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laying door

Bellman hangar

The Bellman Hangar was designed in 1936 by the Directorate of Works' structural engineer, N. S. Bellman, as a temporary hangar capable of being erected or dismantled by unskilled labour with simple equipment and to be easily transportable. Commercial manufacturing rights were acquired by Head Wrightson & Co of Teesdale Iron Works, Thornaby-on-Tees. By November 1938, 10 had been supplied to Russia.

Origins of Transportable Hangars

During the First World War and for some time after, the only successful transportable hangar design was the Bessonneau. This could be very quickly erected and secured to provide adequate shelter for a few small aeroplanes. But with post-war increases in the number and size of aeroplanes, the need for larger transportable accommodation soon became apparent. The Air Ministry therefore issued a specification in 1936 covering the dimensions and requirements for a light transportable shed for use in war. It had to be end-opening with doors at both ends, be capable of mass production and have interchangeable parts to permit rapid erection and dismantling with minimal permanent foundations. This specification was submitted to various designers and eventually two different designs were presented - the Bellman and the Callender Hangar.

An example of each was erected at two demonstration sites (airfields) in the north-east: at Thornaby an Air Ministry design was built (later to be known as the Bellman hangar) and at Usworth a Callender Cable & Construction design was built (later to be known as the Callender-Hamilton hangar). Eventually, in 1938, the Bellman design was chosen as the standard Air Ministry wartime transportable shed, but Callender-Hamilton hangars were also purchased in small numbers for Royal Naval Air Stations until superseded by a new hangar type in 1943.

Construction

The Bellman hangar was constructed on a unit system of rolled steel sections, both walls and roof using the same standard units joined at the junction of wall and roof by a standard corner unit. The time taken for 12 men to erect the hangar at Thornaby, including levelling the ground, laying door tracks, erecting the steelwork, and fitting oiled canvas Callender doors, was 500 man-hours. Two light jib derricks using timber poles were required to erect the fabricated and side members. The roof trusses were assembled on the ground before being lifted into position.

As a result of the bad winter of 1937 when a number of transportable Bellman hangars at Thornaby were damaged after a heavy to severe fall of snow, production Bellmans were modified slightly to have steel-framed and steel-clad doors.

During the period 1938-40 some 400 Bellman hangars were built. They proved to be invaluable in the early part of the war. They met an increasing demand not only to supplement permanent hangars, but also to provide the total hangar requirements for many temporary Armament Training, Elementary Flying Training, and Air Navigation Schools. There are still about 100 Bellman hangars in RAF service in the UK.

Hangars were purchased in bulk and in 1938 a central parts, storage depot was established at No. 3 MU at Milton, Oxfordshire. The parts for 40 Bellmans were stored in two specially built Bellman sheds for issue in the event of war. When all the hangars had been dispatched, the sheds were used for storing spare parts.

Bellman Hangars in Australia

Bellman's were produced in Australia from c.1939 – 1945. They are often stated to have been made by Lysaght, however a recent history on Comeng (Commonwealth Engineering) reports that that Waddington engineering made over 200 Bellman of a total of 283 ordered by the Air Ministry in Australia. They were designed as easily transportable, temporary hangars which could be erected using unskilled labour. They were used on war-time airfields constructed across Australia particularly training airfields.

  • RAAF Base Wagga (Forest Hill) has some 14 surviving Bellman Hangars.
  • A Bellman hangar survives at Maryborough Airport, Queensland.
  • About six were at Tottenham RAAF stores - but may have been removed by now.
  • There were at least three at Point Cook (RAAF Williams).
  • Three at Fishermen's Bend (Victoria) at the site of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation factory. These are believed to be about to be demolished (April 2007).
  • One at Benalla Airport,(Victoria)
  • Two at RAAF Base Townsville, re-clad
  • Three at Macrossan Stores Depot near Charters Towers (Queensland)
  • One at Jezzine Barracks, Townsville
  • Three at Parafield Airport, Adelaide, two reclad, but one which houses the Classic Jets Fighter Museum is in original condition
  • One at Mount Gambier Airport, re-clad
  • One at Port Pirie Airport, in original condition
  • Four at HMAS Albatross (air station) believed to have been erected when it was used by the RAAF in 1944
  • One at the Army Aviation Centre, Oakey (Queensland)

References

  • World War II Hangars -Guide to Hangar Identification Technical Bulletin 02/02, Defence Estates, Ministry of Defence UK, 2002
  • Francis, P. 1996 British Military Airfield Architecture: from Airships to the Jet Age. Yeovil: Patrick Stephens Limited (pp100-101)
  • Dunn John, 2006 Comeng: A History of Commonwealth Engineering, Rosenberg Publishing, p68

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