ID DIS2016_ZEP Article from Mersea Museum

TitleZeppelin L33 at Little Wigborough.
AbstractExcitement came to the small village of Little Wigborough on the night of 24 September 1916, with the crash of th e German Zeppelin airship L33. The airship had been on a bombing raid over London and was returning to Germany. She was, however, hit by gunfire over the East End and she then struggled to stay aloft. Losing height over Mersea Island, L33 came to earth straddling the lane to Little Wigborough Church and only a few yards from New Hall Cottages.

The crew all escaped from the airship and the German Captain, Aloys Bocker, went to the cottages to warn them that he was about to set the airship on fire. They were somewhat terrified and did not answer the door - but occupants and cottages all survived the resulting inferno.
Captain Bocker then marched his crew along the lane - until they were met by Special Constable Edgar Nicholas. The German crew surrendered. Edgar Nichols was soon joined by Special Constable Elijah Trailer and then by Police Sergeant Ernest Edwards who was on leave, staying in the lane. The crew were marched to Peldon Post Office and then on to Mersea Island. The Military met them at the Strood and took over.

The Rev Pierrepont Edwards, vicar of West Mersea, met the party and accompanied them to Mersea High Street where they met local parishioners. The Vicar curbed threats of a lynching and the injured German received further treatment at West Mersea Post Office (No 11 High Street). The party then marched to the Artillery Camp between Beach Road and Lower Kingsland Road (where there were then no houses). As the tented camp was not sufficiently secure to hold prisoners, the vicar offered the Church Hall in High Street North. The injured crewman slept at the Vicarage next door while the rest were kept in the hall, although the airship commander would not sleep with his crew.

The one fatality of the night was Alfred Wright from Grove Farm, further down the lane in Little Wigborough. He saw what was happening and mounted his motorcycle to go to Mersea to alert the military. Sadly, he never reached there - he collided with a car and was badly injured. He died 7 weeks later and is buried in Little Wigborough church yard.

The site of the wrecked Zeppelin soon became very popular, with large numbers of visitors. The early visitors found it easy to get souvenirs but the site was soon guarded by the military and later visitors had to content themselves with buying mementoes fashioned from pieces of metal, most of which came from the Zeppelin.

Local resident Fred Mallett was playing with his brother when they found papers in a ditch. His father dried them in front of the fire and the papers were sent up to the authorities. They turned out to be from the log book of the German airship.

Another local event of that night was the birth of a baby girl at Abbots Hall Cottages, Wigborough. She was delivered by Doctor Salter of Tolleshunt Darcy and at his suggestion was christened Zeppelina.

The Museum has a model of L33, built by John Milgate and his team for the 2016 Centenary of the Zeppelin coming to earth. September 2016 the model had a cruise round Essex - to Stow Maries Aerodrome and then to Zepfest - the celebration put on in Little Wigborough to commemorate the event.

Zeppelin L33 at Little Wigborough. She was large - 650 feet (198m) long, 90 feet (27.7m) high.

SourceMersea Museum
IDDIS2016_ZEP


This item is part of the Mersea Island Museum Collection. The contents must not be published without the permission of the Museum. The information is accurate as far as is known, but the Museum does not accept responsibility for errors.


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