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V.C. Won in the Air!
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THE ROAD TO WAR -
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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. D. Squadron.
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 on it.
   
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 of service.
   
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