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Sheds :-
UNITED KINGDOM - PULHAM


Country : United Kingdom Locations: Pulham
Facilities
Actual
Proposed
1 Mast (experimental)
1 Mast
2 Constructional Sheds
(1 removed to Cardington)
2 Sheds
Constructional & Base Facilities
Extended Base Facilities
It was as far back as 1912 that the land for the airship station in Pulham was purchased. The Admiralty had decided that an airship station was needed and so Thomas Gaze and Son, surveyors and land agents, were given secret orders to acquire land for the establishment of an Air Station. The orders were that the purchasers of the land were to be kept top secret. In Pulham St. Mary and Rushall 500 acres were bought including Upper Vaunces Farm, Brick Kiln and Home Farm. Civilian contractors with the aid of the Air Construction Corps, cleared and levelled the site for the 100 R.N. personnel to move in by 1915. By the end of the World War I, they numbered over 3000.

Pulham Sheds under construction

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 ships.

In 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.

In 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.

An 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.

One 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.

The 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.

The 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.

It 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.

Now cultivated and brought back into farming, there is little evidence above ground of the intense activity of the self-contained airship station

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.

 

Shed Internal Dimensions:
Length: 700 ft
Width: 180 ft
Height: 110 ft


R36 at Pulham with the twin
sheds in the background


The R33 on the Pulham
experimental mast

 

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