Royal Naval Air Station Howden was constructed and opened
on the outskirts of the town during the first world war,
to cover the East Coast ports shipping from German U-boat
station consisted of: Living accommodation for the Officer's
and other ranks, a chapel, YMCA, post office and a pigeon
loft, the latter housing the carrier pigeons which were
carried, two per airship.
casualty of this redevelopment was Brindcommon Farm which
was demolished to clear the approach to the landing field.
Besides the living accommodation, there were the office
blocks, technical area, a large hydrogen gas works, electric
powerhouse, stores, fuel dump and workshops. All built on
the left side of the approached road. On the right side
of the road, were the three airship sheds.
shed for the rigid type airship flanked by two smaller sheds
which housed the non-rigid type airship and provided a wind
break for the larger shed.
By 1919 Howden was to boast the largest airship shed in
the world. The No.2 Double Rigid Shed measured 750 feet
in length and 130 feet clearance height at the doors, it
could have housed six Howden Ministers inside.
Howden air station formally opened on the 26 June 1916.
The first airship flight into and the last airship flight
out of Howden, some 13 years later was to be piloted by
the same man, Sub- Lieutenant Ralph Booth, who in 1929 was
to fly the R100 on its maiden flight.
Although, only one airship, the R100 (designed by Barnes
Wallis, later to be Sir Barnes Wallis, was actually designed
and built at the Howden air station, between 1926 and 1929.
It was as a training and antisubmarine station that was
to be the stations main role, in the years between 1916
The Twin shed under construction
Americans had been so impressed by the British built R34s
flight across the Atlantic and back in July 1919 that they
decided to buy a British airship. In 1920, the American Navy
sent over a party of officers and other ranks, (nick-named
the Howden Detachment), for flying training and familiarisation,
on British airships, in readiness to for them to collect and
fly back to the States the R38 (to be called the ZR2 by the
Americans) airship. The station was used by many famous airship
including the R34 and R38. As with all the cuts in the early
1920, the R.N.A.S. closed in 1921 and was then reopened a
few years later for construction of the R100, as part of the
Imperial Airship Scheme..
showing the double connected constructional sheds at Howden
Construction was undertaken in the machine shops adjoining
The Station reopened when the Airship Guarantee Company,
a subsidiary of Vickers Ltd. would build another airship,
the R100 to the same contract specifications, as the Royal
Airship Works in Cardington.
The Airship Guarantee Company decided to build the R100
at Howden. Vickers brought back, from abroad Barnes Wallis.
In 1924 the Airship Guarantee Company sent a working party
to Howden to put the now neglected airship station back
The massive shed still stood surrounded by debris of the
wartime airship sheds. The owners had abandoned the shed
in the face of falling scrap metal prices. The sheds door
clearance of 130ft. had to be increased by 10ft to accommodate
the R 100.
The local town of Howden was back on the airship map. The
towns fortunes took an upward turn as a large labour force,
mainly recruited locally (60% of the labour on airship construction
was female) was needed not only to rebuild and run the station,
but to construct a giant airship, which was to measure 709
feet in length, 133 feet in diameter, a 5,000,000 cubic
foot displacement and powered by six Rolls-Royce engines,
Over the following six years the two airships took shape.
The R100 was completed as per the contract and once completion
flew down to Cardington which was to become it's base of
commercial operations. The R100 flew successfully to Canada
the demise of the R101 in October 1930, Howden Air Station
was left to run down and the towns fortunes with it.
The town still survives, but the airship station is no more.
It is noted that a few mooring out blocks still survive
on an area near a local golf course and one is on display
as with other R100 memorabilia at the Elvington Air Museum
under construction in the double shed
Notice the central divide between the 2 sheds being open.