Battlebags and Blimps, airing the secrets of Whitehead’s WW1 aerodrome

SSZ over garden

The secrets of Bentra Airfield are being explored in a new partnership between Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Queen’s University.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project aims to look back at Ireland’s first military aviation facility and log memorabilia from past generations for future ones.

One of the events is asking anyone with WW1 stories or memorabilia to come along so it can be logged by a team of Queen’s University’s Living Legacies experts.

During WWI, Royal Naval Air Service airships based at Bentra, patrolled the waters between Ireland and Scotland to combat German U-Boats.

They were tasked with protecting the cross channel ferry, Princess Maud, and guard incoming convoys in the North Channel.

Affectionately named ‘battlebags’ by their crews, and ‘blimps’ by civilians, the airships were a familiar sight around Britain’s shores during the war years 1914-1918.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Lindsay Millar, said: “This is such a brilliant opportunity to learn more about a local site in the borough.

“If you have any WW1 related stories or artefacts, then we would love you to come along to this event so they can be logged and digitally recorded by specialist teams.

“We are thrilled to have received support thanks to National Lottery and that this project will help us unlock the hidden history of Bentra, which played such a big part in the Great War.

“There will be drone flying, WW1 displays, craft activities, a chance to get a virtual snapshot of you at the aerodrome and the opportunity to speak to our team of experts on 30 June from 11am-4pm.”

The Living Legacies team from Queen’s University will be there so if you have your great grandfather’s medals and service records stored in the attic, bring them along.

They bring a wide range of specialisms and knowledge of WWI training camps, landscape analysis and the digitisation of our most treasured stories and family heirlooms.

The workshops which Living Legacies and Carrickfergus Museum will deliver, will help share the interesting stories of this rich historical site, create an invaluable online resource and allow new research into coastal defences in the borough.


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