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Friday, 23 September 2016

Book Reviews: Zeppelins Centenary Marked

Familiar image of Zeppelin L33 at Little Wigborough
September 1916
Book Reviews

The Last Flight of the L32.  R. L. Rimmell.  Albatross Productions Ltd. 2016. 24 pages (A4 glossy format with appendices).  £10.00 (paperback)

Marking one of the major events of the First World War, this lavishly illustrated booklet tells the story of the enemy Zeppelin raids over Britain and, in particular from page 8, official and eye-witness accounts pertaining to the firing and destruction of the Zeppelin L32 which fell at Snails Hall Farm, Great Burstead, on the early morning of Sunday, 24 September 1916.  It had fallen victim to incendiary bullets fired by Lewis Gun from a small biplane flown out of Suttons Farm airfield Hornchurch to about 9000 feet by 2/Lt Frederick Sowrey.  All 22 on board captained by Werner Peterson perished as the 40 ton hydrogen-filled structure fell from 13000 feet to the ground burning for an hour.  The victims’ bodies were discovered in the immediate neighbouring fields and placed in a barn before burial at Great Burstead churchyard a few days later.  Farmhands were first on site in early morning collecting items strewn across the land.  Debris was found elsewhere.  The illustrations pinpoint the location of the Zeppelins fall; tell of the sightseers who came to the farm the following morning, and of the brisk trade in souvenirs including scraps of aluminium and portions of the crew’s clothing.  Those who had guarded the site – the Irish Guards, those from other regiments, policemen and fire officials – later turned many items into rings, discs and crosses and “were not short of cash for some while”.

The accounts of these Zeppelin raids over Essex have been of personal interest for some while and, in the course of research into the raid over Blackmore on 31 March 1916, I had the pleasure of meeting descendants of the Maryon family who farmed on the site of the L32.  I had expected that this pamphlet would add little to what I already knew but was proved wrong.  If there is one disappointment with the work it has to be the extremely small font size of the text which made it difficult to read.  The review copy will be added to our Library collection.

Zeppelin. Volume 2.  R. L. Rimmell.  Albatross Publications Ltd. 2008. 74 pages (A4 glossy format with appendices).  £25.00 (paperback)

Sent to us as a pair, this book details the German ‘R’ Class Zeppelins which attacked Britain beginning in the autumn of 1916.  L33’s one and only raid occurred on the night of 23/24 September 1916, and with the fall of L32 over Great Burstead the day became known as ‘Zepp Sunday’.  L33 was fired at from the biplane of Alfred de Bathe Brandon flown up from Hainault.  He managed to deflate but not ignite its airbags. The crew, led by Oberleutnant Bocker, landed their craft in a field at Little Wigborough.  The crew were picked up on the Peldon road and arrested by the local constabulary. The forced landing, and the fact that the crew were unable to successfully torch their craft, enabled the British to examine every part of the Zeppelin.

Andrew Smith

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