Zepfest commemorates a crash landing 100 years ago

The skeleton of a Zeppelin that force-landed in Little Wigborough.

The skeleton of a Zeppelin that force-landed in Little Wigborough. - Credit: Archant

A Zeppelin airship crash-landed into an Essex village 100 years ago this weekend.

Around 20 German soldiers got out, set the wreckage on fire, and marched through Little Wigborough before they were spotted by a policeman Edgar Nicholas.

The airship had been on a mission to drop bombs onto London, which killed six people, before it was gunned down over Essex.

The commander of the Zeppelin had tried to get back home, but the airship lost so much hydrogen that it couldn’t stay afloat and he had to manoeuvre it into a random field.

Villages for miles around heard the sound of the landing Zeppelin, including a mother in labour – who then called her new baby Zeppelina.


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The Germans tried to march the troops to the port, in order to get a boat back to Germany, but were arrested and were taken to Mersea Island.

There was only one fatality that night – a man who had an accident on his motorbike while trying to alert the authorities.

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A event will be held on Saturday (2pm-8pm) and Sunday (10am-8pm) to commemorate the event at National Trust Fields at Copt Hall.

Anne Owen helped to organise the event because she has a personal connection with the story – she grew up by the crash site and her mother told her the stories. She said: “The local people were frightened, it was a scary time for the people living close by.

“Everyone was fine, except the white dog that got a bit singed, but that’s a local story. It will be a fun day for the whole family, and learning about World War One is obviously good for the children.”

There will be displays, memorabilia and talks, WW1 aircraft, vehicles and artefacts, a flypast from Stow Maries aerodrome, and a tour of crash site with photographs from 1916. The Great War Living History group will give demonstrations and there will be opportunity to have horses and wagon rides, as well as audio and video clips from interviews about the crash. Live performances will accompany food and drink, and activities for children.

Tickets for either day are available online at www.zepfest.net or from 0844 249 1895, and the organisers are also still searching for artefacts or other souvenirs – please call 01206 383.

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