Wednesday, November 20, 2013


"The memory of that night has stayed with me all my life," said the late Mrs Elsie Whale in 2001 when I interviewed her for a local newspaper.  As an 11-year-old girl, she had witnessed the destruction of the L32 German Naval Zeppelin airship during the early hours of Sunday, 24th September 1916. "It was a spectacular sight," she remembered.

Billericay certainly made worldwide headlines that morning when the airship was shot down over Great Burstead. This ‘super’ new zeppelin was one of four that flew that night, via Belgium, over London and the Home Counties, intent on destruction. I have visited the spot in the farmer's field and photographed the brick base of 'dead man's barn' where the bodies of the 22 airmen were laid,  and still recall the stories of local folk who witnessed the amazing spectacle.  The poor farmer, John Maryon of Snails Hall Farm had to wait three years before the government coughed up compensation for the destruction of his trampelled crops. Remains of Zeppelin L32 can be seen in Billericay’s Cater Museum and photographs are in Ray Rimell's book of that name.

My thanks go to Ray of Albatros Productions Limited in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire for sending me a copy of his book pictured above. Not only has Ray given me such incredibly researched information on this locally known Zep, but so much more on the whole subject of these huge airships.

Ray writes:  "Of the 88 Zeppelins built by Germany during the Great War, the "R" class, initiated by L30   in late May 1916, broke new ground in wartime rigid airship technology.  The "Thirties"  would continue in production, albeit with progressively improving and extensive modifications, up to mid-1918". Ray has illustrated his book with superb images of the zeppelins,  supported by centre-fold scale drawings and accompanying colour plates. 

With so much attention in the pipe-line for next year's centenary of World War I 4 August 1914, Ray Rimell's superbly written book will be of huge interest to broadcasters and journalists alike.

No comments: