of further
design technology available from Germany. The later ships becoming
the R23X class and the R31 class.
HMA 23 was the first to be completed, and hence the designation
of the class of ships. There were a number of delays in the initial
constructions and the ship was completed on 26th August 1917.
Although not unexpected, the figures were disappointing and 2
weeks later on the 18th October the Admiralty decided that the
design must be altered.
the day of the decision the HMA 24 was also tested and found to
be mysteriously two thirds of a ton heavier than her sister ships,
with a lift of only 5.1 tons. The alterations to the ships included
the removal of dynamos and bomb frames and many other items which
were deemed not necessary were removed. Upon inspection of No.
24 it was later found that the ship was heavier due to having
used rivets, fastenings and bracing pieces which were slightly
larger and heavier than originally expected and hence increased
the overall weight of the ship.
No 24 required more than minor modifications, since she was so
much heavier than the other ships. As Beardmore's shed was needed
immediately for the building of R.34, it was necessary to move
the ship to her new station at East Fortune as soon as possible.
This required extra lift to enable her to fly safely over the
hilly countryside of southern Scotland, so in addition to the
changes already made, the drastic step was taken of removing all
the machinery from the aft car: engine, propeller, radiator and
silencers. All these modifications brought the disposable lift
up to nearly 6.5 tons, but the price paid was a top speed barely
in excess of 35 mph. In this form No 24 was delivered in October
24 had a similar history to that of No. 23, flying a total of
164 hours and 40 minutes and covering 4,200 miles, but as the
original intention of replacing her missing engine in a new and
lighter car was never carried out, she remained very slow.
one typical occasion, encountering an unexpectedly strong adverse
wind near the Bass Rock, she remained for some time stationary,
quite unable to make any headway. Despite this severe handicap
she was used for training and convoy duties when conditions were
deemed suitable, although she appears to have seen no action.
She made her last wartime flight in June 1918, but was retained
in service and two months later had her bows strengthened to adapt
her for mooring trials at Pulham, where Vickers were building
a new type of high mast.
tests, which were carried out with both midship engines removed,
were quite successful but were not completed finally until November
1919. The following month No 24 was deleted and scrapped.