Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: June 11, 2020
Webpage updated: June 11, 2020




During the Great War the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) established a sub-base on the race-course at Chelson Meadow, near Saltram House, in the parish of Plympton Saint Mary.  It was known RNAS Laira and was actually a sub-station of the RNAS base at Mullion on the Lizard peninsula of Cornwall.

The base was home to two Sea Scout Zero (SSZ) airships, which eye-witnesses said were moored to the trees and painted in a camouflage khaki, brown and black.  The ground crew of around twenty men slept on the wooden benches in the open-fronted race-course grandstand.

Mr Harry Turner's father used to pilot an airship from RNAS Laira and when he married in 1918 the couple were presented with a silver rose bowl inscribed "From the Officers at RNAS station Laira".

It is not known exactly when the sub-station was closed down but it was still in operation in 1918, when a visiting airship from RNAS Mullion became unmanageable in a strong wind and crashed into the river Plym.  Nobody was killed but it was a major task recovering the airship and engines from the mud of the river.

From February1917 there was also Royal Naval Air Service, Cattewater, for seaplanes.

Chelson Meadow continued to be used in the 1920s by civilian aviators.

  With acknowledgements to Mr Harry Turner, of Scotland, 2006.