Following the success of HMA
No. 9, further ships were ordered by the Admiralty. Along with
the Vickers Company, three new contractors were required to produce
The Vickers Company had already
proven themselves with the design and construction of No. 9 and
were the only company with any experience of building a large
ship.owing the trials and design success of HMA No. 9, it was
agreed that the Zeppelin threat had to be tackled head on; the
Admiralty required more ships.
There were initial problems
at the Admiralty with regards to change of staff and also general
opinion regarding rigid airships, as the successful non-rigid
programme was expanding rapidly. However in June of 1915, along
with the Vickers Company, three new contractors were selected
to produce rigid ships.
24 on the ground at the Beadmore construction site, Inchinnan,
24 on the mast, Pulham (photo courtesy of Iain Crump)
wonderful shot of HMA 24 and the ground handling crew at
East Fortune Airship Station. The shot was taken from 4,000ft
(photo kindly donated by the Fulton Family, Tranent)
crew of the HMA 24, showing Coxwain Crump and other members
of the crew.
The three new contractors
were Beardmore, Armstrong and Whitworth and finally Shorts Brothers.
All three companies were to become famous in the world of aviation.
By October 1915 the drawings
were approved and three ships were ordered. By December the pace
of design and the requirement for big ships had increased dramatically
and a further sixteen ships had been budgeted for by the Admiralty.
All of these ships were to become known as the 23 Class, which
were in effect stretched versions of the original No. 9. The designs
were seen in essence as modified versions of No.9, with an extra
bay inserted in the middle of the ship. A gun platform was added
to the top of the ship designed to take a two pound gun and two
Lewis machine guns. The platform was surrounded by 18 inch sanctions
carrying lifelines. These sanctions could be extended to double
the height in order to carry a canvas windscreen. Three other
Lewis guns were to be fitted at the extreme tail, in the control
car further aft and on the top walking way.
The bomb load was to be greater than that of HMA 9 but none was
actually specified. The ships each possessed an external keel,
to the same pattern as the No. 9. The cabin being 45 feet long
contain crew accommodation, a wireless room and a bomb room.
From the keel further aft
were three gondolas which were suspended below and accessible
by open ladders. The ship gondolas also contained airtight buoyancy
bags in case the ships had to alight on water. This was a technical
requirement of all ships since HMA 1 - the Mayfly. With this rapid
expansion of the requirement for airship production, there were
a few problems in that so far, only one company had actually built
a ship and hence had all the facilities.
In April 1916 the Government
approved for a total fleet of 10, 23 class ships, but this was
later modified in the light of further design technology available
from Germany. The later ships becoming the R23X class and the
The HMA 23 was the first to
be completed, and hence the designation of the class of ships.
There were a number of delays in the initial constructions and
the ship was completed on 26th August 1917. Although not unexpected,
the figures were disappointing and 2 weeks later on the 18th October
the Admiralty decided that the design must be altered.
On the day of the decision
the HMA 24 was also tested and found to be mysteriously two thirds
of a ton heavier than her sister ships, with a lift of only 5.1
tons. The alterations to the ships included the removal of dynamos
and bomb frames and many other items which were deemed not necessary
were removed. Upon inspection of No. 24 it was later found that
the ship was heavier due to having used rivets, fastenings and
bracing pieces which were slightly larger and heavier than originally
expected and hence increased the overall weight of the ship.
No 24 required more than minor modifications, since she was so
much heavier than the other ships. As Beardmore's shed was needed
immediately for the building of R.34, it was necessary to move
the ship to her new station at East Fortune as soon as possible.
This required extra lift to enable her to fly safely over the
hilly countryside of southern Scotland, so in addition to the
changes already made, the drastic step was taken of removing all
the machinery from the aft car: engine, propeller, radiator and
silencers. All these modifications brought the disposable lift
up to nearly 6.5 tons, but the price paid was a top speed barely
in excess of 35 mph. In this form No 24 was delivered in October
No. 24 had a
similar history to that of No. 23, flying a total of 164 hours
and 40 minutes and covering 4,200 miles, but as the original intention
of replacing her missing engine in a new and lighter car was never
carried out, she remained very slow.
On one typical
occasion, encountering an unexpectedly strong adverse wind near
the Bass Rock, she remained for some time stationary, quite unable
to make any headway. Despite this severe handicap she was used
for training and convoy duties when conditions were deemed suitable,
although she appears to have seen no action. She made her last
wartime flight in June 1918, but was retained in service and two
months later had her bows strengthened to adapt her for mooring
trials at Pulham, where Vickers were building a new type of high
The tests, which were carried
out with both midship engines removed, were quite successful but
were not completed finally until November 1919. The following
month No 24 was deleted and scrapped.