WW1 airfield marker ‘first’ for Northern Ireland

Whitehead airfield's role in WW1 is to be recognised with an official marker.
Whitehead airfield's role in WW1 is to be recognised with an official marker.

Bentra Airfield at Whitehead is to become the first such WW1 site in Northern Ireland to be officially recognised with a special permanent marker.

The Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust honours premier historical locations across the UK.

The secrets of Bentra airfield are now being explored in a new partnership between Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Living Legacies based at Queen’s University.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Battlebags and Blimps project aims to explore Ireland’s first military aviation facility and reveal what is hidden below the surface at Bentra.

From 1915 to 1918, Royal Naval Air Service airships based at Bentra patrolled the waters between Ireland and Scotland, combating 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.

The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Lindsay Millar said: “This is such a brilliant opportunity to honour the rich historical past of this special landmark. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn more about a local site in the borough, which until now has been largely overlooked.”

The unveiling on October 20 coincides with the launch of a new exhibition at Carrickfergus Museum entitled, ‘Ships & Airships: Coastal Defence during the First World War’. It explores the war at sea around our shores, with a particular focus on Bentra Aerodrome.

For more information go to www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk/museums