though the R37 was never completed, she was constructed to 95%
of her design and her hull provided useful information for research..
for the R37 were laid down at the end of the First World War, along
with those of the R33 and the later 36 class of ship.
Based on the L33 which was brought down by anti-aircraft fire on
the night of 24th September 1916, the R33 and R34 shared an improved
version of the L33's Zeppelin technology. In January 1917, the Cabinet
agreed the financing and construction of three further ships, the
R35, R36 and R37. These projects were contracted out to the various
British manufacturers at that time.
Royal Airship Works, Cardington were given the contract for the
R37 and commenced design and construction on the ship. In June
of 1917 the L48 was brought down by aircraft gunfire and again
the British had the chance to see the latest Zeppelin technology
at close hand. Inspection teams soon discovered that this ship
was one of the new "Height Climbers", a "u"
type Zeppelin only completed in May 1917. It was one of the newest
ships to roll out of the Freidrichshafen factory.
With this new information, the British Government ordered all
work on the three new ships to halt and revised the specifications
of the new ships.
R35 to have an extra cell installed and required to have a
height ceiling of 16,500ft
R36 to have an extra cell, to be lightened and to have a height
ceiling of 20,000 ft
R37 to have the same modifications as the R36.
Work on the R37 continued at Cardington, alongside another newly
ordered "height climber" ship, the R38.
drawing of the Cardington site showing the single constructional
shed, and a ship, designated the R37 completed
two ships were under construction in Cardington shed no.
1 during 1917 and 1918. However with the end of the war,
there was no further need of these specific height climbing
ships. With the downturn in the British economy immediately
following the war, all work on all ships was halted and
in 1919/1920 the situation at Cardington grew uneasy. Following
the war, there was also indecision as to what to do with
the airship service as a whole.
R34 had made a spectacular flight across the Atlantic
and back, proving that airships were a viable commercial
vehicle for transoceanic travel. Vickers took up the idea
as shown in their plans for a fleet of commercial passenger
and freight ships. In 1921 the Air Ministry decided that
they could not afford to run the airship programme and
work was halted on the R37. Work continued alongside on
the R38, which was eventually sold to the United States.
nose framework of the ship
nearly competed Engine assebly showing space within the engine
R37 was 90% completed, the framework was finished, the engines
had been constructed and tested, the gas bags were nearing
completion and work had started on the outer cover, already
covering the framework on the tail fins. February 1921 saw
the formal order for the ship cancelled and the workers
laid off. The ship stood in the shed alongside the completed
R38, which later left to its new home of Howden in May 1921.
R37 was dismantled later in 1921, never to be completed.
All was not wasted however as during the dismantling, extremely
detailed records were made of the condition of the ship,
as she had been shed bound for nearly 4 years. It was also
used for stress metallurgical wiring and gas bag tests to
be used during the construction of later ships. The design
specifics and weight analysis confirmed that had she flown,
the R37 would have an impressive disposable lift of 50%
with an endurance of 47 hours and maximum range of 3,000
miles at 70% of maximum speed. It was also noted that the
relative dimensions of fin size to hull length gave mathematical
readings of extreme stability compared to the comparative
configurations of earlier ships in the 33 class.
no actual plans available at the present time, we are unable
to offer comment on the configuration of the ship, however
from the detailed list of weights which has been re-created
for the website, it seems that the plans included only three
engines and not five as had originally been believed. The
presumption is that the ship would have had a hull similar
to that of the R36 with only a forward gondola, rear engine
car and two wing cars. Engine cars are referenced in the
leading book by H M Lewitt, Rigid Airship design, published