Carrickfergus Museum

Battlebags and Blimps

Image of an airship at Bentra

Exploring the legacies of Whitehead’s First World War Aerodrome

Did you know that Bentra Airship station – was the first military aviation facility in Ireland?

To raise awareness and appreciation of an almost forgotten aspect of WW1 aviation heritage in County Antrim, a partnership between Carrickfergus Museum and Living Legacies 1914-1918 enabled local communities to explore the legacies of Ireland’s first military aerodrome.

Battlebags & Blimps participants using spatial technologies at Bentra

As a small but important link in a chain of naval and aviation bases all around the coast of Ireland, Royal Naval Air Service airships operating from Bentra played a vital role in surveillance and deterrence of enemy submarines in the Atlantic approaches of Ireland and Great Britain. Thanks to a grant by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and with support from History Hub Ulster, the “Battlebags and Blimps” project has surveyed, mapped, and commemorated this long-neglected WW1 aerodrome site.

The “Battlebags and Blimps” community heritage project involved participants using 21st-century spatial technologies to locate features including Bentra’s lost airship hangar.

Equipped with laptops, digital maps and aerial imagery, metal detecting and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) kit, the field where the aerodrome stood was surveyed by local people.

See the results of the survey

Commemoration of the Bentra airship station site

The site at Bentra is now commemorated for posterity by a granite memorial, provided by The Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust, whose purpose is to preserve Britain’s former airfields that deserve recognition as heritage sites.

“When the drone of an airship’s engine could be heard approaching, the local children would run down the side of the adjacent field to watch through the hedge”
G. Warner, Airships over Ulster

Resources

Carrickfergus Museum Exhibition panels and booklet from Ships and Airships: coastal defence during the First World War

Bentra Airship Station, the first military aviation site in Ireland:

 

The War at sea around the North Irish Coast:

 

Battlebags and Blimps: exploring the legacies of Whitehead’s First World War Aerodrome: