Monday, 13 October 2014

Cornwall in the First World War

During this month, each weekday I'm posting a photograph showing Cornwall's First World War. This week I'll be looking at some shots of Cornwall's first military air bases.

Here's a view of Royal Naval Air Station Newlyn, situated some two miles from Penzance on the western side of Mount’s Bay, using a narrow apron by the village's southern harbour pier. Two canvas hangars and some wooden huts were erected; subsequently a third hangar appeared and finally a more permanent shed. 

To help with the work a tiny stream locomotive was borrowed from nearby Gwavas quarry, of German origin and ironically, still bearing its pre-war name Berlin. A set of rails was laid from the hard-standing across the shingle to the water’s edge, and a trolley installed on which to mount a floatplane. The station was commissioned in January 1917; its first Short 184s, 8049 and 8350, arrived on 20 January  

Officers were accommodated at York House, around two miles from the station on the west side of Penzance, where the wardroom was also established; other ranks were billeted in local cottages. As their daytime lodgings the officers used a cottage immediately behind the station, one of the few local dwellings with indoor water and sanitation, and apparently having an old tunnel running down to the beach. Two windows were cut into the east-facing bedroom walls to allow a view over the new base.

On 3 April 1917, Newlyn became part of the newly-formed RNAS South Western Group, which had its headquarters at Mount Wise, Devonport and reported to C-in-C HM Ships and Vessels Devonport. The Group was established to control the activities and resources of the growing RNAS presence in Cornwall, the south-west of England and south Wales; its first Commanding Officer was Wing Commander Eugene L Gerrard.  As Newlyn built up strength, the small apron became so cramped that sometimes aircraft were housed in the Trinity House sheds at Penzance.

My book, 'Cornwall In The First World War', is published by Truran. With 112 pages and 100 images, you'll find it in bookshops across the Duchy. It's also available through Amazon:

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