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Col Gibbon

WWI canvas Hangar find?

27 posts in this topic

Hello Guys.

 

Yesterday, I was looking around some old farm buildings, in Essex and I found what I think is the metal frame of a WW1 canvas hangar, covered in tin sheeting, and wooden planks on the sides, supported on concrete blocks. I was told by the owner, it was moved to it's present site in the 1920's, from a local WWI airfield, near Ostend. 

 

Are there any other survivors or drawings of these hangars? 

 

I will upload some pics later, when I find my USB cable for my phone.

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Frame looks a bit hefty for a canvas hangar (Bessoneau type), but I may be wrong. RAF Museum has good drawings and I may have some TNA stuff somewhere too. I'll have a look.

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ID: 4   Posted (edited)

Hi Quemerford. 

 

From what I've read the “Type A” hangar, which was 52 x 42 feet, seemed to be about the size of this structure. The farmer said " it's always been known as the hangar ". Just a shame I did not have a tape with me.

 

The current height might be misleading, as there are no original uprights. If it was RNAS, could it have been for a blimp? A bit higher, and it would easily fit a SE5a inside. All I know is it came from an airfield near Ostend, around 1920.

Edited by Col Gibbon

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Ostende and environs were in enemy hands until late in the war, so the RNAS could not have had hangars anywhere near there.

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ID: 6   Posted (edited)

17 minutes ago, horatio2 said:

Ostende and environs were in enemy hands until late in the war, so the RNAS could not have had hangars anywhere near there.

 

There is one in Essex too. :D  Ostend Village.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostend,_Essex

Edited by Col Gibbon

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WWI-WA-P026.jpg

 

The trusses in the hangar look very similar to this hangar from Canada. 

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Hi Tim. 

 

They certainly do look similar! The plated joints, and bolted angle iron is the same. Wish there were drawings, all I've seen are pictures.

 

Would you say the ones I found are a hangar frame?

 

I know the owner and he wants the construction preserved, as he wants to extend his bigger barns.

 

Great picture, which almost looks like a museum.

 

 

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The caption to the photograph is "Airmen attend class in a hangar, presumably somewhere in Canada". Not sure of what hangar it is, or where, but it's very very similar. 

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2 minutes ago, TimCornish said:

The caption to the photograph is "Airmen attend class in a hangar, presumably somewhere in Canada". Not sure of what hangar it is, or where, but it's very very similar. 

 

Strange, Airmen is an American term. Could be a PR picture for the US and Canada, taken in UK? 

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ID: 11   Posted (edited)

Strange machine (which at first looks like a BE.2) at right too: any ideas on type?

 

 

Edited by quemerford

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There appears to be a good WW1 aerodrome-related provenance for this structure, but I would imagine that unused hangar frames were also sold off at the end of the war and that they quite probably remained in production for the civilian market, having proved their superiority over more traditional methods of construction of large sheds.

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12 hours ago, Col Gibbon said:

 

Strange, Airmen is an American term. Could be a PR picture for the US and Canada, taken in UK? 

Hi

This image appears in 'Canadian Airmen and the First World War' by S F Wise (and some other publications), and the caption states:

"Lecture on aircraft construction at the University of Toronto.  The aircraft surrounding the class include, left to right, a Sopwith Camel, a BE2 without engine, an FE2, and a DH4 in the right foreground. (RE 19065-22)"

This actually misses out the aeroplane in front of the class, which is possibly a JN4.

I believe that the University of Toronto had the military designation of No.4 School of Military Aeronautics (later School of Aeronautics from 1.4.18) under the RFC/RAF training system.

 

Mike

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I'm no expert on WWI airfields, but the owner was sure there had been an airfield on one of the nearby farms. His farm, is one big farm these days, and took in 3 other farms, and one of these, is where the airfield was thought to be, but I'm not having much luck finding anything recorded in the area of Ostend village, as being an airfield.

 

According to the farm owner, this shed was placed where it is in around 1920, and looking at the Canadian picture, I would say these frames are the same, but as is built from only 3 frames, It would only be big enough for for two aircraft. The question is, were these frames exported to Canada, or built in Canada to RFC plans? Every picture I've seen of small hangars, are taken from outside, so you can't see the interior structure, 

 

I'm been involved in railway preservation for 40 years, and there are very few things there are not drawings, or pictures of. Just a shame the RFC were not that well recorded. :(

 

 

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Tried contacting IWM Duxford, but all I got was, we don't have time, excuse!

 

At least RAF Hendon are looking at my pictures and the reply:

 

Thank you for your email, I am sorry to say that I do not think that the building on your friend’s farm is a former aircraft hangar /shed.  The Type A hangar was introduced in the late 1920s  had a span of 160ft and lengths varying from 90, 120 or 273ft, which makes me think that the building you have seen is too small.  The majority of RFC hangars used wooden Belfast trusses for their roof spans, and the one drawing in the Museum’s collection that specifies a steel truss looks very different to the images you have sent.  I suspect that the building was a commercially produced farm building, I would be interested to hear what the Airfield Research Group have to say.

 

Seems they don't remember the RFC used small tents in the beginning?

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41 minutes ago, Col Gibbon said:

Tried contacting IWM Duxford, but all I got was, we don't have time, excuse!

 

At least RAF Hendon are looking at my pictures and the reply:

 

Thank you for your email, I am sorry to say that I do not think that the building on your friend’s farm is a former aircraft hangar /shed.  The Type A hangar was introduced in the late 1920s  had a span of 160ft and lengths varying from 90, 120 or 273ft, which makes me think that the building you have seen is too small.  The majority of RFC hangars used wooden Belfast trusses for their roof spans, and the one drawing in the Museum’s collection that specifies a steel truss looks very different to the images you have sent.  I suspect that the building was a commercially produced farm building, I would be interested to hear what the Airfield Research Group have to say.

 

Seems they don't remember the RFC used small tents in the beginning?

Hi

The early "small tents" were the R.E.7 and the R.A.F. (Royal Aircraft Factory), the former was 60ft. by 38ft. and 20ft. high in the centre, the latter 53ft. by 43ft. and 19ft. 6in. high in the centre.  They did not have the 'support' structure as seen in your photos as these were classed as being exceptionally portable (carried by 3 ton lorries basically).  The structure you show would be too heavy to be that mobile.  However, they had the disadvantage of being unable to withstand severe weather and high winds.

 

Mike 

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ID: 17   Posted (edited)

21 hours ago, Col Gibbon said:

... looking at the Canadian picture, I would say these frames are the same, but as is built from only 3 frames, It would only be big enough for for two aircraft. The question is, were these frames exported to Canada, or built in Canada to RFC plans? Every picture I've seen of small hangars, are taken from outside, so you can't see the interior structure ...

Although similar, the framing in the structure depicted in the RFC Canada image is not a wartime hangar. The photograph depicts part of the gym at Hart House, one of the buildings used by the No. 4 School of Military Aeronautics mentioned by MikeMeech. The building survives and you can see the details more clearly in this photo:

 

uppergym_sm_2010_09.jpg

The University of Toronto did not have hangars on its campus. Flight training was conducted elsewhere at Long Branch, Armour Heights, Leaside, Borden, and Deseronto. Examples of the RFC/RAF hangars constructed during the war survive at Borden, an example of which is visible in the background of this image of the first graduating class in 1917.

 

re-19011.jpg

 

Some of these hangars remain and have been designated a heritage site1388.jpg

Edited by JonathanS

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Hi Mike.

 

The angle iron it's built from is quite light weight. Those trusses are bolt together, and not more than a ton each.  You could easily put them up using ropes and a few men, so I would say it was portable. 

 

Hi Johnothan.

 

So, any guesses what that building was? The hearsay history fits a hangar from WWI. And I dare say there were as many hangar types, as WWI aircraft, It's a total mystery to me.

 

 

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ID: 19   Posted (edited)

Just had this from the owner of the building.

 

Hi John,

 
This hangar appears identical to our one, except that judging by the scale of the aircraft, men etc. it is wider. Ours is 40' wide overall, but perhaps they used the same design in different widths. Anyway, I'll do a direct comparison tomorrow.
 
