A virtual tour from www.uktoursonline.com where I look at some of the capital’s most significant and most poignant war memorials from the First World War, including the Cenotaph, the memorials to the Machine Gun Corps and the Fusiliers, the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey.
In Brompton Cemetery stands this wonderful monument to Reginald Warneford, the first man to destroy a Zeppelin in combat, over Belgium on 7 June 1915. He didn’t shoot it down, but dropped bombs on it – the resulting explosion almost killing him in the process.
Warneford’s own account provides lots of colour:
“I left Furnes at 1:00 am on 7th June 1915 … under orders to look for Zeppelins and attack the Berchem St Agathe Airship Shed with six 20lb bombs.
On arriving at Dixmude at 1:15 am, I observed a Zeppelin … and proceeded in chase… I arrived at close quarters a few miles past Bruges at 1:50 am and the Airship opened heavy maxim fire, so I retreated to gain height and the Airship turned and followed me. At 2:15 am it stopped firing and 2:25 am I came behind, but well above the Zeppelin; height then 11,000 feet, and switched off my engine to descend on top of him. When close above him at 7,000 feet I dropped my bombs, and … there was an explosion which lifted my machine and turned it over. The aeroplane was out of control for a short period, went into a nose dive, but control was regained. I then saw the Zeppelin was on the ground in flames.”