September 9th 1916

Airship

The Schütte-Lanz SL 11 airship

Yesterday Lieut. William Leefe Robinson was summoned to Windsor Castle to receive his Victoria Cross from the King in person, in recognition of having been the first person to shoot down a German airship over England.

The crowds lined the street to greet him, but horror of all horrors, his car broke down on the way and he was late!

He has become something of a national hero and his account of the events of that night makes most interesting reading:

Leefe Robinson Billy 2“I had been up something more than an hour when I saw the first Zeppelin; she was flying high and I followed her, climbing to get a position above. But there was a heavy fog and she escaped me. I attacked her at long range, but she made off before I could see if I had done any damage.

The next ship I saw, I determined I would attack from the first position I found. I met her just after two o’clock (Sunday morning, the 3rd). She was flying at 10,000 feet. Soon she appeared to catch fire in her forward petrol tank. The flames spread rapidly along her body. She made off eastwards on fire. In several minutes she dipped by the nose and dived slowly in flames to the earth.

I was so pleased that, in my excitement, I pulled the ‘joystick’ and looped the loop several times.”

William has also become entitled to claim over £3,500 in rewards offered by certain private dignitaries for the first person to bring down an airship on English soil.

Maybe a new car will be in order?

 

 

 

 

May 24th 1916

Sous-Lieut. Noel Sergent (French Artillery) has met up with a number of his old OPS friends in recent months in Salonika:

“I’ve seen Molyneux, Wicks and Hoey once at a tea party to which I was invited. Molyneux was just the same as when he commanded an army of small boys and stormed the mound which was stoutly defended by ‘Captain’ Rupert Lee and his followers…”

Noel’s recent letter describes how he witnessed the shooting down of a German Zeppelin:

11/5/16. “We saw a Zep get knocked out in grand style. It was a trap. They pretended not to have noticed him till he was well over Salonika. (The aerial raid alarm had sounded three-quarters of an hour before and the aviators had already taken up their posts in the air.

Then at a given signal the searchlights were flashed on and spotted him immediately and the guns started blazing away. One beastly gun fired short every time and showered shrapnel and iron on our poor little camp and gave us a bad time for ten minutes. The old Zep was a long way up, but with my glasses I could get a ripping view; it looked splendid and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

Then one of our aeroplanes flashed a light on six times and the search-lights were turned off and the guns stopped firing and left the rest to our ‘Avion-canon’ (Voisin biplanes with a small naval gun on board).

Some time later we could see a huge bonfire a long way off in the distance and a huge flame shot up. Later again there were three or four explosions and a telephone message came through to say it was the Zep gone to glory, and a huge cheer went up.”

As no British plane has yet managed to shoot a Zeppelin out of the skies over England, it is difficult to believe it was the French planes that were totally responsible for this singular success.

January 25th 1915

At the beginning of last term four most valued members of staff left us to join the armed forces. Mr Higginson, we note, has been promoted to Captain in the 6th Battalion of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry and has been undergoing training at Aldershot and on Salisbury Plain.

Mr Watson left to join the Queen’s Own Dorset Yeomanry and was by chance in the vicinity of the attack launched by the Germans on the people of Norfolk last week.

 The Zeppelin Raid January 19th 1915.

Blair Watson

Mr Blair Watson

“On the evening of Tuesday 19th January, some of the quiet villages and sea-board towns of Norfolk were roused by the purring drone of motor engines and the crashing of bombs from the sky woke them to the fact that the long-expected Zeppelins had arrived. Yarmouth was subjected to a feverish outpouring of these missiles which destroyed a considerable amount of property and killed two people, a man and a woman, both typical raid victims, poor, inoffensive and old.

The only disappointing feature from the German point of view was that the wild panic supposed to be engendered by these instruments of frightfulness took the form of an inquisitive crowd gazing sky-wards and a few family shot-guns fired into the air by irate old men long after the monsters had disappeared.

From Yarmouth the fleet spread itself over Norfolk, spitting bombs with reckless vehemence and doing the same amount of trivial and unnecessary damage wherever it went. One of the number passed quite close to Sandringham and dropped bombs at Derringham, three miles away from the King’s residence.

King’s Lynn was the object of a heavy bombardment and here whole streets of houses in the working-class and dock quarter were damaged, some of them reduced to ruins, but with the loss of only two lives, the victims being a boy of seventeen and the young widow of a soldier who lost his life at Mons. The raiders then drew off at about 11.15 p.m., having spent less than three hours over English soil and hurried back to spread the tidings of their magnificent exploits.

When one reflects that the total ‘bag’ consisted of four harmless non-militants and a certain amount of damage to private property, one cannot help thinking that the shortage of petrol in Germany is not so acute as some authorities would have us believe.”                                                                                                                                                                                           

These deaths are said to be the first ever suffered in this country due to aerial bombardment.

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Daily Telegraph.

Henry Souttar (previously featured in this log on October 5th & October 19th) has had a book published in which he recounts his recent experiences. It is called ‘A Surgeon in Belgium’  and in it he tells of a quite astonishing incident concerning the Editor of an English Sporting Journal, who had joined the Belgian Army in the exciting role of machine-gunner in an armoured motor car.

On one occasion, having got out of his car to reconnoitre, some Germans in hiding opened fire and shot him, breaking the bones of both legs. He fell to the ground and an officer in the car by some mistake gave the order to start. But the Sporting Editor had no intention of being left behind. He seized one of the rear springs and held on, while his back and broken legs were bumped along the ground for half a mile at the rate of 25 miles per hour. He is now well and in England.