Pulham WWI airship photos rediscovered

Posted on Apr 15, 2012

Pulham WWI airship photos rediscovered

From BBC News website

About 60 rare images of World War I airships operating from RNAS Pulham in Norfolk have been rediscovered by the family of the photographer. They were taken on the base by Royal naval Air Service’s photographer George Hamilton Wakefield from 1916 onwards.

The images have been given to Pulham’s Pennoyer Centre which holds an archive of material about the air station. Sheila King, chairwoman of the centre, said: “We get offered a lot of pictures but as these started coming through we realised they were quite amazing. Mrs Owen is the great niece of George Hamilton Wakefield. They came across these albums in a box that had been marked for the skip. They thought they’d be useful so kept them in the house for many years, but it was only at Christmas when Michael Owens found us.”

“It’s just amazing to think these photos, fantastic quality large scale prints from the original plates, could have so easily ended up in the skip.”

The station at Pulham opened in 1916 and employed 3,000 servicemen and 2,000 civilians. Airships flew from there until 1930.

Locally the airships became known as the Pulham Pigs after a local man was rumoured to have looked up at a huge early airship floating above the village and said, “Thet luk loike a gret ol’ pig” and the name stuck.

It was the pioneering days of aviation. Airships from the base were used for the first parachute drop from an airship and to test launching fighter planes from them, as an aerial base, to extend their range.

Mr Hamilton Wakefield’s photographs offer an insight to the airships that is rarely seen. Ms King said: “I think because they are taken by an RNAS officer employed as a photographer there’s access to shots of airships you don’t normally see.

“Because of the quality of the photographs it enables us to zoom in and understand a lot more about their construction, the systems they had on board and so on that was previously unknown.”

An exhibition to launch the photographs opens at the Pennoyer Centre in Pulham St Mary on 14 April until mid-May 2012.