Picture Postcards from the Great War

The story behind a Great war postcard - Tony Allen

(21) Encounters with Zeppelins

Perhaps rather predictably, the first appearance of Zeppelins over the British Isles in September and October 1914, gave rise to panic and rumour, For example, many believed that a German airship was operating from a secret base near Grasmere and at night flow over Westmoreland. The story was only dispelled after a Royal Flying Corps (R.F.C.) pilot flew over the Lake District several times and saw nothing but magnificent scenery.

Captioned "L21, brought down in flames at Cuffley, Herts, by FLIGHT- LIEUT ROBINSON, V.C., Sept. 3rd. 1916" this card does not carry the artist's signature, but was "designed by the Acme Studios, 5 Great Titchfield Street, W.", and "published by E. Ernest Cheetham, 289a, Regent Street."

Postcard publishers issued several cards depicting artist's impressions, which celebrated the demise of zeppelins at the hands of the R.F.C.

After Zeppelin SL20 was seen in the night sky, the legendary Leefe Robinson and other pilots took almost an hour to climb to 12,000 feet in their BE2c aircraft and as searchlights illuminated the Zepp, the attack began. The 650-feet-long air-shi[p was soon engulfed in flames and plunged to the ground behind the Plough Inn - at Cuffley in Hertfordshire.

The next day, as war office officials arrived at the scene behind the Plough, souvenir hunters hampered the investigation and armed troops had to be mounted, but not before some wreckage had disappeared. Near the burnt-out airship, the war office men found a "scrap of paper bearing the name and address of a Belgian women living in London." After what was a lengthy investigation in which investigators believed they were looking for a Belgium spy, it later transpired the note had been dropped  "by one of the onlookers who flocked to the scene after the crash."
The appearance of the Zeppelins over British cities gave rise to many rumours and speculation. For example, a massive explosion at the Brunner Mond explosives factory at Silvertown on 19th January 1917, which killed 69 people, gave birth to a host of wild rumours. One version said "two invisible Zeppelins built by Germany, which generated their own gas as they moved." had bombed the factory. Another claimed
that Sir Alfred Mond was a German and that "the factory was a nest of German agents." Others found significance in the fact, that "the explosion occurred on the kaiser's birthday and and on the first day of Sir Alfred's annual holiday."



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