|Abstract||THE END OF ZEPPELIN L33
(The Authentic account)
Zeppelin L33 was commanded by Kapitan - Leutenant Bocker.
During the daylight hours of Saturday September 23rd. 1916
the weather was ideally suited for an airship attack on London.
Three zeppelins, the L31, L32 and L33 were directed to the area
North East of the capital.
The L33 was fired upon by a British Naval Vessel as she
approached the British coast near Foulness.
This defensive action was unsuccessful however and L33 continued on course.
About 10.4Opm L33 dropped incendiary flares over Upminster and
bombs were dropped on Sutton's Farm Aerodrome, Hornchurch.
The attack continued for over an hour and was continued in a zig-zag
pattern over Woolwich and West Ham.
It is generally agreed that this attack resulted in 11 persons being
killed and 25 injured. The attack was not of course received
passively. A considerable barrage of anti-aircraft fire was
directed at L33 which resulted in several of her gas bags being
punctured and a propeller being damaged.
Shortly after midnight L33 turned to the East and attempted a run
for the coast as she was now losing gas at an alarming rate.
While over Kelvedon common L33 was again fired upon and Bocker
was obliged to order all the water ballast to be discharged in an
attempt to gain height. Just West of Chelmsford L33 was attacked
by a B.E.2c aeroplane piloted by 2nd. Lieutenant Alfred Brandon.
Brandon zoomed in tor the attack only to have his Lewis gun leap
out of its mounting and nearly falling overboard. He managed
to re-establish his gun and continued his attack until a gun
malfunction and temporary engine failure forced him to disengage.
Bocker and his crew were by now desperately worried by the amount
of gas lost and all loose equipment was ordered to be jettisoned.
(There is also an unconfirmed report that an unpopular crew
member was threatened with an early quick descent.)
The residents of Broomfield were surprised to find metal bars and
tools in their gardens. The villagers of Boreham were the
fortunate recipients of a machine gun. All this action did not
stop the craft sinking however and this resulted in both Wickham
Bishops and Tiptree each receiving a machine gun.
About 1.15am Bocker identified the estuary at West Mersea almost
by dangling his foot in it by now and it was obvious that he
would never be able to reach his home base. Bocker unloaded
his remaining bombs into the sea and then turned back inland
The L33 crash landed just South of Wigborough Church coming
to rest across two two fields and completely blocking the lane to the church.
Bocker was aware that, although damaged, his Zeppelin would be a
rich prize indeed for the British. Accordingly he arranged
for the craft to be burned. Before firing his flare pistol into
the hydrogen filled Zeppelin, Bocker knocked on the door of a
nearby cottage in order to evacuate the residents in view of the
likelihood of a gigantic explosion. The occupants were however too
scared to open the door to a party of German soldiers and
The explosion of the airship was heard several miles away but
fortunately there was only one slight casualty, a small dog which
was tied to its kennel at the cottage had its hair singed.
Bocker then collected his crew together and commenced to march
them towards Colchester.
Having travelled about half a mile they
were met by Special Constable Edgar Nicholas, who, having heard
the explosion, was on his way to investigate.
Nicholas ignored Booker's request to be taken to Colchester and
started to march them towards Peldon. On the way they were met
by Sergeant Edwards of the Metropolitan Police. Sergeant Edwards
was in fact on leave from duty and lived nearby.
Together the two Policemen continued to march the commander
and his crew towards Peldon.
Anticipating the need for reinforcements PC Charles Smith of Peldon
had made his way to Peldon Post Office on hearing the Zeppelin
explode and was attempting to put a call inrough to his superiors
for instructions when the crew of the airship arrived.
After some little time it became apparent that PC Smith was
going to be unable to contact anyone else for help and attempts
to call up a military unit at West Mersea were unsuccessful.
Alfred Wright then volounteered to ride off on his motorcycle
to fetch help. He set off but regrettably was involved in a
collision with another vehicle shortly after leaving the
post office. Mr Wright broke both legs in this accident and
died from his injuries two months later. The wreckage of the
Zeppelin had to be cut through to allow his funeral to reach the church.
Eventually PC Smith was able to get a call through and was instructed
to march the captured crew to the Strood at Mersea where he
would be met by a Military escort.
This he did, unarmed, and with the help of a few special
constables who had by now arrived on the scene.
For his coolness and judgement in dealing with this matter
PC Smith was awarded the medal of merit and promoted to
Sergeant with immediate effect by the Chief Constable.
The wreckage of the airship drew thousands of visitors in
the following weeks and a sum in the region of £80.00
was collected from them in donations.
This money was given to the Red Cross.
Zeppelin L33 at Little Wigborough