Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a blimp?

Blimp BE.2c

No your eyes are not deceiving you. That is indeed a Royal Aircraft Factory BE.2c fuselage being used as a makeshift gondola for a blimp. This is in fact a prototype for the SS-class of anti-submarine airships. The Submarine/Sea Scout-class was a simple and relatively inexpensive small, non-rigid airship developed as a matter of some urgency to counter the German U-boat threat to British shipping during World War I. Over 158 would be built by the war’s end by which time they had their own specially designed gondolas but the early ones such as this made do with BE.2c fuselages and engines to power them.

The pilot was seated behind the observer who also served as the wireless operator and the main armament consisted of bombs carried in frames suspended between the undercarriage wheels. The bomb sight and release mechanism were located on the outside of the car on the starboard side of the pilot’s position. For defence and strafing a Lewis Gun was mounted on a post adjacent to the pilot’s seat and a camera was also housed in the fuselage for reconnaissance.

While they proved something of a failure operationally they did scare off a number of U-boats from their hunting grounds around the British coast and a BE.2c variant set a British airship record of 10,300ft.


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