The site at Bentra was established in 1915 and became the first military airbase in Ireland. This airbase housed a massive airship shed that measured 150 feet long by 45 feet wide and 50 feet high, as well as accommodation for the pilots and engineers working on station. There were at least four airships that operated from the site. The base operated as a Sub-Station of the Royal Naval Air Service Luce Bay airship base in Scotland during that time, and it was tasked with maintaining the Larne to Stranraer ferry and to guard against German U-boats and other naval military operations in the Irish Sea and the North Channel.
At the edge of Larne Lough, this military base one of a host of stations established across the shores of Belfast Lough. This includes a battery site located near what is now known as Kilroot Power Station outside Carrickfergus Town and other sites across County Antrim and County Down.
The aircraft hosted at the site were dirigible lifted with hydrogen, and used both wind and small propellers establish direction. These airships were not the greatest of military hardware, and became known as “battlebags” by the crews who worked on them—and as “blimps” by the general public. But they did provide good reconnaissance and could patroling large territories at low cost. The airships soon became a familiar sight across Britain in the early 20th century.
The base no longer exists, and on the site is a new woodland, Diamond Jubilee Wood, and a small commemorative post to honor the people who served at the station.
Know Before You Go
To get to Whitehead, you can travel by car or by train from Belfast or Larne. From the Bentra Grill restaurant, walk a short distance along a gravel path parallel to the road, around the Bentra Golf Course, until you come to the entrance of Diamond Jubilee Wood.