The site, after clearing was set and the sheds were erected
during 1915 and the site was commissioned during February
1916. However the first operational coastal airship was
not delivered until August of 1916. These became known as
"Pulham Pigs" from their yellowish-buff envelope and this
nickname later included all later ships. Their patrol area
extended between a line from Margate to Dunkirk in the south
and from Mablethorpe to Holland in the North, with the smaller
SS types patrolling closer inshore. In mid-1916, German
floatplanes operating from occupied Belgium shot down two
of Pulham's Coastals and this patrol area was handed over
to aeroplanes. The original shed at Pulham was a wooden
structure which was suitable for the smaller non rigid class
1917, although a naval base, Pulham was commanded by Colonel
Edward Maitland. Pulham was the H.Q. for a specialist unit
dealing with the construction of airfields. Parachute Experimental
Staff were also stationed there and Colonel Maitland, already
the first man to descend from an airship, made a successful
drop from the "C17" at 1000 ft. over Pulham.
Pulham next became an experimental station and received
two much larger steel-framed sheds to house the new "rigid"
ships. It also functioned as a staging post for airships
shuttling between the construction at Kingsnorth in Kent
and the more northerly stations.
September 1917, the No.23 and R26 arrived at the station.
Pulham had only just received its earliest rigid airships,
No.9 and No.23 when one of the latest German Zeppelins,
the L33 was brought down relatively intact in North Essex.
Colonel Maitland immediately camped out at the site, directing
a team of naval architects and engineers to record every
detail of her construction. From their drawings, Britain's
first really modern "rigid" airship was built at Selby bearing
the number R33. Her sister ship was the R34 which arrived
at Pulham after the armistice of 1918. By then, Col. Maitland
had been succeeded by Maj. A. D. Cunningham and Major G.
H. Scott functioned as chief experimental officer.
army of maintenance staff included large numbers of women
employed on the station, many living locally, but others
cycling long distances to get to their duties. They acted
as messengers, cleaners, cooks, gardeners and clerks.
of the large hangars of Pulham was dismantled and re-erected
at Cardington where it was enlarged and can still be seen
in use today. The wooden shed's timbers were reused for
the Firs Stadium in Norwich.
Airship station continued to play a role in the Imperial
Airship scheme with the housing and reconditioning of the
R36 and also the R33 which were both to be used for experimental
purposes, the results to be passed on to the new ships.
However with the R101 disaster, the station was moved on
to a care and maintenance basis only.
RAF again took it over for Maintenance Unit work and the
area suffered a number of strafing and bombing attacks in
World War II, without serious casualties.
was not until 1948 that the huge shed was dismantled, the
landmark on the Norfolk skyline since 1917. The work was
carried out by the Norwich firm of Harry Pointer (Norwich)
Limited. However the second shed can still be seen today
as Number 2 shed at Cardington.
cultivated and brought back into farming, there is little
evidence above ground of the intense activity of the self-contained
Foundations of all three sheds are intact and the sites
of the mooring mast, the silicol plant building, the steam-raising
plant and the foundations of the gasholders have been located.