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Airship Sheds
United Kingdom - RNAS Longside


Country: United Kingdom Location: RNAS Longside

The northern Eastern side of the North Sea was a particularly strateagic location for the Royal Navy, in that it was able to defend and observe any German coastal shipping which was trying to make it's way out of the North Sea and in to the North Atlantic.

It was decided that the best location for the new RNAS station was sited on the Buchan Peninsular north of Aberdeen. The location was chosen some distance inland from the coast, unlike other RNAS stations, as this was to protect it from shelling from German Warships. Coastal towns had experienced shelling from the German fleet in the early days of World War 1, when the towns of Scarborough and Hartlepool were shelled by 6 German warships on 16h December 1914.

The contract for the construction of the Airship Station was given to the company Tawse of Aberdeen, and once the site was purchased, construction began in 1915. Much of the land around the station was used to grow crops, however the land selected for the airship station was a peat bog. The local name for the area was Lenabo, a translation of "wet meadow for cows". Drainage of the land was a major undertaking, and an army of both Scottish and Irish labourers was required.

Using steam shovels and bucket cranes, the top layer of peat was removed from the ground. Lorries and even horse and carts were used to to deliver the materials to the site as, with many other remote airship bases, the local roads were narrow and winding.
Location
Facilities
Actual
Proposed

Airship Shed: I Rigid Shed (711ft long, 151ft wide and 105ft high)
1 Coastal Shed (323ft long 113ft wide, 80ft high)
1 Coastal Shed (323ft long, 114ft wide, 80ft high)

Hydrogen plant: 1
Gasholder 2x 250,000 cft

1x 20,000cft

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RNAS Longside general arrangement
The smaller Submarine Scout Class shed and larger Coastal Shed under construction

A branch line of 4.5 miles was laid from the Longside railway station to transport men and materials to the site, which speeded up the delivery process. Even with the new trainline, the construction of the base and sheds was a slow progress in comparison to some other airship bases, and it was not fully completed until 1918.

One of the main reasons for the slowness of completion, was the fact that local skilled labour was scarce, and hence delayed the technical construction of the sheds and site buildings. RNAS Longside was a large site, and incorporated two coastal sheds, and a new large rigid shed. The costs increased on the site, over time and over £500,000 was spent, if you compare that to a similar site, RNAS Angelsey which was started as the same time, the costs was around £59,000.

The station was officially commissioned on 16th March 1916, and the fist airship arrived by rail, a few weeks later, ready to be assembled and inflated. By July 1916, two more Coastal Class airships had arrived, C.5 and C.7. Unfortunately adverse weather conditions prevailed in the July, and just 78 hours flying was recorded.

By the end of July the north side Coastal shed was being painted, and the the south Coastal shed was in the final stages of having the metal sheeting completed. Gas mains were being installed in the sheds, so that the ships could be inflated whilst inside.

November of 1916 there were four Coastal Class ships on site. During the spring months of 1917, the weather was abnormally bad, and this curtailed many flights, and the only good weather arriving in late June and July. That summer, the ships started to earn their keeps and accompanied the Grand Fleet in a series of exercise and patrols.

The larger rigid shed was now completed by the end of 1917 and a new wireless station had been added to the station. With the arrival of another Coastal Class airship, to be based with the existing four ships, C.7, C.10A, C.14, and C.18 RNAS Longside now became the main and establish base for the Coastal Class ship. Facilities for the staff were also improved included a swimming pool, shops, a theatre and Church.

Further airships arrived in the beginning of 1918, with the new North Sea class and some Submarine Scout Zero ships, although these were to be mainly based at the new mooring out site nearby of Auldbar. The weather in February 1918 was bad that patrols could only be carried out on four days in that month.

In the spring of 1918, the weather improved and in March, 76 escort flying hours were recorded and some 200 ships were protected. In the April, again many convoys were protected. It was planned that the RNAS Longside fleet would be expanded as it had the capacity with the two Coastal sheds, and the large rigid shed, however the end of the war, it was decided that this was no longer required. At the end of the war, there were four NS class ships, on Coastal Star and nine Submarine Scout Twin based at the station.

After the Armistice was signed in November of 1918, RNAS Longside's fleet of airships continued to provide escort duties to North Sea convoys. Many mine hunting patrols were also undertaken and continued in to early 1919. It was from RNAS Longside in 1919 that the N.S.11 undertook it's record breaking patrol flight from 14:00pm 9th - 18:50 13th February, some 100 hours and 50 minutes.

In 1920, no further use of the airship station could be found and the site was put up for disposal. The large airship sheds were sold for scrap and demolished.

 
   
SSZ 55 landing in front of the completed sheds at RNAS Longside, notice the sheep grazing on the airfield  
 
Coastal C Star 7 leaving RNAS Lonside shed  
 
NS10 deflating in 40mph winds in front of the larger Coastal shed.  
 
RNAS Longside from above showing the rigid airship shed  
   

 

The base was left abandoned, and the buildings were gone. The ground on which the airship station once stood was planted with conifers by the Forestry Commission. The site is now referred to as the "Forest of Deer" with some of the site roads acting as footpaths. Some of the original mooring blocks and ruined walls can be see in the forest today.
It is difficult to find the original layout of the airfield from remains but there are still some concrete floors, mooring blocks and other massive bits of concrete within the trees.

In 2003, Longside Community Council had a memorial plaque mounted on to a structure that is thought to have been part of the officer's mess. The structure is just beside the small parking area at the entrance to the forest. The plaque incorporates a photo of the base, which is held at the RAF Museum

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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