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Cornish museum remembers WW1 naval air station

4 November 2016
A museum in Cornwall has put together an exclusive exhibition showing what life was like on a Royal Naval Air Station during the First World War.

Titled ‘The War at Sea and in the Air’ the exhibition at Helston Museum is full of photographs, aviation artefacts and audio recordings, that give an insight to Royal Naval Air Station Mullion on the Lizard in West Cornwall.

Located very close to RNAS Culdrose, Mullion operated as a frontline Airship Station from 1916 through to the end of WW1 and was the busiest RNAS Station in Britain. Originally called ‘Lizard Airship Station’ it became a large wartime industrial complex, with accommodation blocks, gas storage tanks, processing plants, workshops and two vast airship ‘Sheds’ that towered over the Cornish countryside.

Its strategic position made it ideally positioned in the battle against the German threat. RNAS Mullion became central to anti-submarine operations off the South Western approaches throughout the war.

Airships proved a formidable deterrent against U-boats while performing reconnaissance, patrolling, mine-hunting and convoy escort duties. 

“Interestingly enough a lot of people didn’t know there was a Naval Airship Station there during the First World War,” said Martine Knight, Secretary Helston WW1 heritage project.

“On the ground we were fortunate the land owner of the Bonython estate, allowed us to take a group of Air Cadets onto the site to look around. You can still see the concrete hard standing’s for the two massive Sheds, as they were known then, and some mooring out blocks used to hold back the doors.”

It’s all on show until 30th November, and I do encourage people to come along to Helston Museum and have a look at these very rare pictures and exhibits. It’s open from 10 to 4 - Mondays to Saturdays.

Martine Knight, Secretary Helston WW1 heritage project

Martine is hopeful that people will come along to have a look at this dedicated exhibition to the Royal Naval Air Service and the interesting stories she’s uncovered during her research. Along with pictures from RNAS Culdrose and the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton, many of which have never been put on display before.

Martine added, “We have been fortunate with funding and contributions from many sources in particular from the Shuttleworth collection, who has lent us some artifacts and uniforms for the duration of the exhibition.

"It’s all on show until 30th November, and I do encourage people to come along to Helston Museum and have a look at these very rare pictures and exhibits.

"It’s open from 10 to 4 - Mondays to Saturdays.”

RNAS Mullion closed in the summer of 1919 after hostilities ended, the airships were decommissioned and the land returned to its owners.

Today evidence of Royal Naval Air Station Mullion can still be detected.

Six vast Wind turbines act as a convenient landmark for the site. Most of the Base is now largely overgrown, and the huge heavy concrete blocks that once supported windbreaks remain as the only evidence to what was the ‘Front-Line’ of the First World War in Cornwall. 

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