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A German Zeppelin was destroyed by Lieutenant R.A.J. Warneford V.C.

Posted in Aviation, Bravery, Historical articles, History, Weapons, World War 1 on Thursday, 28 February 2013

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This edited article about World War One originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 165 published on 13 March 1965.

Zeppelin shot down, piucture, image, illustration

Flight Sub-Lieutenant R.A.J. Warneford shoots down a Zeppelin by Wilf Hardy

In Britain during the First World War, the word that had a deadly, sinister ring was “Zeppelin.”

Imagine the feelings of the people whose land had not been violated for centuries, suddenly finding that death could drop on them from the skies. Aeroplanes were small and primitive and the bombs they carried were puny. But the great gasbags stealing in through the night sky could carry real cargoes of death.

They flew high, out of range of the guns. Our planes could hardly reach them, and if they did their armaments were primitive. Belgium had been overrun by the Germans and the flight to Britain was short. The Zeppelins could even remain hidden in the clouds while an observation car was lowered on a cable with a man inside it to give directions by telephone.

The courage of the Zeppelin crews is never to be doubted, for they were always at the mercy of the elements and many were brought down by storms. But the bombed people of Britain were demanding action – any action.

Then, on June 7, 1915, they got it. Flight Sub-Lieutenant Warneford of the Royal Flying Corps was flying a French machine, a Morane Parasol, over Belgium at three o’clock in the morning when he saw the massive outline of a Zeppelin. The airship saw him – and promptly made for its base near Ghent. Warneford chased it and when it came down to land he fired at it several times – with a rifle! The airship crew fired back with rifles and machine guns. He spun away and climbed rapidly until the great gasbag was below him.

He carried six small bombs, and his only chance of downing the monster was to drop them on to it, knowing full well that if he did make a hit his own plane might be blown to pieces with the force of the explosion.

The bombs went down. Two of them hit and exploded. To Warneford it was like the end, for his tiny craft spun over into a complete somersault and the engine went dead. As the Zeppelin burst into flames, broke up and crashed to earth, Warneford brought his plane down in a lonely field and worked frantically on the engine. A party of German soldiers came rushing up as he swung the propeller. The engine fired, he climbed aboard and escaped.

All the airship crew was killed with the exception of one man, who was in the forward observation car which broke away from the Zeppelin.

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