Joined: 09 Jan 2007
Location: St John's Town of Dalry
|Posted: Mon Mar 23, 2015 9:47 pm Post subject: Newly uncovered Airship Crash
|Here is an article I submitted to a local paper regarding a recent find.
Forgotten WW1 Airship Crash Revealed
At a recent Newton Stewart Rotary Club meeting, the president (Ken McCubbin) asked the speaker (Paul Goodwin) if he had any details of a First World War airship crash on Lamachan Hill near Glentrool. Paul had been there to give a talk - ‘Researching Your World War I Ancestor’.
This set off a train of investigation by Paul who enlisted help from Alan Leishman of the Dumfries Aviation Museum and Alan’s contacts Alan Thomson, Peter Connon and Mark Sheldon. Although James McBain made brief mention of this airship crash in his book ‘The Merrick and its Neighbouring Hills’ the crash had not made its way into any of the various published sources for aircraft crashes, either in books or online.
Eventually the story emerged that an airship, SSZ 11, had crashed on 20th August 1917 when piloted by Flt Sub-Lt Harris. Having lost power to its single engine, it was then blown by strong winds into Larg Hill and then blown over the top towards Lamachan Hill, finally coming to rest at a height of 1500 feet. The pilot and crew members were injured in the crash but all survived and eventually recovered from their injuries. There is some discrepancy about the exact crash site although there seems little doubt that the initial contact was with Larg Hill but one can imagine the airship being then dragged somewhat further by the wind. Members of Dumfries Aviation Museum intend to visit the area and hope to determine the exact site.
If you are trying to imagine the airship, don't think of something grand like a Zeppelin or the R101, this was a Royal Navy Airship of the SSZ class of which 77 were built. Carrying a three man crew, it was of the blimp type with a wooden fuselage and a single pusher propeller. They were used mainly for spotting U boats in inshore waters and could sometimes be seen escorting the Stranraer/Larne ferry.
In the week following the crash, the airship was dismantled and moved down to Auchinleck Farm on horse sledges down the Penkiln Burn. It was taken back to base, reassembled and put back into service. SSZ 11 would eventually go on to complete 1,610 flying hours, more than any other airship of her class, before being scrapped along with all her sister ships in October 1919.
By an odd coincidence, another airship of the same class, SSZ 13, crashed at Castle Point in Auchencairn Bay on 30th August 1918 and despite efforts of men and boats from Kippford and Rockcliffe, it but was more badly damaged so never went back into service. Some details of this latter crash are held by the Dalbeattie Museum.
Both of these accidents took place during wartime so the Defence Of the Realm Act ensured that nothing was reported at the time.