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History of the Airship 'Beta and Beta II'

'Beta' had a capacity of 35.000cu ft and was powered by a 35 hp Green engine. The long car/keel was of triangular form with the centre portion covered with canvas. It had a port and starboard outriggers to which the two chain-driven twin bladed propellers were attached. Behind the engine sat the crew of two. An elevator was fitted forward and there was a vertical rudder in the usual stern position on the envelope. Horizontal planes complemented the rudder.

Airship Beta II 1912.jpg (55614 bytes)It could reasonably be claimed that 'Beta' was the first truly efficient British service airship. After her maiden flight on the 26th of May 1910, she was subject to many modifications, including being fitted with wireless, and being moored out to a portable mast in a 33 m.p.h. snowstorm during February 1912 did her no harm!

Despite her success, a complete reconstruction was undertaken in 1912. When she emerged she was almost a different airship. Henceforth known as 'Beta II'. She now had a goldbeaters skin envelope of 50.000 cu ft capacity, a modern looking car without any extensions and a Clerget engine driving four bladed propellers. The forward elevators were dispensed with, instead, movable surfaces were fitted to the horizontal tail-planes.

The new 'Beta II' was operated to the full being used for training and Army exercises, including night observation for artillery. Following a major overhaul in July 1913 she was used by Capt E.M. Maitland for his experiments with parachutes, and after the outbreak of war she patrolled over London in 'defence of the capital'!

With the new R.N.A.S. numbering system of January 1914, when the Navy took over all airships, 'Beta II' became known as H.M.A. No 17. During 1914 and January 1915 saw H.M.A. No 17 operational at Firminy, near Dunkirk, as part of the 'Dunkirk Squadron'. There she made several flights over enemy lines, once observing for the Belgian army's artillery.

Returning to Kingsnorth, she continued training wartime airshipmen before being shipped to Barrow during late 1915 for repairs. There she was fitted with a standard 'SS' envelope and may have returned to Pulham for training dutied.

She was finally struck off charge 1n 1916. Her car survives in the Science Museum, South Kensington.

Information from:-
'Battlebags' by Ces Mowthorpe.
Sutton Publishing LTD.
Redwood Books LTD, Trowbridge, Wiltshire.
see also Airship 'Beta' II Lands in Moulton

A Forest Heath District Council (Suffolk) Project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Millennium Festival 2000 Designed by ArtAtac