Mast and facilities at base of mast
and buildings under construction. Seen here, the mast
head is still awaiting to be completed, along with
the roof's of the administration and winch buildings.
shed under construction 1928
(Photo copyright Mike Baldwin Collection)
mast nearing completion with the uniquely designed
administration buildings around the base of the mast.
Shed under construction - the largest building in
the British Empire at the time.
airfield, showing the shed, and the distance from
the mast to the shed. The fuelholders can be seen
in the foreground.
the vast shed. You can see the design differed from
the Cardington contructional sheds, by not having
and side annex's for construction or storage.
Shed showing the door frames and gantry to hold the
massive doors. Again, doors were only placed at one
side of the shed, unlike the Cardington sheds.
A rare aerial view of the Imperial Airship Base at
Karachi. The shed can be seen with the shadow to the
right of the building. The mast can be seen further
to the right of the shed.
The land was purchased and surveying commenced
on the land as to where best to place the buildings. Construction
began in 1926 and an airship mast, hydrogen plant and hanger.
The Mast followed the same basic designs as the Cardington
mast, with the same height and construction method. The
only exception was that the base of the mast contained buildings
followed along the baseline in an octagonal shape. The airship
base also contained a hydrogen plant in order that the ships
can be regassed at the mast.
The gasometers contained enough gas to refill the R101,
at a capacity of 5.5 million cft of gas. The Karachi airship
shed was erected which was larger than the original Cardington
sheds and of a simpler design. This was decreed that the
slanting side areas were not needed as it was not to be
a constructional shed, and the sides of the hangers at Cardington
contained a lot of the offices and storage space during
construction of a ship. The shed also differed from other
previous designs of sheds, in that the shed only had doors
at one end, with a differing door frame design. Once completed,
the Karachi shed was the largest building in the British
Empire at that time.
The shed was also designed with the future in mind as it
was 850ft long , 170ft high and 180ft wide. This would have
fitted the new R102 class ship which was designed to be
some 822ft long. Construction of the facility cost some
£ 93,000 in 1928 ( £5,500,000 - 2017 value).
As there were no major iron or steel works
in India at the time, the materials and components were
fabricated at the Geriston Steel Works, Glasgow, with the
Armstrong Construction Company being awarded the contract
for the Shed's construction. The first piece of structural
steelwork being lifted in to place on 9th October 1926.
Despite the shed being erected along the lines of previous
sheds, the Karachi Shed was the largest. Despite the size,
and some 4,000 tonnes of steel used in the construction,
one of the conditions of the assembly and design, was that
the shed could be dismantled and moved to another location.
The precedent of this had already been made with the moving
of the constructional shed in Pulham in Norfolk, to be re-erected
and suitibly enlarged as Shed 2, at the Royal Airship Works,
The mooring mast was constructed along
the same design lines as the Cardington and Ismailia mast,
and work began in 1929, with the completion of the construction
in August 1930. The mast itself was the standard design,
however the buildings around the base were added in an octagonal
design. As with the Montreal Mast, it was see that administration
and other logistical space was needed. Space would have
also been needed for customs and official passenger formalities.
At Cardington, these were not to be processed at the mast
but in what was know as the Administration Builing or Short's
Building as it's known today. To transport passengers, a
8 mile railway spur was built to connect the base with the
The Shed and mast, although never used
by an airship remained, and according to records, some eighteen
men were employed up until 1939, to maintain the facility
which shows the decision on "cancelling the programme" was
not as immediate as people believe after the R01 tragedy.
With the decisions over the future of the Imperial Airship
programme being discussed in London over the next few years,
the locals managers allowed the Karachi shed to be used
by local soldiers as a sports arena, out of the sun. It
was reported that two games of football could be played
inside the shed at once. It was also rumoured that the building
was large enough to host local polo games, although there
is no current evidence to substantiate this, however again
the shed was certainly large enough for shelter play.
The shed became involved in aeronautical
activities finally in the late 1930's when Imperial Airways
took over responsibility of the building as an aeroplane
hangar and workshops.
It was during the Second World War that
the shed was used by both the RAF and the US Army. They
utilised the shed for repairing aircraft which were being
used in Burma and Indochina. The British Government were
always looking for other uses for the shed, as well as offering
the facilities to other interested Governments. The US Navy
did investigate the possibility of using the base for it's
own airship programme as the shed was large enough, however
this did not progress any further. The sheds and mast remained
erected until well after India's independence from Britain,
and later territory tansferred to Pakistan.
In 1952, Pakistan Aviation issued a tender
to dismantle the shed, and it was not until 1961 that it
was finally agreed to dismantle it. Not that the building
would be seen as going to waste, as the resources could
be put to other uses. The steel was used for bridges and
other smaller buildings along the vast Pakistan Railways.
As with some of the other proposed sites, the Karachi site
is the location of the International Airport today. If you
are able to visit the airport today, check out the Pakistan
International Airlines buildings, and the widebodied aircraft
hangar is sited close to the grounds once occupied by the
Karachi Airship Shed.