Even though the R37 was never
completed, she was constructed to 95% of her design and her hull
provided useful information for research.
Plans 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.
The 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.
to have an extra cell installed and required to have a height
ceiling of 16,500ft
to have an extra cell, to be lightened and to have a height
ceiling of 20,000 ft
to have the same modifications as the R36.
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
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.
The 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.
The 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.
The 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.
With 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 in 1925.