Always darkest before the dawn

EIGHTY-FIVE years after a frantic World War One air battle brought down a mighty German airship in Theberton, a Suffolk author has written a book about the episode.

EIGHTY-FIVE years after a frantic World War One air battle brought down a mighty German airship in Theberton, a Suffolk author has written a book about the episode.

The crash site of the giant Zeppelin L48 airship, in a Theberton field, near Leiston, drew in tens of thousands of interested onlookers in the days following the crash, on June 17, 1917.

In his book, Dawn after Dark, Mark Mower, records tales of the surviving German members of the airship and tells of the dramatic effect that the crash had on the people of Suffolk.

The 39-year-old, who lives in Waveney Road, Beccles, said: "People turned up in their tens of thousands, even though it was a rural area and during war time. There was petrol rationing and the only means of transport was on foot, bike or horse.


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"It was such a big thing. I think it shows that people felt so much terror and the fact that it had been shot down was such a relief to the population."

The book tells of how three planes, one of which was made by Ipswich firm Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies, was scrambled to shoot down the Zeppelin after the alarm was raised.

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Despite initially targeting Harwich, the Zeppelin drifted off course and bombed various places in Suffolk, including Martlesham, before being shot down.

Lasting reminders of the crash are still in evidence, with various ashtrays, toys and jewellery made from the wreckage scattered around Suffolk.

For Mark, the opportunity to write about the story was too good to miss.

"It is one of those classic Suffolk stories, he said. "My feeling was that I set out to tell a local story and I found that there was a story to be told from the German side as well as from the people who were having bombs dropped on them."

He said: "I did not want to go for a straight forward history text. I wanted to give it a historical context but make it feel more like a novel."

It also provided an opportunity for Mark to dispel many of the myths surrounding the crash.

"Everyone has a story about the crash and some are hopelessly misleading at times, he said. "Some people have a shared view which doesn't always make sense."

The book, which is only available via a download from the internet, costs £2.50.

FAST FACTS:

ZEPPELIN was the name given to the duralumin-internal-framed, dirigibles invented by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, after whom they are named.

THE LZ1 made its initial flight from a floating hangar on Lake Constance, near Friedrichshafen in Southern Germany, on 2 July 1900.

AFTER 60 years, Zeppelins have returned. The Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik has built a new airship: the LZ NT07. Flight tests have begun.

The LZ130 Graf Zeppelin II – brother ship of the LZ129 Hindenburg – was built in 1937.

LZ127 and LZ130 were dismantled in 1940 ending the golden era of the great passenger ships.

WEBLINKS:

www.zeppelin-museum.de/firstpage.en.htm

www.nospine.co.uk

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