Beardmore Company was a famous Glasgow industrial company,
producing a range of products from bullets, helmets to ships
and planes. In 1916 they were given the Government contract
to help build airships.With
the revival of the rigid airship pogramme, the armaments firm
Beadmore bid successfully to build them.
Based at Dalmuir on
the western side of the Cyldebank, the company was the Scottish
equivalent of Vickers, specalising in building warships
and armaments. Although it had experimented with aeroplanes
as Shorts and Armstrong Whitworth had done, the company
had no previous experience in building airships.
Glaswegian armaments company, William Beardmore and sons,
an established ship and armaments company, known as the
Scottish equivalent of Vickers Company, began negotiations,
along with Armstrong and Whitworth, and Vickers, to build
large rigid airships.
October 1915 saw the
company awarded the contract to build HMA No.24 and began
working on manufacturing some of its parts in their
seaplane sheds in Dalmuir, on the north side of the river
Clyde. There was no room for an airship shed in the currently
built up area, however the land on the south bank of the
river was sparsely populated, and areas of open countryside.
The original idea was
to build a shed on land opposite to Beardmores existing
works at Newshot Island, however a site some 1.5 miles south
of Dalmuir was selected. The land was requisitioned under
the Defence of the Realm Act. Some 413 acres were purchased
as the site of the new airship constructional site.
Beardmore were successfully
awarded a grant from the Treasury towards the cost of the
new airship works.Work began on the site in January 1916,
some two years in to WWI. The construction company Sir William
Arrol & Co. started work on the airship shed.
Some 2,300 tonnes of
steel were required. The glazed shed windows were tinted
and fitted with binds so that it could be blacked out at
night. At both ends, the sheds were fitted with large sliding
doors, counterbalanced with several hundred tonnes of concrete
to stabilise when open.
As with all of the
earlier sheds, the doors were manually winched opened by
capstans and a team of manual workers. It was estimated
that it would take the men some 13 minutes to winch open
the doors. Both ends of the shed were sheltered by large
steel windbreaks. Construction was almost completed by the
August of 1916.
A larger hanger was
later built almost opposite to the south of the shed, which
was used for construction of Hadley Page V/1500 bombers
assembled. A second airship shed was planned for construction
but never put in to place.Even though the Inchinnan Airship
Works were not far from Dalmuir, it was the opposite side
of the river Clyde, and not easily accessible for the workers.
Many of the workers
had to be driven each morning from Renfrew. Similar to the
Shorts Brothers works at Cardington, the Beardmore company
built fifty two houses for its key workers on the
site of the airfield. The idea of a model village was created,
and gave the workers the comfort and convenience of self
contained houses with very moderate rents.
Before the shed was
finished, the first frames of the new airship, the R24 had
been moved in to the shed for assembly.
On 27th October 1917,
200 naval ratings from the Barrow-In-Furness naval base,
arrived to act as ground crews. The R24 was taken out of
the shed on 28th October, but the ship spent some 6 months
testing mooring techniques outside. With the ship outside,
there was space inside the shed to complete another two
ships side by side. Work on the R27 commenced in March 1917,
and completed, with a first flight in June 1918.The Inchinnan
constructional sheds most famous occupant was the
The R34 being completed
in the shed and walked in December of 1918, just after the
armistice in November 1918. It was returned to the shed
after ground trials and was going to undertake its
first flight, however bad weather confined the ship to the
shed for the rest of the winter, and didnt re-emerge
until 14th March 1919.
At the end of its
second trial flight, some of the ballast bags iced up and
froze. The crew were unable to drop enough water ballast
on landing and the ship came down for a heavy landing. A
propellor and some of the girders buckled.
When the R34 was first
walked out of the shed, some of the women workers pinned
a black cat soft toy to the forward gondola for a good luck
mascot. On the evening of the bad landing, the mascot was
removed, and burnt. By the end of May 1919 the damage had
been repaired and the ships was ready to be delivered to
the operational airship base at East Fortune, outside of
After the war, there
were many ideas for commercial airship operations. Sir William
Beardmore, the owner after which the company was named,
was quoted as saying that in his opinion airships
were the most interesting developments of all.
The R36 was the last
airship ordered and constructed in the Inchinnan constructional
shed. The work had begun on the ship as a stretched
R34 class military ship, but it was later decided that the
ship would be converted to a civil role.
This decision delayed
the first flight as the ship was converted to a passenger
carrying ship, with large external gondola was fitted, with
accommodation for up to fifty passengers, in both day and
night configuration. The R36 took flight on 1st April 1921
displaying its civil registration of G-FAAF.
The ship was then flown
down to the Pulham experimental station, and initially used
for mooring trials. It was in September 1921 the Air Ministry
announced that the Inchinnan aerodrome was to close, and
in the autumn of 1922 the buildings and land of the Beardmore
Airship Works were handed over to the Disposal and Liquidation
During April 1923 the
works were sold to Murray McVinnie & Co ship chandlers
and metal merchants. Later that year, the airship shed was
The giant Hadley Page
Hangar that stood close by fared a little better, by being
purchased by the India Tyre Company, and remained until
1982, sometimes confused as the airship shed.
Like the houses at Shortstown, Bedford, the Beardmore workers
houses remain and the site of the Glasgow Airport is close
by, on the edge of the original land for the airship station.
The connection with
aviation construction still stands to this very day, with
Rolls Royce opened a new factory in 2004 for repairing their
aero engines on the same site of Beardmores original
aviation site on the south side of the River Clyde.