Friday 12 May 1916
Shipley Times & Express base page Shipley Times & Express base page Shipley Times & Express base page Home Page Home Page Home Page
Dangerous souvenir hunt in wreck of a Zeppelin
Naval Officer Edgar Burrows’ (right) was stationed in Salonika. In a letter to his parent at Staveley Road, Shipley tells vividly of the destruction of a Zeppelin in the marshes of the Vardar. He also reveals the lengths men went to take souvenirs and tells us that he was recording the war on his cameras. It would be stunning to see those souvenirs and photographs today. ‘I was awakened by firing at 2 o’clock on Friday morning, May 5th,’ Edgar wrote. ‘Scooting up on deck I got my first glimpse of a Zeppelin. ‘It was between 3,000ft and 6,000ft high and was lit up by the searchlights of the fleet. Guns were booming all around us and I could see the Zeppelin turning and mounting. ‘Suddenly a cheer burst from one of the ships and the Zeppelin seemed to stagger and come down a bit but still continuing on her way, she got out of range of both our guns and lights. Thinking she had escaped I turned in again.’ Blaze But there was to be no rest. ‘Half an hour later, I again heard a shot or two and sticking my head out of the port hole I saw away across the water a huge sheet of flame and a blaze which gradually died down to the accompaniment of the cheers from the ships in the harbour. ‘Josef’s little present from Willie of Potsdam had been bagged. ‘Apparently the Zeppelin was crippled by a shell and the destruction was completed by a monitor and
torpedo-boat destroyers at the boom, the Zepplin fluttering to earth in the marshes, bursting into flame just after reaching the ground. ‘The crew, or some of them, escaped into the reeds but the survivors have been rounded up.’ Edgar then goes on to tell how the following day he and some ship- mates made the hazardous journey to visit the wreck. ‘We were taken down the bay in a torpedo-boat destroyer as near as possible then into a cutter and a bit nearer the shore. ‘Being still nearly half a mile from the shore, one had to go over the side and wade for it with water over one’s knees. I had sea boots on but they soon filled and as the bottom was mud and not sand, it was a struggle to get through. Drowned ‘Arriving at the edge of the marsh there was still a quarter of a mile to go and now through mud and water, slime and filth, with reeds well above your head, hot sun and no stopping or you sunk until you could not get your feet up again.’ And just in case his parents were underestimating the difficulty of crossing the marsh, Edgar added: ‘A Canadian officer who tried to get out on horseback, got into a hole and was drowned. Once one gets down, goodness knows how one is to get up again. ‘Although I suppose it was worth it, the next I visit is going to be on dry land. ‘In the end we arrived at the remains of the Zeppelin, 600ft long of
aluminium framework the balloon had, of course, gone in the fire. ‘An immediate rush was made for souvenirs but we were not allowed to move any machinery so the only thing one got were bomb-droppers, lumps of framework and remnants of the gas-bag cover. ‘One of our engineers, after sweating away for over half an hour, got half an engine to bits and got out the carburettor but had to hand it over. He was wild.’ Nurses The group’s mood was cheered a few minutes later by the arrival of some Canadian nurses. ‘They had come up on the landward side,’ Edgar explained, ‘and waded through to it. What a sight they did look, skirts up round their waists, wading through mud and slime to their knees. I managed to get a few photographs so hope they turn out all right. ‘Returning to the boat with a lump of Zeppelin under one arm, I just about tuckered out in the wade out but thanks to a helping hand from Lloyd, I made it but perilously close to collapse. And I don’t think I was the only one who only got through by gritting his teeth and sticking it. ‘I hung on to my piece of the framework and now have enough aluminium for some photo frames if I can only get it home. If you think for a moment of the number of Zeppelins that have been brought down and where, you will realise a bit of genuine Zeppelin will be rarity.’ And even though this was a celebration of bringing down one of the enemy’s main weapons, Edgar concludes: ‘The engineer officers were loud in their admiration of the engine and construction and they really are wonderful things.’
Cpl Charles Smith Whalley (above) of the 3rd Royal Dublin Fusiliers has died at his home, 25 Ada Street, Saltaire. He was called up as a reservist at the beginning of the war and was sent to France, being subsequently invalided to Gravesend hospital in November 1914. He was afterwards drafted to the Dardanelles but later had to be brought to Cork hospital in Ireland. He left there on the 16th of December last and has since been at home. Saltaire Mills Cpl Whalley was formerly employed in the finishing department at Saltaire Mills. He had before the war, seen active service, having been in India and Egypt. His name is on the Roll of Honour at the Saltaire Wesleyan Church from where some eighty men have joined the Forces. Cpl Whalley, who was 32 years of age, leaves a widow. The funeral takes place this afternoon at Nab Wood Cemetery.
