Bessonneau Hangars at Kenley

The Bessonneau hangar was originally devised by the French Company, Etablissements Bessonneau around 1910, as a portable canvas and wood tent for aircraft storage.

By the beginning of the Great War they were widely used by the French Aeronautique Militaire and were subsequently adopted by both the RFC and RNAS, often as temporary storage while permanent hangars were under construction, which is exactly how they were used at Kenley during the early days of the Air Acceptance Park in 1918.

Although the easily-assembled steel Bellman hangar came into use in the late 1930’s, Bessonneau hangars continued to be used by the RAF during WW2 and post-war a few survived as glider storage for the Air Training Corps, like the one at Kenley, which was erected in February 1980 to provide hangar space for 615 Volunteer Gliding Squadron after the destruction of Kenley’s last Belfast Truss hangar in 1978. On 14th January, 1987, the rear half of the Bessoneau hangar collapsed under a heavy snow fall, damaging all of 615 VGS’s gliders. On 16th February, 1987, No.16 Maintenance Unit either repaired or replaced the Bessoneau hangar. However, it deteriorated over time and a review by Headquarters Air Cadets resulted in the construction of a new purpose-built steel hangar and Headquarters building, which was completed on 9th April, 1993.

The last surviving examples of Bessoneau hangars were at Odiham, Halton and Weston-Super-Mare. There are now thought to be no original complete Bessonneau hangars in existence in Britain.

Information from our friends at Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust.

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