PICTURE GALLERY: Pulham recalls airship role at exhibition

10:28 16 April 2012

Family members with the original album of photographs by  their relative George Wakefield which are on show at the Pulham St Mary Airship exhibition. From left, Wakefield

Family members with the original album of photographs by their relative George Wakefield which are on show at the Pulham St Mary Airship exhibition. From left, Wakefield's great nephew and great niece, brother and sister, John Hutchins and Danny Owens, and Danny's husband Michael Owens. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant 2012

It’s hard to imagine a time when giant hydrogen-filled balloons were the main air transport, such has been the pace of jet aircraft development.

Yet less than 100 years ago airships were the norm across the world.

And RAF Pulham in Norfolk was one of the main bases in England from where airships would regularly fly sorties during the first world war to stop German U-boat submarines targeting British shipping in the North Sea.

Over the weekend the Pennoyer Centre in Pulham St Mary staged an exhibition of 60 images taken by the Royal Naval Air Service’s official photographer George Hamilton Wakefield which attracted hundreds of fascinated visitors keen to learn more about the history of the flying machines, known affectionately as the “Pulham Pigs”, which were once a common sight floating across East Anglia’s countryside.

The original prints, which document the early years of the air station at Pulham, were found in London by the Owens family – relatives of the photographer, who was based in Norfolk from 1919 to 1926.

The centre’s chairman Sheila King and Nick Walmsley, a board member of the Airship Heritage Trust, also presented a slideshow of photos and gave a talk about the role of the airship in the area.

The Pulham base, at Upper Vaunces Farm which is now agricultural land, was opened in 1916 and was home to 3,000 service personnel and 2,000 civilians and was one of three airship bases across the country – the other two being Howden in Yorkshire and Cardington in Bedfordshire.

Giant hangars were built at the bases to house the airships and these were needed as the R34, which made the first east-west air crossing of the Atlantic between the UK and USA in 1919, measured 643ft long and 92ft high.

The airship flew at speeds up to 40mph using a gas less dense than the surrounding atmosphere, while underneath the balloon was a gondola which contained the crew who were responsible for steering the airship and controlling the power through a Fiat or Rolls Royce engine.

On some airships, a separate engine car was provided on the outside of the airship which held another crew responsible for providing power.

Instructions were relayed from the main gondola to the engine car through a telegraph system, though crew members could climb a ladder and walk through the airship’s underbelly to reach the other cars.

The Pulham airfield was home to the airships until 1928, when it became a radar station before becoming the agricultural land of today.

Mrs King said: “I think the exhibition has been fantastic. It is the distances people have travelled to get here.

“I think airships really resonate with people. Perhaps it is because of the history of them or perhaps it is because they have vanished and they want to find out more.”


Other news

Friday, August 26, 2016

A motorcyclist has been taken to hospital following a two-vehicle crash in Wortham on Friday morning,

Thursday, August 25, 2016
GCSE results at Sprowston High School. Kelsey Andrews, left, who celebrated her birthday as well as her exam results with Alice Trett. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

GCSE results in Norfolk and Suffolk have gone up, as schools across the counties reported improvements on last year’s figures.

Thursday, August 25, 2016
Diss High School students receive their GSCE results, 2016.
Chloe Mayes, Will Sait, Elise Squirrell, William Ashwood.

Although some school’s saw a fall in the number of pupils who gained A*-C grades in English and maths, there were many success stories.

Thursday, August 25, 2016
Harleston Lions are appealing for more volunteer members.
Pictured is President of the Harleston Lions, Mike Withinshaw.

It has been a big part of the community, from raising money to putting up the Christmas tree, but the Harleston Lions Club could close unless it attracts a deluge of new members.

Most Read

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Simply Halal in Banham. Photograph Simon Parker

A vet and meat hygiene inspector have been suspended from their duties at Norfolk slaughterhouse Simply Halal over concerns for the welfare of animals.

Read more
Saturday, June 4, 2016
Chenery Travel at Dickleburgh.

South Norfolk-based Chenery Travel unexpectedly stopped trading on Friday, leaving Norfolk County Council to rearrange school routes operated by the company.

Read more
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Magdalene, right, and Alex Loyd <cor>, at their Olde Farm Holiday Cottages at Banham, where the smells from the Peddars Pigs farm next door are putting the guests off. With them is their neighbour Penny Whittemore, centre.  Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The owners of three Norfolk holiday cottages are worried odours from a neighbouring pig farm may drive them out of business.

Read more
Breckland Council
Friday, August 26, 2016

A motorcyclist has been taken to hospital following a two-vehicle crash in Wortham on Friday morning,

Read more
West Suffolk Hospital
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Nigel Stringer with daughters, from left, Rebecca and Rachel, his wife Cindy, son Rowan and dog Wellington.

The sweeping parkland once played host to one of south Norfolk's finest country houses.

But now a stunning 21st-century country home is being built on the site of the former Boyland Hall which was demolished in 1946 after falling into decline.

Read more

Local Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 21°C

min temp: 13°C


Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

Read the Diss Mercury e-edition today E-edition

Newsletter Sign Up