7/6/1915 Germany loses a Zeppelin

Germany’s Zeppelins continue to attack Britain. After their first attack on London last week they turned their attention yesterday to Hull for their most devastating raid yet. Thus far the airships have been able to operate with impunity over Britain, with none of the Zeppelins being lost to enemy action.

Britain is nevertheless doing its best to combat the Zeppelin menace. As well as search lights and anti-aircraft guns in Britain itself, British aeroplanes are doing their best to intercept and destroy the airships. Some of these are based in Belgium, close to the path the Germans take from their bases to the British coast. Thus far they have had no success.

Tonight Flight Lieutenant Reginald Warneford is patrolling over Belgium when he sees a Zeppelin flying in from the Channel coast. He pursues the slower craft, but is initially repelled by its machine guns. Fearing that the Zeppelin will climb too high for him to catch it, he pretends to have given up the chase, but instead tracks the Zeppelin from a distance.

When the Zeppelin comes down close to the ground, preparing to land, Warneford seizes his chance. First he flies up high above the airship. Then he cuts his engine and dives down silently towards the unsuspecting German aircraft. When he is just 150 feet above the Zeppelin, Warneford releases his bombs on it.

Zeppelins are kept in the air by their great bag of hydrogen gas. Hydrogen is highly inflammable and when Warneford’s bombs explode the gas detonates. The result is a huge explosion, which rips the Zeppelin into two pieces which then fall to the earth like a flaming stone. Warneford’s aeroplane is so buffeted by the blast that it nearly disintegrates, but he manages to maintain control.

Warneford has to land to restart his engine. He is behind enemy lines but he is able to bring the aeroplane down in a field and effect necessary repairs before flying off safely. As the first man in history to bring down a Zeppelin he returns to a hero’s welcome.

image source (Wikipedia)

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