The original plans for
the R39 were laid down as part of an order by the Government
for a series of ships at the latter part of the First World
June of 1918 the Admiralty made requirements for a ship
to be built which would "be required to patrol the
North Sea for six days without support, as far as 300 miles
from a home base." It was to have a combat ceiling
of 22,000ft, and was required to carry enough fuel for 65
hours at full speed of 70.6 mph. It was agreed that a further
series of ships ship be ordered and the new ships, classed
as "Admiralty A Class".
company had already been one of the major manufacturers
of airships during the early part of the First World War,
and their experience as an aircraft and armaments manufacturer
meant that they were one of the four main manufacturers
assigned to take on Admiralty order. The company had already
gained experience and skills with building the R25, R29
and R33 airships. The R33 was nearing completion when the
order was given for the construction of the R39.
Whitworth shed was located at their Barlow works just
some 3 miles south of Selby, Yorkshire. With the launch
of the R33 on 6th March 1919, the shed was vacated and construction
could begin on the R39. The R39 was to follow the same design
specification of the R38 which had begun construction in
the Short's Brothers shed at Cardington. Work had commenced
on the R38 in February of 1919, and so work was begun on
the R39 at the same time, with the first rings and jigs
being laid down in February of 1919 when the shed had become
vacant. The R33 had completed it's outdoor trials and been
flown down to it's new base at Pulham in Norfolk.
The design of the ship
was to ensure that it would be able to offer not only communications
role but also the ship was also to be armed for the defense
of ships on escort duty and for attacking other aggressors:
39 Proposed Armament
520 lb of bombs8x
230lb of bombs
1pdr gun on gun platform on the top of the ship
pairs of machine guns spread along the top of the ship,
the lower gun pit, and throughout the gondolas.
crash and the "New Blueprint"
for the Admiralty team, or so it appeared at the time,
almost immediatley following the decision to commence
the design of the new ships. The large quantities of the
wreckage of the latest L70 Zeppelin had been recovered
from the sea following the downing of the L70 off the
coast of Great Yarmouth on 5th August. The Admiralty team
were very much influenced by the data and material they
had obtained, and with so much material at their disposal
from this, the most advanced of the German Navy's Zeppelins.
The design team headed up by Campbell must have felt that
they had been presented with a blueprint for their new
class of airship. The Admiralty team were very much influenced
by the data and material the had obtained, leading them
to assume it could be successfully replicated in the same
way the R33 had been based on the downed L33. Unfortunately
they were unaware of the dangers that were inherent in
the German design.
Construction had begun
in February, as the shed was being freed up as the R33
was complete and space was available in the shed, and
continued at a rapid pace. Over the next few months a
number of rings had already been fabricated and constructed,
but later August of 1919 just after the Armistice finally
signed, with many of the main rings completed, and framework
in place, the order for the R39 was canceled during construction,
and so work ceased on the ship.
The girderwork which
had been already completed was dismantled and shipped
to the Shorts Brothers facility at Cardington distributed
between the R37 and R38, whose orders had not been canceled
at that time.
has uncovered that some £90,000 (£4,682,000
in 2019) was spent on the design and construction of the
R39 (compared to the completed R80 which was completed
at a cost of £275,000 or £14,306,000 in 2019)
which shows a considerable amount of work had been started
on the ship. The only image we have is of the plan showing
the silhouette of the ship, being the same as the R38
class on which it was based.
Source : Hansard