Glaswegian armaments company, William Beardmore and sons,
an established ship and armaments company, known as the
Scottish equivalent of Vickers Company, began negotiations,
along with Armstrong and Whitworth, and Vickers, to build
large rigid airships.October 1915 saw the company awarded
the contract to build HMA No.24 and began working on manufacturing
some of its parts in their seaplane sheds in Dalmuir,
on the north side of the river Clyde. There was no room
for an airship shed in the currently built up area, however
the land on the south bank of the river was sparsely populated,
and areas of open countryside.
original idea was to build a shed on land opposite to Beardmores
existing works at Newshot Island, however a site some 1.5
miles south of Dalmuir was selected. The land was requisitioned
under the Defence of the Realm Act. Some 413 acres were
purchased as the site of the new airship constructional
Beardmore were successfully awarded a grant from the Treasury
towards the cost of the new airship works.Work began on
the site in January 1916, some two years in to WWI. The
construction company Sir William Arrol & Co. started
work on the airship shed. Some 2,300 tonnes of steel were
required. The glazed shed windows were tinted and fitted
with binds so that it could be blacked out at night. At
both ends, the sheds were fitted with large sliding doors,
counterbalanced with several hundred tonnes of concrete
to stabilise when open. As with all of the earlier sheds,
the doors were manually winched opened by capstans and a
team of manual workers. It was estimated that it would take
the men some 13 minutes to winch open the doors. Both ends
of the shed were sheltered by large steel windbreaks. Construction
was almost completed by the August of 1916.
larger hanger was later built almost opposite to the south
of the shed, which was used for construction of Hadley Page
V/1500 bombers assembled. A second airship shed was planned
for construction but never put in to place.Even though the
Inchinnan Airship Works were not far from Dalmuir, it was
the opposite side of the river Clyde, and not easily accessible
for the workers.
Many of the workers had to be driven each morning from Renfrew.
Similar to the Shorts Brothers works at Cardington, the
Beardmore company built fifty two houses for its key
workers on the site of the airfield. The idea of a model
village was created, and gave the workers the comfort and
convenience of self contained houses with very moderate
rents.Before the shed was finished, the first frames of
the new airship, the R24 had been moved in to the shed for
27th October 1917, 200 naval ratings from the Barrow-In-Furness
naval base, arrived to act as ground crews. The R24 was
taken out of the shed on 28th October, but the ship spent
some 6 months testing mooring techniques outside. With the
ship outside, there was space inside the shed to complete
another two ships side by side. Work on the R27 commenced
in March 1917, and completed, with a first flight in June
1918.The Inchinnan constructional sheds most famous
occupant was the transatlantic R34.
R34 being completed in the shed and walked in December of
1918, just after the armistice in November 1918. It was
returned to the shed after ground trials and was going to
undertake its first flight, however bad weather confined
the ship to the shed for the rest of the winter, and didnt
re-emerge until 14th March 1919. At the end of its
second trial flight, some of the ballast bags iced up and
froze. The crew were unable to drop enough water ballast
on landing and the ship came down for a heavy landing. A
propellor and some of the girders buckled.
When the R34 was first walked out of the shed, some of the
women workers pinned a black cat soft toy to the forward
gondola for a good luck mascot. On the evening of the bad
landing, the mascot was removed, and burnt. By the end of
May 1919 the damage had been repaired and the ships was
ready to be delivered to the operational airship base at
East Fortune, outside of Edinburgh.After the war, there
were many ideas for commercial airship operations. Sir William
Beardmore, the owner after which the company was named,
was quoted as saying that in his opinion airships
were the most interesting developments of all.
The R36 was the last airship ordered and constructed in
the Inchinnan constructional shed. The work had begun on
the ship as a stretched R34 class military ship,
but it was later decided that the ship would be converted
to a civil role. This decision delayed the first flight
as the ship was converted to a passenger carrying ship,
with large external gondola was fitted, with accommodation
for up to fifty passengers, in both day and night configuration.
The R36 took flight on 1st April 1921 displaying its
civil registration of G-FAAF.
The ship was then flown down to the Pulham experimental
station, and initially used for mooring trials. It was in
September 1921 the Air Ministry announced that the Inchinnan
aerodrome was to close, and in the autumn of 1922 the buildings
and land of the Beardmore Airship Works were handed over
to the Disposal and Liquidation Commission.
During April 1923 the works were sold to Murray McVinnie
& Co ship chandlers and metal merchants. Later that
year, the airship shed was demolished.
giant Hadley Page Hangar that stood close by fared a little
better, by being purchased by the India Tyre Company, and
remained until 1982, sometimes confused as the airship
shed. Like the houses at Shortstown, Bedford, the
Beardmore workers houses remain and the site of the Glasgow
Airport is close by, on the edge of the original land for
the airship station.
connection with aviation construction still stands to this
very day, with Rolls Royce opened a new factory in 2004
for repairing their aero engines on the same site of Beardmores
original aviation site on the south side of the River Clyde.