What is Project Zero?
Project Zero has been researching the role and development of airships during the First World War as a centenary commemoration of the conflict around the coasts of Wales. Its aim is to tell the remarkable story of the men and women who designed, built and served with the little-known fleet of airships, known as Blimps or Dirigibles to combat the U-boat threat to our shipping from 1914-1918.
It has been initiated and led by 'History Matters' a not for profit community heritage organisation and the research funded by a grant from HLF Wales. A part-time project officer (Gary Ball) has been leading a small group of volunteers from across the globe in this task.
The story of the Zero airship first presented itself with the discovery of this photograph of SSZ 31 flying under the Menai bridge near Anglesey on November 14th 1918 to celebrate the Armistice. By 2014 it had become the initiator for our WW1 centenary project, partnered with the Imperial War Museum and the Living Legacies engagement centres.
Our research began in November 2016 to determine if there was surviving evidence and details to build a faithful full sized and detailed replica of a Submarine Scout Zero class airship control car. Not just a museum exhibit but a prop for a hands-on and interactive display, to engage the old and young alike and create a unique living history experience to initiate the discovery and learning of this remarkable yet forgotten chapter in the history of conflict and technology.
The resources for this replica have been drawn from the few remaining plans and drawings, preserved in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington at the National Aerospace museum, supplied to the project by the RAF Museum, Cosford, Staffordshire; alongside a number of photographs of the only surviving example held in the reserve collection of the French aerospace museum, again kindly supplied by RAF Cosford.
What will your contribution fund?
You will be contributing to the existing budget we have been granted by the Heritage Lottery Fund (40% of the project costs) to make this happen.
The crowdfunding will allow our team of heritage specialists and volunteers to build a full-sized Zero class control car that is as accurate as possible and will be the centrepiece of our national tour of the pop-up museum. This display will feature the airship gondola were visitors can climb aboard and experience first hand the sights and sounds of a bygone age of aerial warfare, alongside a crew of Living History interpreters wearing authentic RNAS flying uniforms, with the equipment that will include a working wireless to teach the history of signalling and radio.
Some of the funding will pay for the specialist elements of the build from heritage craftspeople we have engaged, such as the 3 cane aircraft seats to be commissioned from Tim Palmer (http://www.timpalmerbasketmaker.co.uk/) and the (inert) Lewis machine gun from a specialist prop maker. A specialist heritage smith and engineer Rowan Taylor will oversee the fabrication of the metal components.
Workshop costs, transport and storage have all been included in our budget for the recreation of a unique display to enable us to educate and enthral visitors of all ages.
During the Great War the British government issues war bonds to help raise the cost of building the new technology required in the first mechanised war, such as aircraft and the newly developed tanks.
Airships were employed in this task, dropping thousands of circulars onto central London to encourage the public to support the cost of the war.
Rewards for your support
We appreciate your support and the fact that many backers will be airship heritage and vintage aviation enthusiasts, so have created some unique rewards from T-shirts to limited edition 'sweetheart' badges of a Zero airship and also replica RNAS cloth badges,(observer, engineer, pilot) perfect gifts! You can even have a full sized print of the 1917 plans, these 1/8th scale blueprints will have your name added to it as a unique reward for helping us to make this happen.
Supporters will be updated on the build progress, broadcast direct from the workshop via Facebook Live to a 'secret supporters group' as the replica progresses. There will also be a professional video documenting the build, to be exclusively premiered to our backers and a written and photographic account in the project's forthcoming publication 'Project Zero 100: Experimental airship archaeology' (to be published Spring 2019), with copies available for our higher tier backers.
Please help us tell this story, lest we forget.
There is a final opportunity to create a lasting legacy that is visual and has an impact to create new knowledge through experiences, a 'pop-up museum' exhibit manned by costumed interpreters, to tell the story first hand and continue to offer learning opportunities to the next generation, to ensure the story is never forgotten.
The replica, SSZ100 will tour the UK and feature as a living history display at Heritage events, museums and airfields for visitors to explore and learn about 'Airships over Wales'. Supporters will be notified of opportunities to see the replica for themselves.
The workshop will be used by History Matters volunteers for maintenance of the replica and it will enable us to pursue other early aviation projects in the future.
A blog with the background of such a project can be found at www.codygliderkite.blogspot.co.uk The workshop will allow us to build a 1/3 rd scale version of Cody's man carrying glider kite from 1905. But that's another story!