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Airship Sheds
United Kingdom - Polegate

Country: United Kingdom Location: RNAS Polegate

The Polegate station was selected in early 1914, and 142 acres of land was acquired next to the village of Polegate.

Situated 5 miles north west of Eastbourne, and 17 miles east of Brighton, the area was chosen being close to the railway, and the prevailing west wind was sheltered by the South Downs.

The site did contain a logistical problem in that it was poorly drained, and although construction work commenced at the beginning of 1915, the speed in which airship sheds were constructed, normally a matter of months, in this case for Polegate, the structure was not erected until the end of the year.

Although slow, the work commenced on the site, and enough work had been completed to enable a Submarine Scout class ship to be based there from July 1915.

The barrack huts were completed in the latter part of 1916, and work continued on the shed, the doors were altered to enable the housing of the new Coastal Class ships. The shed was not large enough and so the ground around the south west doors was excavated, rather than increasing the height of the structure.

One of the more interesting ships to be based at Polegate was the “all black” S.S.40 airship which had been assembled under tight security and guard in the shed. The ship was planned to transport agents over to the enemy territory under the cover of darkness, although it was never able to complete it secret role.

With the expansion of the airship programme, a second shed was erected in the summer of 1916, and could accommodate five Submarine Scout airships and one of the new larger Coastal Class ships.

To assist with target practice, the outline of a submarine was marked out on the landing area for bomb dropping practice. In addition, a floating target was moored out at sea for live bombing practice.

Windbreaks were added to the sheds to protect them from the wind, and these were heightened in August 1917. By November 1918 Polegate was responsible for eleven airships, including those at mooring out stations nearby.


2 sheds:
2 Submarine Scout Class Sheds (322ft 70f wide, 60ft High)


Silcol Hydrogen Plant

Hydrogen Gasholder

The camouflage sheds at Polegate 1916
The gas plant at Polegate

As with many other airship stations, after the Armistice in November 1918, the demobilisation was swift and flying had ceased in early 1919. The site remained in place, and was auctioned off in 1921. Some of the smaller buildings escaped auction and were taken over by an engineering company, and remained in place until 1995, when it was finally demolished. The site today has been replaced by new housing estates.




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