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Airship Sheds
United Kingdom - Mullion

Country: United Kingdom Location: RNAS Mullion

2 sheds:
1 Coastal Class Shed 300ft Long x 100ft wide x 70ft high
and one Submarine Scout Class shed 220ft Long x 70ft wide x 70ft high.


Silcol Hydrogen Plant

Ships based at station:
12 SS class
5 Coastal Class and 2 C* Class ships


To protect that convoys and cargos from submarines in the western approaches of the English Channel, the opposite side from the Dover Straights and Thames Estuary, it was seen that an airship base located at the lower end of Cornwall would be required.

The village of Mullion was chosen for it’s strategic position on the Lizard peninsular. Despite being the last airship station to be commissioned during the war, it saw more encounters with German submarines than most other bases.

Work commenced on the site in March of 1916, and if anyone knows the rural areas of Cornwall, there are many very single track small lanes with very high sided hedgerows. The delivery of the materials to the chosen site caused delays in the local area, much to the angst of the local residents.

The contract to build the main sheds was awarded to A and J Main of Glasgow. Like all airship bases at the time, the layout of the sheds was always built on a south west to north east axis, so that the main door faced the direction of the prevailing wind.

This would generally make the moving of the ships from within the sheds easier to manage if they are moved out in to the wind. Windbreaks were erected to stop gusts from other directions and mooring blocks were set n to the ground to help with walking the ships out of the sheds.

By the 1st week of June, the first shed was almost complete, the concrete floor being laid and dried, and the shed being painted. The first ship scheduled to arrive at Mullion was Coastal Class C.8, however the ship crashed in to English Channel on 5th June 1916, on it’s voyage down to the site from RNAS Kingnorth, where it had been constructed. It’s replacement, the C.9 was decided not to be flown down from RNAS Kingsnorth, but instead was packed up by rail, and assembled in the Mullion shed when it arrived later that month on 19th June.

C.9 saw it’s first flight on 1st July 1916, and went on to make 13 more successful flights from RNAS Mullion over the next 3 weeks. An impressive flight log. Coastal C.10 later arrived, but like many newly commissioned sites, the ships arrived partly through the construction of the rest of the site.

The Silcol plant had not been made fully operational and there was not enough gas to be shared between the ships, and had to briefly rely on cylinder deliveries. The Silcol plant was operational a month later in July 1916.Many important convoy duties were carried out by the Mullion ships that summer, with protecting the ships coming in from Gibraltar.

The ships of the Mullion station had to patrol great expanses of open sea, and with some of the early single engine Submarine Scout classes, which were often prone to break down. It was decided by a group of officers, that a more reliable option was to install a second engine to the control car. To ensure there was enough lift for the extra weight, an enlarged envelope was used. A second “Hawk” engine was fitted to the rear or the control car, and the “Mullion Twin” was born.

The first ship, designated M.T.1 crashed during trials in to the River Plym, on 15 March 1918, however the Admiralty were so impressed by it’s performance that they agreed that the new design should go in to production and the Submarine Scout Twin or SST class was born.

RNAS Mullion from the air. The twin sheds and windbreaks can be clearly seen
A Submarine Scout ship in the Submarine Scout shed. Notice the observation tower on the top of the shed.
A view of the Coastal airship shed showing space for two Coastal class ships side by side.



As with some of the other RNAS stations, Mullion took on a dual role with also housing aeroplanes in the latter part of the war. Five additional planes were attached to RNAS Mullion to help with the anti submarine patrols. Initially they were housed in the main airship shed, but later on they were moved in smaller temporary hanger next door to it.

With the end of the war, and the demobilisation of the troops, as with many other RNAS airship stations, the main hangars were auctioned off in mid 1919 and a short time later the dismantling of the station began. Today a wind farm now occupies the site of the former RNAS station. It’s a reminder to the exposed nature of this site, and prevailing winds that the airship crews had to endure.




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