Graf Zeppelin

On Sunday 3rd July 1932 some of the inhabitants of Child Okeford were disturbed and amazed by the drone of what they took to be an aircraft – they were even more amazed when they turned their heads skywards.

On the 2nd July, what the newspapers rather charmingly referred to as a ‘lighter than air machine,’ number LZ127, the Graf Zeppelin, flew to the pre-cursor of Heathrow Airport, The London Air Park at Feltham Middlesex. Leaving Friedrichshaven at 07.15 it crossed the Goodwin sands at 16.35 and moored at 18.00. The Graf Zeppelin had been launched in 1928 and made the first ever commercial passenger flight across the Atlantic in October 1928; a year later was to make a round the world trip under the leadership of her Captain Hugo Eckner and in 1931 she flew and landed near the North Pole.

Her trip to England in 1932 must have seemed tame in comparison. On arrival the crew had a very busy itinerary as after arriving the airship almost immediately set off for a trip to the Isle of Wight and then at 22.00 on a round Britain trip. She flew [airships like ‘real’ ships being denoted as female] up the east coast and over Scotland. It was intended that the plane would pass over Northern Island and then down the west coast over Wales but bad weather forced her inland and she passed over Bristol and then passed over Taunton and Yeovil. The Western Gazette noted “The inhabitants of Yeovil as well as towns in Somerset, Dorset and Hants had a magnificent view of the Zeppelin….on Sunday [the 3rd] afternoon in the course of her journey from the Bristol Channel to Southampton….The sound of the powerful engines indicated some unusual aerial visitor and people hurried to doorways and into the streets, where particularly in the northern and eastern parts of Yeovil they were provided with a fine view of the monster.”

Those who saw her thought that she was no higher than 500 feet. After leaving Yeovil the Zeppelin was heading in a south-easterly direction and at some time she passed over Child Okeford and Hanford where an enterprising villager luckily had his or her camera on them and captured her voyage. The photograph is now in the village archive maintained by David Pope and donated by John Davies. We are grateful to John for permission to publish it. The cottage was “Keepers” Lodge [now demolished and replaced] on the right hand side of the road coming into the village just before Hod Hill.

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