Suffolk

Downing of German Zeppelin over Suffolk remembered in centenary service

L 48 Image copyright Theberton and Eastbridge Parish Council
Image caption Forced to descend after developing engine problems, L48 was then shot by Royal Flying Corps fighters before hurtling to the ground

Villagers have packed into a church to remember the moment its forebears were thrown into the front line of World War One following a German airship raid.

The German L48 was one of the most advanced "height climber" airships, but in 1917 the Zeppelin ran into problems and was shot down over rural Suffolk.

About 100 people gathered at St Peter's Church in Theberton and Eastbridge on Sunday to mark the centenary.

Former BBC Breakfast host Bill Turnbull read a survivor's account at the event.

Image caption Bill Turnbull, who lives in Suffolk, read an account of the final minutes before the crash
Image caption German Colonel Hermann Hanke attended the service in a show of friendship between the nations
Image copyright Theberton and Eastbridge Parish Council
Image caption L48 endured heavy winds over the coast at Orford Ness

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey and Colonel Hermann Hanke, from the German Air Attache to the UK and Republic of Ireland, also attended the service - where candles were lit for each of the German victims and the men from Theberton who died in the conflict.

Col Hauke said that the service showed "friendship can grow out of hatred and tragedy".

"We should not give up working to overcome divisions between people today, however hard and almost impossible it would appear."

On 17 June 1917, the Germans dispatched two Zeppelins during the fateful raid which were able to fly at altitudes of 13,000ft (4,000m) - way beyond the 8,000ft (2,400m) flight ceiling of English fighter aircraft.

One - L42 - crossed the Kent coast at Ramsgate and released its bombs, but L48 endured heavy winds over the Orford Ness coast.

Image copyright Theberton and Eastbridge Parish Council
Image caption The dead were laid to rest in the village churchyard

Its compasses froze and it developed engine problems.

John Rea Price, one of the organisers of the service, told how the airship dropped a few bombs over Martlesham and Wickham Market before drifting over Saxmundham and Leiston.

There it was forced to descend to a height that put it in range of Royal Flying Corps fighters, he said.

Image copyright Theberton and Eastbridge Parish Council
Image caption Of the 18 crew there were just three survivors

"Completely crippled by the gunfire, after a terrible descent lasting seven minutes as it became engulfed in flames, the end came in a cornfield between Theberton and Eastbridge.

"Of the 18 crew there were just three survivors."

The dead were laid to rest in the village churchyard before being moved to the German cemetery in Staffordshire.

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