Dramatic Zeppelin attack captured on canvas becomes new star attraction at Great Yarmouth museum
08:59 20 August 2014
Archant Norfolk © 2014
It was a story of derring-do that made heroes out of the men at the heart of the war-time tale and captivated those who witnessed the dramatic spectacle.
And now the fearless story of how two men downed a mighty German Zeppelin off the shores of Great Yarmouth has been preserved pictorially in the town where the battle played out.
A powerful painting of the Zeppelin raid of August 5, 1918 has been unveiled at the Time and Tide Museum after artist Norman Appleton donated the piece to the attraction.
The bold painting shows Major Egbert Cadbury and Captain Robert Leckie peeling away from Zeppelin L70 in their De Havilland bomber, as bright orange flames lick the side of the vast balloon attack ship.
Mr Appleton, who served in the RAF for six years, painted the striking scene in 1985 and said he was inspired by the drama of L70’s downfall.
L70’s final flight
Five Zeppelins were dispatched on August 5, 1918 with a plan to arrive over Norfolk just after dusk.
But after leaving German shores the weather turned and the wind dropped, meaning the Zeppelins arrived well before dusk and unbeknown to the crew, would become visible miles off the Norfolk coast.
Meanwhile, air station personnel, including Major Cadbury and Cpt Leckie, were attending a concert at the Pier Pavilion in full evening dress. At around 9pm by sheer chance Major Cadbury glanced out the window and noticed specs of light on the horizon. He alerted all the crew who dashed to their planes at the base in South Denes.
Still in their evening attire, Major Cadbury and Cpt Leckie took off and shot down L70. As it fell from the sky in a ball of flames the other enemy craft quickly retreated.
A team of pilots and gunners jumped into their planes on the evening of August 5 after spotting five Zeppelins flying towards Great Yarmouth.
Still in evening attire, as they were attending a concert when they spotted the enemy approaching, Major Cadbury and Capt Leckie grabbed their flying gear and shot L70 down.
The other enemy craft quickly retreated and the men came back as heroes.
Mr Appleton, 88, who started painting as a hobby and travelled from North Yorkshire especially for the unveiling, said: “I have got a lot of books on the First World War and particularly airships and was looking through them, and this one [attack] had so much detail. When I painted this picture some time ago it had always been my wish it should be permanently displayed in a museum or gallery. It’s wonderful to have it here.”
The painting was unveiled yesterday by Great Yarmouth Mayor Marlene Fairhead in front of assembled guests, including Commander Simon Askins from the Fleet Air Arm Officers Association, who travelled to Yarmouth especially for the ceremony.
Cdr Askins described the piece as a “very fine painting” and thought Mr Appleton had captured the detail and accuracy of the air battle perfectly.
The painting has now taken pride of place in the museum’s world war gallery among artefacts from both conflicts.
James Steward, Eastern area manager for Norfolk Museums Service, said the piece would soon become a “star attraction”.
Addressing Mr Appleton he added: “Thank you very much for what’s a very generous and very kind donation to the town.”
Cllr Marlene Fairhead said the colourful work would “enhance” the award winning museum, which charts the history of Yarmouth.
She said: “As an important frontline town Great Yarmouth was the first place in the country to be attacked from the sea, fortunately no one was killed. However, the first attack from the air by Zeppelin L3 resulted in two deaths.
“Over 7,000 men from the borough joined the forces of which 1,472 were killed. It’s important to remember the sacrifices of the borough that were made and also the heroes it produced.”
Do you have a heritage story to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org