Friday, 29 August 2008

Zeppelins Over Essex (1)

Much is written elsewhere on the Internet about the Zeppelin raids during the First World War. As mentioned in ‘Bombs Over Blackmore’ (22.8.08), the first to be brought down over British soil was the L15, which was shot down on 1st April 1916 at Purfleet and ended up in the sea off Margate.

On 3rd September 1916, SL11 was brought down in flames (see postcard) at Cuffley (Hertfordshire) from machine gunfire by Lt. W Leefe Robinson, flying a B.E. 2c aeroplane from Sutton’s Farm airfield at Hornchurch. For this action he was awarded the Victoria Cross. Other Zeppelins attacking Essex that night hurriedly fled, the infamous L14 dropping her bombs on Thaxted.

“Zepp Sunday” (24th September 1916) as it became known was the occasion when two airships were brought down. L32 in flames at Snail’s Farm, South Green, Great Burstead by Lt F Sowrey, again from the No 39 Squadron RFC from Sutton’s Farm – there were no survivors. I recently spoke to someone whose ancestors lived near Blackmore. One family member was the farmer at Snail’s Farm and she told me that it was not until 1921 that the authorities gave compensation for damaged crops caused as a result of the Zeppelin crash and the many sightseers who visited the farm the following day. The second Zeppelin, L33, was damaged by gunfire from the London defences – possibly at Kelvedon Hatch – and attacked by aeroplane, came down intact at Great Wigborough. The local policeman took the crew prisoners. The account is told o a memorial plaque in Great Wigborough church.

The following Sunday (1st October), L31 was shot down in flames over Potters Bar by Lt W Tempest.

Five more Zeppelins were shot down in flames, the final one on 17th June 1917 at Theberton (Suffolk).

Zeppelin links

History of Zeppelin airships

History of Zeppelin raids from Essex Police Records. Martin Lockwood mentions the raid of L14 on 31 March 1916 when four people were killed in Braintree.

From the diaries of Reverend Andrew Clark, Rector of Great Leighs. The following is a review of ‘Echoes of the Great War’ edited by James Munson (1985).
“The effect of air raids on local communities is fully described. For instance, on 1 April 1916: "At 11pm, just as my wife had come up, there were two tremendous explosions, just to the North which shook the house, and caused her to call out, involuntarily Oh! Oh! The second call woke me, and I got up to find my daughters disturbed by the great bangs and the dog roused and barking. At 11.10pm I was dressing-gowned and out. It was a starlit night, slightly foggy. By this time the Zeppelin was roaring like a railway train somewhere nearby, apparently just over the Rectory stables. 11.50pm. Several explosions in the South, followed by lights." “
Here Andrew Clark makes reference to the bombs which fell in the parish of Blackmore.

Discussion relating to L15 which was shot down at Purfleet on 31 March 1916 and ended up, deflated, on sands near Margate.

First air raid over Southend: 1915

Memento from the Zeppelin brought down over Cuffley, 2/3 September 1916

An account of the downing of L31 at Cuffley, the damaged oak tree of Potters Bar, and those who perished (by Tom Morgan).

An account of the events of 23/24 September, when two Zeppelins were brought down over Essex. The link provides photographs of the machines.

Photograph of L33 at Great Wigborough

Account of visit to L33 Zeppelin crash site at Great Wigborough (by Colleen Morrison)
… and a follow up item relating to this post

An account of the Zeppelin coming down at Great Wigborough (posted by Chris Goddard)

More on the Great Wigborough Zeppelin

Notes on L32 shot down on the night of 23/24 September 1916 at Great Burstead, Billericay (by Fred Feather)
“The Cater museum at Billericay, the Essex police museum at Springfield, Little Wigborough church and a pub at Peldon have mementoes or exhibits.”

Little Wigborough church link

Sequence of correspondence regarding a BBC ‘Timewatch’ programme (broadcast 2 February 2007) devoted to the Zeppelin raids over Britain – predominantly Essex and Therberton in Suffolk.

Sequence of other Zeppelin correspondence including references to the Zeppelin Z15 shot down at Purfleet on 31 March / 1 April 1916 and, on the second page, an account of sightseers at the Great Burstead crash site, the funeral of the victims and, a note on the subsequent removal of the bodies to Cannock Chase in Staffordshire in 1966.

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