Piece of fabric from Zeppelin L33 : Lance Corporal C Wilson, 10 Field Company Engineers, AIF

Unit 10th Field Company, Australian Engineers
Place Europe: United Kingdom, England, Essex
Accession Number REL/05031.004
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Cotton
Maker Luftschiffbau Zeppelin
Place made Germany
Date made 1916
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Small piece of fabric from the envelope of a Zeppelin. The two longer ends are raw, having been cut or torn from the Zeppelin. The shorter ends have been singed. One side of the fabric is cream, the other side has mottled blue stripes.

History / Summary

Piece of Zeppelin L33 collected by Lance Corporal Clifton Wilson while serving in England. Clifton Wilson was born on 7 April 1890. He was working as a plasterer when he enlisted into the AIF on 2 March 1916 and was assigned to the 10th Field Company Engineers (10 FCE) with the rank of sapper and service number 10990. Wilson embarked with the reinforcements for 10 FCE from Melbourne aboard HMAT Runic on 20 June 1916. In August 1916, after arrival in England, Wilson was promoted to lance corporal.

In September 1916 he travelled from Brightlingsea on the coast of Essex 6 miles to the site of the crash of Zeppelin L33 at New Hall Farm, Little Wigborough in Essex, where it had crashed landed in the early hours of the morning of 24 September 1916. The crew of the L33 survived the landing and set fire to the Zeppelin before being taken prisoners of war. Pieces of airships, especially Zeppelins, were a very popular souvenir in England. People like Wilson travelled considerable distances to view the crash sites and purchase, or scavenge for pieces of the wreckage.

Pieces of airship wrecks were sold to raise money for the war effort or war related charities. Wilson proceeded overseas to join his unit in the field in November 1916. In January 1917 he was admitted to the 11th Australian Field Ambulance with deafness, but returned to his unit a few days later. Wilson was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field in 1917. He was promoted to temporary second corporal in July, but reverted to lance corporal before being promoted to permanent second corporal in August. In October he was promoted to temporary corporal and then to full corporal in January 1918.

After officer's training in England, Wilson was commissioned to second lieutenant on 17 August 1918. He was promoted to lieutenant in November. In March 1919 he was detached to 11 FCE. Wilson returned to Australian aboard HMAT Ceramic, arriving on 27 September 1919 and was discharged from the AIF on 11 November. In 1920 he was appointed second lieutenant in the Reserve of Officers, but later retired. With the start of the Second World War, he was reappointed in September 1939, until he was placed on the retired list on 30 June 1942. Clifton Wilson died on 16 July 1958.