Posted by: travelrat | July 16, 2017

The Larkhill Sheds

When I was stationed at Upavon with the Royal Air Force, we used to brag that we were the country’s … possibly the world’s …. first military flying base still in existence. There were those who said that nearby Netheravon and Old Sarum might give us an argument about that. It was many years later that the ‘Gospel According to St Google’ proved us to be right.

But, prior to that, aircraft operated from a grass strip at Larkhill, on land leased from the War Office, as early as 1910. Larkhill, home of the Royal School of Artillery has an even earlier connection with aviation, for it was here, in 1873, that the Army held trials for artillery observation from balloons. The technique had already been proven ten years earlier, in the American Civil War, but they still had to have ‘trials’.

They decided it was a Good Idea, so No 1 Balloon Company, Royal Engineers was formed … from which No 1 Squadron, Royal Air Force claims direct descent.

It was at Larkhill that the British and Colonial Aircraft Company … later, the Bristol Aeroplane Company … set up a Flying School, and where, on the 20th July, 1910, the first flight of the Boxkite aeroplane took place. They built aircraft sheds here … and they are still in existence.

Operations at Larkhill ceased in 1912, and aviation transferred to its new site at Upavon. The airfield has long since been built over, but the sheds remain. It’s thought they are the oldest existing aircraft hangars anywhere, and are Grade II listed buildings. The Army use them as store sheds … until the other week, when they received a very special visitor, about which I shall tell more later.

Scout at Larkhill 2

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