Thursday, 16 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 the theme is Cornwall's first military air bases. Here is Royal Naval Airship Station Mullion, on the Lizard peninsula.

The station opened for business in June 1916, built on 320 acres of land belonging to the Bonython estate near the village of Cury, north-east of Mullion itself.  At first known simply as Lizard Airship Station, Mullion became Cornwall’s centre of airship operations, leading a campaign against Germany's submarines which lasted well over two years.

To house the craft a huge shed was built, over 350 feet long, 100 feet wide and 70 feet high; a slightly smaller version followed in 1917. The shed entrances were given towering windbreaks, to protect the airships from gusts across the exposed heath while moving them in and out. 

An electricity generator, fitting shop, meteorological hut and wireless cabin appeared, together with a hydrogen-producing gas-plant and gasometer since at that time all airships were hydrogen-filled. A YMCA cabin also appeared, funded by the Helston and District Allies’ Relief Fund Committee and erected by Mr Bennett of Bodmin. At its peak Mullion’s complement was around 650 officers and men.

In the photo, taken in mid-1917, the airship sheds and their windbreaks have been completed. Four Sopwith 1½ Strutter naval biplanes sit by the small white hangar. Accommodation huts and the canteen are top left.

Today there's still evidence of the station. Both airship shed floors survive, huge flat rectangular surfaces amid undulating grassland. Concrete anchor blocks which once supported the shed windbreaks also remain. Nearby, Cury village hall at White Cross was once an RNAS Mullion building; after the war it was liberated by local people and still puts in good service for the community.

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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