Dried wild flowers from the graves of the crew of Zeppelin L32 : Great Burstead Churchyard 1916

Place Europe: United Kingdom, England, Essex
Accession Number REL/00728.001
Collection type Technology
Object type Plant matter
Physical description Paper, Plant matter
Maker Unknown
Place made United Kingdom: England, Essex
Date made 1916
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Dried remains of wild flowers, originally contained in a paper envelope. Most of the petals and leaves have come away from the stems. Handwritten on the envelope is '[illegible] taken from the graves of the 23 raiders who were destroyed with the Zeppelin brought down & burnt in Essex'.

History / Summary

The Zeppelin L32 was the first genuine German Zeppelin shot down over England during the First World War, early on the morning of 24 September 1916. A few weeks earlier, on 3 September, the very first German airship was shot down over London, the Schutte-Lanz SL11 (although it was not a Zeppelin, it was commonly referred to as one). L32 was shot down by Second Lieutenant Frederick Sowrey and crashed in flames at Great Burstead, near Billericay in Essex. All 22 members of the crew of were killed. Most died due to the flames, but some, including the airship's commander, Werner Peterson, chose to jump to their deaths. The crew was initially buried at Great Burstead. The crash sites of German airships were popular tourist destinations, with thousands of visitors. These flowers were removed in 1916 from their grave by one of the visitors to the crash site and church. The flowers were kept in a tin with pieces of L32 they collected. In the 1960s the crew's remains were moved, together with those of the crews of SL11, L31 and L48, to be reinterred at Cannock Chase German Military Cemetery in Staffordshire. Minutes after the L32 crashed, the Zeppelin L33 crash landed at New Hall Farm, Little Wigborough, also in Essex. The crew of L33 survived and became prisoners of war.