Today saw the launch of the first British Rigid Airship (HMA No 9). The RNAS which is responsible for Airship development has produced a number of blimps – where the air pressure maintains the shape of the ship’s envelope, but has not before launched a Zeppelin like airship with a rigid structure.
The British had attempted to build a rigid airship previously, the grandly named His Majesty’s Airship Number 1, but it was wrecked before its maiden flight in 1911. Plans were resurrected in 1913 and a shed to house the new airship was built at Walney Island, to the west of Barrow.
The ship was nearly completed when war broke out in August 1914, but competing demands for resources and manpower delayed furhter work. Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty cancelled the ship in March 1915 on the premise that the war was expected to be over by the time it was completed.
In June 1915, after Churchill had been replaced by Arthur Balfour, the Admiralty considered all airship development. the success of the non-rigid airship programme led to the decision to resume construction of the new airship.
The build team were reassemblked and work recommenced in the Autumn of 1915. THe Easter Rising in Oreland further delayted construction as the supply of flax from Ireland was interrupted. The ship was finally completed on 28 June 1916. The design was partially influenced by Zeppelin LZ16/Z4 whihc had accidently landed on Fench soil in 1913 and had been examined by the allies.
On 16 November the ship was moored outside its shed for testing and took its forst flight today. Unfortunately it was not up to specification as it was unable to lift the contract weight of 3.1 tons. Again a Zeppelin came to the rescue again, as the crafts twin engines were replaced by a single engine salvaged from the Zeppelin L33 which had crashed at Little Wigborough, Essex, on 24 September 1916.