World War 1 Zeppelin Crash
During WW1 troops were stationed on the island, Mersea had become a restricted area and the beaches and the Strood were patrolled daily. Mersea people sometimes saw German airships coming over and witnessed bombing raids and although in view of later aerial horrors we are inclined to be rather blasé about those first ever air raids on civilians, they must have been terrifying enough at the time.
On the night of 23-24 September 1916 Zeppelin L33 dropped a few incendiaries over Upminster and Bromley-by-Bow, where it was hit by an anti-aircraft shell, despite being at an altitude of 13,000 feet (4,000 m). As it headed towards Chelmsford it began to lose height and was forced to land at New Hall Farm, Little Wigborough, only twenty yards from a nearby house. The occupants of the house, a man, his wife and three children, ran for their lives as the airship hit the ground. The airship was set alight by its crew shortly before they ran away, but inspection of the wreckage provided the British with much information about the construction of Zeppelins, which was used in the design of the British R33-class airships.
Special Constable Edgar Nicholas, who lived nearby, made his way to the scene and came across the crew walking along a road after they had set the Zeppelin alight. They identified themselves as the Zeppelin crew and he arrested them. Other officers later joined them and the local constable, Pc 354 Charles Smith, arranged for the prisoners to be handed over to the military on Mersea Island until they could be taken to prisoner of war camps elsewhere.
Once again the airship was the subject of great attention by spectators, but the guarding of it was expeditiously arranged by the military as parts of the airship were still relatively undamaged. Indeed, she was later studied in great detail and many aspects of her design were incorporated into later British airship designs.
However, some souvenirs were gathered up and even today parts of L32 and L33 can be found for sale on eBay and collectors forums.
This short video clip below is from an interview the BBC did for their World War One at Home feature with a witness to Zeppelin L33 crash.
Main photo from BBC.
This post has been categorised under: History.
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