24 September 1916 – A fine old Zeppelin raid.

24 September 1916

Dear Mother

I have your letter to hand sat noon quite intact. I am alright and all being well you may expect me Friday night but I may not be able to catch the 6-5 from Euston.  By all means ask Jack Newport as I should like him to come very much & have asked Alun Quarmby to tea for Sunday next.  I think I shall be alright for cash especially if I get my quartio money in time.  I will get Ellen a broach & will drop Uncle Robert a PC.  I expect to see little John in his kecks & know he will look a smart boy. As for Mr Burghall being fed up just tell him from me that however fed up he may be he would be more so if he had a few weeks squad drill to do.  As soon as you know Jack is coming send word to Fred Roberts to book 2 seats for me at Manc Ship (not one as I told him before).  He will know what you mean and if Jack cannot come just tell Fred to Book 21 seat for me.

I am ashore Sat & today and went up to London with Lomas and Walt Butterworth.  We all booked fir the theatre and then separated.  Walter & I went to South Kensington to see his brother but failed to do so.  I am writing this note on Streatham Common in a lovely little park ands I am going to the Rev Bennett to tea later on.

We had a fine old Zepp raid last night. No doubt you will know the facts as well as I do and the results have been very good, one down in flames and another unofficially down.  I will just do my best to describe it.  I arrived in Sleeping quarters at 11pm and was ordered to sleep in blues.  I did not go to sleep immediately and was just dozing off when the bugle sounded and I immediately got into my boots & coat & went outside with my pal.  Search lights were playing all over the sky trying to pick up the sausages.  Presently loud explosions flashes followed.  A search light was playing almost over my head when my pal shouted, there she is, but before I could turn round the Zepp had passed through the beams of the light & was never seen again over us. North, South, East, West flashes & boomings from our guns could be seen & heard – Bombs were dropped & we could plainly see the lights as they exploded.

All this was very interesting but presently 3 star shells burst & lit up the sky for about 5 minutes. Whether they were from our guns or from the Zepps I cannot say, but they were about the size of a man’s head, & looked very pretty.  Next bombs appeared to be dropping towards the SE & then the guns opened fire & I can tell you they gave that Zepp more than she bargained for.  My Pal & I were looking in the opposite direction for more fun, when a mighty cheer rang out.

We immediately rushed to the scene just in time to see the sky lit up with the glow of the burning Zepp. We did not see the Zepp take fire as it was hid from us (my pal& I) by some trees, but we saw a mighty glow in the sky above the trees.  We didn’t half cheer & in about ½ an hour after we were in our hammocks again after being in the grounds from 12 till 2.

I am glad Danny has got his discharge & hope he will be well again before very long. I got your parcel today but found no note in it from anyone.  I hope all are well and hearty at home & I shall see you next week end all being well.

Love to all

James

19160924-119160924-219160924-319160924-419160924-5James also sent a postcard home around this time, showing where the Zeppelin was in relation to Crystal Place.

crystal-palaceimg006

A 12-Zeppelin raid was launched on 23–24 September. Eight older airships bombed targets in the Midlands and Northeast, while four M-class Zeppelins (L 30, L 31, L 32, and L 33) attacked London. L 30 did not even cross the coast, dropping its bombs at sea. L 31 approached London from the south, dropped a few bombs on Kenley and Mitcham and was picked up by searchlights. Forty-one bombs were then dropped in rapid succession over Streatham, killing seven and wounding 27. More bombs were dropped on Brixton before crossing the river and dropping 10 bombs on Leyton, killing another eight people and injuring 30. L 31 then headed home. Also coming in from the south was L 32, delayed by engine problems. It dropped a few bombs on Sevenoaks and Swanley before crossing Purfleet at about 01:00. The Zeppelin then came under anti-aircraft fire as it dropped bombs on Aveley and South Ockendon. Shortly thereafter, at 01:10, a BE2c piloted by 2nd Lieutenant Frederick Sowrey engaged L 32. He fired three drums of incendiaries and succeeded in starting a fire which quickly spread. The Zeppelin came down at Snail’s Hall Farm, Great Burstead. The entire crew was killed, with some, including the commander Oberleutnant-zur-See Werner Peterson, choosing to jump rather than burn to death.

L 33 dropped a few incendiaries over Upminster before losing its way and making several turns, heading over London and dropping bombs on Bromley at around midnight. As the bombs began to explode, the Zeppelin was hit by an anti-aircraft shell fired from the guns at either Beckton, Wanstead, or Victoria Park despite being at 13,000 feet (4,000 m). Dropping bombs now to shed weight, a large number fell on homes in Botolph Road and Bow Road. As the airship headed towards Chelmsford it continued to lose height, coming under fire at Kelvedon Hatch and briefly exchanging fire with a BE2c. Despite the efforts of the crew, L 33 was forced to the ground at around 01.15 in a field close to New Hall Cottages, Little Wigborough. The airship was set alight and the crew headed south before being arrested at Peldon by the police. Inspection of the wreckage provided the British with much information about the construction of Zeppelins, which was used in the design of the British R33-class airships. One 250 hp (190 kW) engine recovered from the wreck was subsequently substituted for two (of four) 180 hp (130 kW) engines on a Vickers-built machine, the hitherto underpowered R.9.

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