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R 37

Even though the R37 was never completed, she was constructed to 95% of her design and her hull provided useful information for research..

Plans for the R37 were laid down at the end of the First World War, along with those of the R33 and the later 36 class of ship.
Based on the L33 which was brought down by anti-aircraft fire on the night of 24th September 1916, the R33 and R34 shared an improved version of the L33's Zeppelin technology. In January 1917, the Cabinet agreed the financing and construction of three further ships, the R35, R36 and R37. These projects were contracted out to the various British manufacturers at that time.


Length 672ft
Diameter 78.9ft
Speed 60mph

5 x 323hp

Volume 2, 101, 000cft

The Royal Airship Works, Cardington were given the contract for the R37 and commenced design and construction on the ship. In June of 1917 the L48 was brought down by aircraft gunfire and again the British had the chance to see the latest Zeppelin technology at close hand. Inspection teams soon discovered that this ship was one of the new "Height Climbers", a "u" type Zeppelin only completed in May 1917. It was one of the newest ships to roll out of the Freidrichshafen factory.

With this new information, the British Government ordered all work on the three new ships to halt and revised the specifications of the new ships.

R35 to have an extra cell installed and required to have a height ceiling of 16,500ft
R36 to have an extra cell, to be lightened and to have a height ceiling of 20,000 ft
R37 to have the same modifications as the R36
Work on the R37 continued at Cardington, alongside another newly ordered "height climber" ship, the R38.

A drawing of the Cardington site showing the single constructional shed, and a ship, designated the R37 completed
The two ships were under construction in Cardington shed no. 1 during 1917 and 1918. However with the end of the war, there was no further need of these specific height climbing ships. With the downturn in the British economy immediately following the war, all work on all ships was halted and in 1919/1920 the situation at Cardington grew uneasy. Following the war, there was also indecision as to what to do with the airship service as a whole.

The R34 had made a spectacular flight across the Atlantic and back, proving that airships were a viable commercial vehicle for transoceanic travel. Vickers took up the idea as shown in their plans for a fleet of commercial passenger and freight ships. In 1921 the Air Ministry decided that they could not afford to run the airship programme and work was halted on the R37. Work continued alongside on the R38, which was eventually sold to the United States.

The nose framework of the ship
A nearly competed Engine assebly showing space within the engine gondola


The R37 was 90% completed, the framework was finished, the engines had been constructed and tested, the gas bags were nearing completion and work had started on the outer cover, already covering the framework on the tail fins. February 1921 saw the formal order for the ship cancelled and the workers laid off. The ship stood in the shed alongside the completed R38, which later left to its new home of Howden in May 1921.

The R37 was dismantled later in 1921, never to be completed. All was not wasted however as during the dismantling, extremely detailed records were made of the condition of the ship, as she had been shed bound for nearly 4 years. It was also used for stress metallurgical wiring and gas bag tests to be used during the construction of later ships. The design specifics and weight analysis confirmed that had she flown, the R37 would have an impressive disposable lift of 50% with an endurance of 47 hours and maximum range of 3,000 miles at 70% of maximum speed. It was also noted that the relative dimensions of fin size to hull length gave mathematical readings of extreme stability compared to the comparative configurations of earlier ships in the 33 class.

General Configuration :

With no actual plans available at the present time, we are unable to offer comment on the configuration of the ship, however from the detailed list of weights which has been re-created for the website, it seems that the plans included only three engines and not five as had originally been believed. The presumption is that the ship would have had a hull similar to that of the R36 with only a forward gondola, rear engine car and two wing cars. Engine cars are referenced in the leading book by H M Lewitt, Rigid Airship design, published in 1925.

A full breakdown of the R37's weights can be found here : R37 weights sheet


R 37 Engine in the test housing at Cardington
The interior keel walkway with the fuel tanks and ballast bags in place
The interior framework showing a gasbag fully inflated for testing keel





Related ships: R34, R36, R38

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