The Great War impacted every member of society in many ways and on many levels. Most often this is framed by the experiences fighting on the Western Front in the prolonged trench warfare that characterised the conflict. Ask many people to describe the conflict and mud, blood and biplanes may come to mind.This the project is a chance to learn and discover a forgotten chapter in one of the few means of fighting wars that disappeared alongside the last cavalry charge, one that still captures the popular imagination - the airship.
Whilst the home front has emerged as an opportunity for study and engagement and the daring do of the air aces comes to mind in the public's perception of the air war, there are areas of the conflict that straddle these themes. Defending the shipping routes for the transportation of goods and supplies, troops and naval convoys was an essential role in the country's defence.A priority of national importance after the German campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare tasked to the little known and newly established Royal Naval Air Service, the development of lighter than air craft, called dirigibles sprang from the little known and badly recorded pioneering work of E.T.Willows who designed, built and flew his first airships from Splott in Cardiff. The project will raise the profile of Willows early work in Wales.
Our heritage projects always aim to impart new facts, understanding, and experiences to those we engage with. So little is known of the story of the dirigible and its bases of operations, the people who designed, built and flew the craft, the many women who made up to 75% of the crew at an airship station and the success in the face of technological and natural adversity to secure our seas in these centenary years , it's due time for their contributions to be recognised.
Other projects (some run by potential partners and stakeholders) have identified elements of this story to be recorded and listed as heritage assets, for example, the RNAS airship station at Pembroke has an ariel photo that shows possible surviving below ground features associated with the huge airship hangers, yet they have never been surveyed on the ground to confirm their survival or recorded as such.Although a few of the individual features survive a comprehensive survey creating a single resource on this subject, with a quest for new images and recollections is yet to be undertaken, the focus on Wales gives a distinct and refined approach to the themes and creates relevance to those who become engaged either as volunteers or visitors to exhibits across the country. Specific learning outcomes will be created, directed at the air and naval cadet organisations across Wales.
There is a final opportunity to create a lasting legacy that is relevant, visual and has an impact to create new knowledge through experiences, a 'pop-up museum' exhibit manned by costumed interpreters to tell the story first hand and continue to offer learning opportunities to the next generation, to ensure the story is never forgotten.