ROAD TO WAR -
|V.C. Won in the Air!
|One of the many fighter pilots stationed in England to protect
the country from enemy air attacks, would also become a Hero of
the English people, his name William Leefe Robinson of No. 39 H.
He was ordered to attack a Zeppelin with this new type of ammunition
in a desperate hope that it would finally bring an end to these
terrible raids, at least it may boost the morale of the Londoners
if they knew that something was at last being done for their protection.
On 2nd September 1916, an air raid was sounded and he was ordered
to intercept the enemy, this is Robinson’s account of his
confrontation with the zeppelin he shot down;
|“I have the honour of making the following report, on
the night of 2 – 3 September, on a night patrol I went up
at about 11.08pm with instructions to patrol between Suttons Farm
and Joyce Green. I climbed to 10, 000 feet in about fifty-three
minutes, there were clouds below me but a very clear night, and
I thought I counted about ten sets of flares sent up to show my
way direction towards the enemy Zeppelin. By this time I had seen
nothing until 01.10am until searchlights over south-east Woolwich
picked up zeppelin in the distance. Despite the clouds covering
the enemy Zeppelin I had difficulty in spotting the enemy, by this
time I had climbed to 12, 000 feet, and seen the few anti-aircraft
guns firing on it.
In about ten minutes I had very slowly gained on the Zeppelin cruising
due east, it was approximately 800 feet below me, it went behind
some clouds to avoid the searchlights and avoid me, after 15 minutes
I lost sight of it so I returned to my patrol to find it.
At about 01.15am I noticed a red-glow in the sky beyond and went
in that direction, at 02.05am a zeppelin was caught in the searchlights
over N.N.E. London, at 02.05am a Zeppelin the Zeppelin was picked
up by searchlights (as far as I could discern) I sacrificed my height
to about 12, 900 feet, seeing tracers and shells bursting around
it, with no effect at all. I then decided to fly below it at about
800 feet and fired upon it using one drum of bullets with no effect
at all. As I got closer I used up one more drum of bullets on the
underneath of the Zeppelin with no effect. I rose to about 11, 500
feet and again attacked the Zeppelin. In a few seconds I saw the
rear of the Zeppelin part on fire and begging to blaze. I quickly
maneuvered the plane in a different direction I had hardly finished
the drum before I saw the part fired at, glow. In a few seconds
the whole rear part was blazing. When the third drum was fired,
there were no searchlights on the Zeppelin, and no anti-aircraft
was firing, the Zeppelin was on fire, having little fuel left I
returned to base at Suttons Farm landing at 02.45am. The blazing
Zeppelin finally crashes in flames due to Leefe Robinsons attack
Robinson took off at about 11.00pm in the evening
and headed into the night skies over London, he briefly spotted
it going into the clouds but lost it, so for three hours Robinson
scoured the skies for the huge airship, he finally spotted it
transfixed between two searchlights over south-east Woolwich.
The crowds below were gathering in their hundreds all across the
suburbs to watch this spectacular battle, this would be the first
time that the people of England had witnessed an aerial battle
in the sky.
They stood cheering as Robinson’s plane headed straight
for it with his machine-gun clattering and echoing in the night
sky, bullets tore into the fuselage causing sparks to flash from
the huge monster, suddenly the whole sky lit up as it was engulfed
in flames, within minutes the massive Zeppelin began to plummet
earthwards finally crashing in the distance at Cuffley, Middlesex,
in a ball of flames.
William Leefe Robinson V.C
||The crowds below went wild with delight, as they had witnessed
the destruction of the enemy. It is estimated that over 30, 000
people went to the crash site and stripped everything they could
find to take away for souvenirs.
Within hours the Press had made him a star and he would become a
Hero, wherever he went he was greeted and welcomed by thousands.
A Zeppelin crashes to earth
|This made front-page headlines for the newspapers,
the story and pictures heralded this spectacular event, they sold
thousands of extra copies, and William Leefe Robinson was declared
a Hero. It was announced in the press that “For Valour”
he would receive the Victoria Cross from King George V himself,
at Windsor Castle.
The crowds thronged the streets around London and Windsor on that
special day to see their own British Hero. The people were ecstatic
as he passed, cheering and waving madly.
He was mobbed by crowds of well wishers everywhere he went, was
very popular beyond belief, after all he was a “Hero of the
Air”…William Leefe Robinson would go down in the annals
of the R.F.C as a brilliant fighter pilot and a Hero, and would
always be remembered as one.
On New Year’s Eve 1918 Robinson sadly died aged 23 years old,
he had contracted the deadly virus of “Spanish Flu”
that was sweeping England and Europe. He was mourned by the whole
of the population at such a sad loss and as Hero of England!
This terrible epidemic rampaged across the continent killing over
10, 000, 000 people. In the weeks and months to come this epidemic
would kill millions more across the world.
Later raids on London by Zeppelins killed dozens of people and destroyed
many buildings, but at long last the Zeppelin menace was over, the
people of Britain sighed with relief as the fear passed.
In all, the Zeppelins attacked Britain 208 times in bombing raids,
during which a total of 5,907 bombs were dropped, killing a total
of 522 British civilians, and hundreds were seriously injured.
German High Command had decided that to accomplish greater devastation
to England, then heavy-bombers would have to be used, thus confirming
that the Zeppelins would be phased out.
Zeppelins were soon withdrawn from bombing England by the German
Air Force, as many were now targets of the R.F.C fighter planes
and were being shot down in fair numbers.
The losses were proving too costly for the German Air Force to sustain
any further raids, so the great airships were finally taken out