1915, in the mid point of the First World War, the Lord
Commissioners of the Admiralty decided that Air Department
should centralise its pilot, airship crew, and balloonist
training programmes combined in to a single establishment.
to this date, all training and instruction had been split
various RNAS sites across the country. Because of this de-centralised
approach, the results were often varied and didnt
produce the numbers of pilots required.
to to the war, the site had been extensively surveyed, and
chosen for its accessibility to London and many other
parts of England. A branch line was laid from the mainline
at Sleaford, some 5 miles away, and used to move construction
materials to the site.
The line was laid so quickly that the sleepers were laid
directly on the ground. The first trains were running to
the site, by early March 1916. The tracks were later re-laid
properly and a passenger station was opened in the heart
of RNAS Cranwell.
of the accommodation huts, and the aerodrome started in
December 1915, although severe weather hindered progress.
The first plane landed in January 1916 and the station was
officially commissioned in March 1916.
The original airship shed was completed in November, The
shed was a portable Submarine Scout shed which had to be
rebuilt after being blown over in a gale. A Coastal shed
was later build by airship shed contractor Sir William Arroll
& Co, completed in December 1916. The third and last
shed was the largest rigid shed to be completed, and this
as constructed by Francis Morton and Co., using 1,915 tonnes
of steel. The rigid shed was completed in June 1917.
A second shed was planned to be erected, however this was
cancelled in May 1917.
first airship was delivered to RNAS Cranfield at the end
of 1916, however the first pupils didnt arrive until
May 1917. The training of pilots ran for nine weeks, however
it was often longer as bad weather often hampered flying.
covered many aspects of airship flying and operation, not
just piloting and navigation, but also rigging, weather
Cranwell, was not a operational base but a training base,
and so many of the flights from the base were short training
flights. In the short time, just over a year by the time
of the Armistice in November 1918, some seventy five pilots
had been trained. The RNAS Cranwell, was renamed RAF Cranwell
on 1st April 1918 when the RAF was created from the armed
being assigned to the RAF, the RNAS aeroplanes and airships
came under the newly formed authority, however the actual
airship station remained the property remained the the property
of the Admiralty.
Compared to other RNAS stations, when demobilisation occurred
and the rapid contraction of the airship service in 1919,
the last airship didnt leave RAF Cranwell until 1921.
The sheds and hydrogen plant were demolished over the next
the loss of its lighter than air connection, RAF Cranwell
remains as a RAF Training College on the same aerodrome
site as surveyed in November 1915.
Rigid Shed (700 ft Long)
1 Submarine Scout Shed (152ft 45ft Wide 50ft High)
Rigid shed (site cleared but not constructed)
Plant and four gasholders
Airships: Rigid No.25
7 SS Ships
3 SSZ ships