It was 99 years to the day that Zeppelin Lz33 landed near the little Essex village of Little Wigborough, in the early hours on 24th September 1916. The story that follows had become somewhat folklore around the local area.
Having been damaged by shell fire and with no hope of making it home, the captain (Alois Bocker) landed the airship in a field near the village. Anxious not to let the ship fall into enemy hands he set fire to it.
Although at war he still had thoughtfulness to try and warn the occupants of a nearby cottage of the impending fire, before setting off with his crew of 22 men down the country lanes. Soon he would be met by Special Constable Edgar Nicholas who asked the captain if he had seen a Zeppelin crash, the captain replying in perfect English to ask how many miles to Colchester it was.
Suspicious about their presence in the county he followed the men towards Peldon where there were met by two other specials. Still very much outnumbered and not really sure what to do next they managed to escort the crew to the post office to present them to PC Charles Smith.
He had the answer and marched all the crew to army camp at Mersea Island. This earned PC Smith a promotion to sergeant and as well as being awarded a merit badge for ‘coolness and judgement’
To add to the events of the evening a baby girl was being delivered nearby by Dr John Salter, just around the same time the airship was being set alight. Inspired by what he saw out of the window he suggested to her mother that the baby be named Zeppelina who happily agreed.
The baby girl would grow up to become a local celebrity but would grew very tired of her name.
Zeppelin image courtesy of the Imperial War Museum
PC Charles Smith image courtesy of Essex Police Museum