The Royal Naval Air
Station Howden was constructed and opened on the outskirts
of the town during the first world war, to cover the East
Coast ports shipping from German U-boat attacks.
consisted of: Living accommodation for the Officer's and
other ranks, a chapel, YMCA, post office and a pigeon loft,
the latter housing the carrier pigeons which were carried,
two per airship.
of this redevelopment was Brindcommon Farm which was demolished
to clear the approach to the landing field. Besides the
living accommodation, there were the office blocks, technical
area, a large hydrogen gas works, electric powerhouse, stores,
fuel dump and workshops. All built on the left side of the
approached road. On the right side of the road, were the
three airship sheds.
One shed for the rigid
type airship flanked by two smaller sheds which housed the
non-rigid type airship and provided a wind break for the
By 1919 Howden was to boast the largest airship shed in
the world. The No.2 Double Rigid Shed measured 750 feet
in length and 130 feet clearance height at the doors, it
could have housed six Howden Ministers inside.
Howden air station formally opened on the 26 June 1916.
The first airship flight into and the last airship flight
out of Howden, some 13 years later was to be piloted by
the same man, Sub- Lieutenant Ralph Booth, who in 1929 was
to fly the R100 on its maiden flight.
Although, only one airship, the R100 (designed by Barnes
Wallis, later to be Sir Barnes Wallis, was actually designed
and built at the Howden air station, between 1926 and 1929.
It was as a training and antisubmarine station that was
to be the stations main role, in the years between 1916
The Twin shed under construction
The Americans had been
so impressed by the British built R34s flight across the
Atlantic and back in July 1919 that they decided to buy
a British airship. In 1920, the American Navy sent over
a party of officers and other ranks, (nick-named the Howden
Detachment), for flying training and familiarisation, on
British airships, in readiness to for them to collect and
fly back to the States the R38 (to be called the ZR2 by
the Americans) airship. The station was used by many famous
airship including the R34 and R38. As with all the cuts
in the early 1920, the R.N.A.S. closed in 1921 and was then
reopened a few years later for construction of the R100,
as part of the Imperial Airship Scheme..
showing the double connected constructional sheds at Howden
Construction was undertaken in the machine shops adjoining
The Station reopened
when the Airship Guarantee Company, a subsidiary of Vickers
Ltd. would build another airship, the R100 to the same contract
specifications, as the Royal Airship Works in Cardington.
The Airship Guarantee Company decided to build the R100
at Howden. Vickers brought back, from abroad Barnes Wallis.
In 1924 the Airship Guarantee Company sent a working party
to Howden to put the now neglected airship station back
The massive shed still stood surrounded by debris of the
wartime airship sheds. The owners had abandoned the shed
in the face of falling scrap metal prices. The sheds door
clearance of 130ft. had to be increased by 10ft to accommodate
the R 100.
The local town of Howden was back on the airship map. The
towns fortunes took an upward turn as a large labour force,
mainly recruited locally (60% of the labour on airship construction
was female) was needed not only to rebuild and run the station,
but to construct a giant airship, which was to measure 709
feet in length, 133 feet in diameter, a 5,000,000 cubic
foot displacement and powered by six Rolls-Royce engines,
Over the following six years the two airships took shape.
The R100 was completed
as per the contract and once completion flew down to Cardington
which was to become it's base of commercial operations.
The R100 flew successfully to Canada and back.
After the demise of
the R101 in October 1930, Howden Air Station was left to
run down and the towns fortunes with it.
The town still survives,
but the airship station is no more. It is noted that a few
mooring out blocks still survive on an area near a local
golf course and one is on display as with other R100 memorabilia
at the Elvington Air Museum near York.
under construction in the double shed
Notice the central divide between the 2 sheds being open.