Soldier dies at home after two hospital spells
Emigre plumber dies fighting for the old country
Pte William Pickles of the Canadian Contingent and formerly of Shipley has died of wounds received in action. Pte Pickles was formerly in the plumbing business at Shipley, along with his brother Mr Horace Pickles, who now resides at Morecambe and is engaged on munition work. They kept a shop near the Ring of Bells Hotel. About 12 years ago, he went to Canada and was successful out there He enlisted on the outbreak of war and had been in France for several months when he received his wounds. He leaves a widow and four children with whom much sympathy is felt.
Aerial warfare was a novelty in the First World War and Eccleshill’s Sgt Willie Close was proud that British airmen were far superior to their opponents. Home on a brief leave after ten months at the front with the Green Howards, Sgt Close told a reporter: ‘British machines are on the wing from early morning till late at night. They are quick to challenge any hostile machine and when challenged, the Bosches usually turn tail.’ The report continued: ‘He witnessed a very daring piece of work by one of our aviators who brought his machine down to within 200 feet of the German trenches and raked the enemy with his machine gun.’ A former boy scout, Sgt Close had enjoyed rapid promotion since enlisting. He earned his first stripe within three months of joining up and shortly afterwards jumped straight to sergeant without first becoming a full corporal. The army clearly recognised some leadership qualities which were evident in a story he told of a time when he and his men avoided being killed. ‘It was his duty to order them out of their comfortable dug-out and they were very reluctant to leave it. ‘A sharper order quickened their speed and they had only got nicely away when a shell came and blew the dug-out to pieces. Some hearty handshaking followed this narrow escape.’ But even Sgt Close found things he couldn’t fathom out, like how the Germans always seemed to become instantly aware of the change of a regiment in the front line. ‘Though the exchange of troops took place in the night, they were hailed by Fritz next morning with “Hello, Yorkie, how are you?” ‘Or if it happened to be a Highland regiment, they would ask, “How’s the Bluebells of Scotland.” It was puzzling to the Britisher how they had received the information.’
British airmen impress Sgt Close
Sydney survives his first visit to trenches
The first day Pte Sydney Holdsworth entered the trenches with the 12th West Yorkshire Regiment, ‘three of our men were killed and several wounded but I came through safely.’ Now he was back for a second spell in the trenches, writing to an old friend back home in Eccleshill about his first experience of being on the front line. ‘There was only one thing I was a bit timid about,’ he said, ‘and that was a kind of bomb which is 18 inches long and about a foot wide. The cast is of tin and this is filled with all kinds of old iron. These burst with a loud report and often cause much damage. Dud ‘The first time we saw one of these coming we got out of its way as quickly as possible and in doing so ran into another but fortunately for us the second was a “dud”. ‘On the morning we were relieved we had a short engagement which lasted about half an hour. The Germans intended reaching our lines but when they were scaling their parapet we poured a withering fire into them and most of them dropped. Whatever move they intended making was nipped in the bud.’ Now he was looking forward to the time when his unit would move back behind the lines and he could visit a YMCA but in the meantime assured his friend: ‘I am still in the best of health and having a fairly good time of it.’
Within twenty-three minutes of hitting a mine as it was sailing five or six miles south of Malta, HMS Russell (above) ‘reared on end and plunged to her doom,’ costing the lives of 120 men. One of the lucky ones to escape was Reggie Stell of Undercliffe Road, Eccleshill, who related his experiences while at home on leave. He said that the first mine did only a small amount of damage to the propeller and the ship could have been towed into harbour but then it struck a second mine which started a fire. ‘The flames reached the powder magazine and blew it up and after that we knew the vessel was doomed. ‘Boats were quickly launched under perfect discipline but there was not time to launch them all. The wireless operators on board sent out signals for assistance and a fleet of trawlers set out from Malta to render assistance.’ Swimming After the captain gave the order “every man for himself”, Reggie dived into the water and started to swim towards the rescue boats and he was picked up after swimming for about twenty minutes. ‘Two things struck me about the waters of the Mediterranean. One was that while swimming, the water to the depth of a few inches was quite warm but further down it was intensely cold. ‘The other peculiarity was its clearness. On sailing over the spot where the Russell had sunk, she could be distinctly seen though she lay two fathoms below the surface.’ A few days before his story appeared in the newspaper, Reggie Stell was on his way back to resume his duties.
Reggie has to swim for his life after HMS Russell hits two mines
Read more about 2 June 1916 Read more about 2 June 1916 Read more about 2 June 1916