I haven't heard of a WWI airfield at Southminster, but will make some enquiries. The one that is recorded is in Burnham parish, variously described as at Burnham Wick or Flake House Farms, which are adjacent to each other and about 2 miles E/SE of Mangapps. The reason that I've always suspected some connection with Flake House is that it was once owned by Tim French and before that by his father George, who also owned Mangapps. I believe that George bought both farms in the 1920/30s. Incidentally, Flake House farmstead disappeared many years ago. It was a marsh grazing holding and may at one time have been in the same ownership as Burnham Wick. You will note that the current online records and maps show the Burnham airfield located at, or very close to, Burnham Wick farmstead, which seems unlikely. Douglas Smith, the former owner of the Wick, died a few years ago but his widow is a leading light of Burnham Historical Society and Museum, so with her family connection and interest in local history she may be able to throw some light on the matter- I will ask her.
 
Best wishes, John.
Edited by Col Gibbon

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The key questions to check would seem to be the date the building was erected on its present site and where it came from.  If it was indeed erected in about 1920 and came from an airfield site nearby, then even if it is not a recognised RFC hangar type, it is still evidently the frame of a large shed that was used for some purpose on a WW1 airfield, which is surely a fair heritage in itself.  It would be interesting to hear the opinion of an expert on agricultural/industrial buildings of that period.

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On 17/04/2017 at 16:58, Col Gibbon said:

I'm no expert on WWI airfields, but the owner was sure there had been an airfield on one of the nearby farms. His farm, is one big farm these days, and took in 3 other farms, and one of these, is where the airfield was thought to be, but I'm not having much luck finding anything recorded in the area of Ostend village, as being an airfield.

 

 

Stow Maries is only about 7 miles away.

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On 4/18/2017 at 18:03, Aspern said:

Stow Maries is only about 7 miles away.

I've just found this, and this one was less than 3 miles from where the hangar is today.

 

Taken from this report:

http://www.mahg.org.uk/reports/1402493741.pdf

 

The site itself lies to the east of Burnham on Crouch. To the west of the site, towards or beneath areas now covered by modern housing, there is recorded evidence of Bronze Age barrows, and to the north-east, excavation of nearby red hills details of which, together with briquetage finds, are held at the Burnham on Crouch Museum. In 1915 an airfield, which was used as a night flight station, was established on land to the south of Wick Road, in the vicinity of Burnham Wick Farm. The RFC / RAF retained use of the site for No. 37 Squadron until July 1919 when it was returned to the Croxon family and the airfield was returned to agricultural use. The site was re-opened, and operated as an airfield, on 28 August 1934 by Her Grace the Duchess of Bedford when the land came into the ownership of the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club.

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16 hours ago, Col Gibbon said:

 

I've just found this, and this one was less than 3 miles from where the hangar is today.

 

Taken from this report:

http://www.mahg.org.uk/reports/1402493741.pdf

 

The site itself lies to the east of Burnham on Crouch. To the west of the site, towards or beneath areas now covered by modern housing, there is recorded evidence of Bronze Age barrows, and to the north-east, excavation of nearby red hills details of which, together with briquetage finds, are held at the Burnham on Crouch Museum. In 1915 an airfield, which was used as a night flight station, was established on land to the south of Wick Road, in the vicinity of Burnham Wick Farm. The RFC / RAF retained use of the site for No. 37 Squadron until July 1919 when it was returned to the Croxon family and the airfield was returned to agricultural use. The site was re-opened, and operated as an airfield, on 28 August 1934 by Her Grace the Duchess of Bedford when the land came into the ownership of the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club.

Hi

I would just like to remind everyone that if you are interested in WW1 airfields in the UK then Cross and Cockade International has produced a great resource for any research.  This is a Gazetteer, undertaken by Mick Davies and Bill Morgan, published in the journals from 2010 to 2015.  The work includes details on who operated from the airfields, with site plans for many, and a series of OS 4miles to an inch maps to show their location.  Examples are attached.  Back issues may still be available from Cross and Cockade.  Members of the Society are now working on a similar project for Western Front airfields, membership is only £27, for which you get four wonderful Journals a year.

 

Mike

WW1CCIUKaflds001.jpg.18e8bf993306c7a0d93d3e661ac8c2dd.jpg

WW1CCIUKaflds002.jpg.949776ac17983934b14f8a0f505dda6e.jpg

WW1CCIUKaflds003.jpg.21666a029341c37fb1e87d4ce3ea8899.jpg

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better copy of the picture posted above, and look at the building in the background. Is it the same shape as the trusses?

 

a black and white photo of six RFC pilots with arms interlinked in front of hangars

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