Zeppelina And The Airship

Zeppelina Clark was named after the wreckage of a WW1 Zeppelin. She was born in 1916 and sadly passed away in 2004 at the age of 88. A piece of glass led me to Zeppelina. Yes, a piece of glass. I bought it at a charity auction in Kings Heath. The person who had entered the lot was an old lady. She told me that her cousin had found the glass fragment in Essex at the site of a Zeppelin crash. She had applied a label to this effect on the item. Needless to say I bid for and went home with the piece of glass and started my research.  

When Germany sent a fleet of super-Zeppelins to drop bombs over England it must have struck terror in the hearts of ordinary people whose hitherto impregnable island security was threatened. Zeppelin attacks had been responsible for significant loss of life. Strategic defence systems to combat airship raids were in their infancy and had met with only limited success. The first success was  on 3rd September 1916 when a Zeppelin was shot down and crashed in Hertfordshire. Such was the sense of relief that the successful pilot was rewarded with the Victoria Cross and prize money of £4,200 donated by a grateful public.

The new super-Zeppelins (L31, L32, L33, L34) raided London and the Home Counties on 23rd and 24th September 1916. These new airships were 650 feet long, capable of 65 miles per hour and carried a bomb load of 5 tons. The potential for mass devastation and loss of life was plain to see. 

L32 was picked out by searchlights and shot down by a fighter pilot.  It crashed over farmland near Billericay with no survivors. Cheering sightseers rushed to the scene to celebrate and collect souvenirs from the burnt out craft. 

Super-Zeppelin L33 commanded by Kapitan Alois Bocker was hit by anti-aircraft fire over London on its first mission. Turning over Essex the airship was attacked by a squadron of night-fighters. Bocker realised his craft was doomed and he  crash landed the airship in a field in Little Wigborough, much to the alarm of the local inhabitants. Bocker knocked the doors of the local cottages to warn of his intention to set fire to the Zeppelin before gathering his crew of men together and marching in a body along a lane towards Peldon. Bocker and his men were intercepted by Special Constable Nicholas travelling on his bicycle in the opposite direction towards the scene of the fire. Bocker asked Nicholas, in perfect English, how far it was to Colchester before journeying onwards. The Germans were  formally arrested by the local constable Pc. Charles Smith at Peldon Post Office. Bocker asked to use the telephone but the request was refused and Bocker and his men were transferred to the military. The local Constable was promoted to sergeant the same day and became known as "Zepp Smith". Smith was awarded the merit badge and he and Nicholas (who had followed the Germans on his bike) were presented with inscribed pocket watches funded by the subscriptions from a public euphoric at the destruction of the super Zeppelin. 

At nearby Great wigborough a baby daughter was born to Mr and Mrs Clark at the same time as the crash of the L33. Dr. Slater who attended the delivery and who was also a Special Constable suggested a name for the Clark's new born child. The child was named Zeppelina.

The fragment of glass that I acquired in Kings Heath is from the observation cradle  of the super Zeppelin that crashed to ground on that fateful night in 1916. It is not just a piece of glass. It is a reminder of war, death, life, celebration, Kapitan Bock and his men, and sergeant "Zepp Smith". It is also a memorial; a memorial to Zeppelina, Zeppelina Clark.