Zeppelin wire from the First World War attached to a card to raise funds for the British Red CrossA huge ball of flames fell from the sky on 3 September 1916. This burning mass was the first Zeppelin to be shot down on British soil.

The SL-11 was one of 16 airships taking part in what was then the biggest raid of the First World War. It was shot at Cuffley, Hertfordshire (not Essex, as the card above suggests) by Lieutenant William Leefe Robinson. He received a Victoria Cross for his action.

The Zeppelin pieces that survived were given to the British Red Cross by H.M. war office to raise funds “to help the wounded at the front.”

A newspaper at the time reported: “Fourteen firms in London, Birmingham, Sheffield, and Manchester have undertaken to convert the wire into souvenirs, and it is hoped that many of them will be ready for sale by October 19.”

Zeppelin ‘souvenirs’

The pieces of wire were fashioned into various objects which came with different price tags:

  • short length of wire in official envelope, one shilling
  • safety-pin brooch, two shillings and sixpence
  • fancy brooch, five shillings
  • ring, 10 shillings and sixpence
  • cuff-links, one guinea
  • bracelet, one guinea.

They were sold on ‘Our Day’, an annual national fundraising event, and proved to be popular. By November 1916, £3,010 had been raised by the sale of the Zeppelin relics in London alone.