Unearthing the fate of fallen airship

PUBLISHED: 12:17 13 July 2006 | UPDATED: 10:28 06 May 2010

Metal detectorist Julian Evan-Hart has been examining the site where a World War I Zeppelin crashed as part of a Timewatch programme

Metal detectorist Julian Evan-Hart has been examining the site where a World War I Zeppelin crashed as part of a Timewatch programme

ALMOST 90 years after a Zeppelin was shot out of the sky, fragments of the airship have been unearthed. Julian Evan-Hart, 43, of Chester Road, Stevenage, a writer on wartime sites and a metal detecting enthusiast was asked to take part in the project bei

A button found at the scene from a German  uniform

ALMOST 90 years after a Zeppelin was shot out of the sky, fragments of the airship have been unearthed.

Julian Evan-Hart, 43, of Chester Road, Stevenage, a writer on wartime sites and a metal detecting enthusiast was asked to take part in the project being filmed by BBC's programme Timewatch.

Mr Evan-Hart approached landowners, Eleanor and Bryan Hart, no relation, and obtained permission to carry out a survey at their field in Theberton in Suffolk.

It was at this location where a Zeppelin, one of just five to crash on British soil, nosedived.

The much-feared airship was shot down into the field on June 17, 1917 after being attacked by British plane and anti-aircraft guns.

Mr Evan-Hart located the field thanks to a tree.

The founder member of a Stevenage-based metal detecting group told The Comet: "I was able to pinpoint the site by virtue of an oak tree which was shown in contemporary pictures of the scene.

"Fortunately the tree survived and has an unmistakable shape."

In 1917 eye-witnesses said it took the airship about three minutes to plummet two and a half miles - ploughing into the ground at 70mph, miraculously two crewmen survived the horrific crash.

The team have already made some finds including two buttons from a German naval officer's uniform and the screw top of a water bottle. More surprisingly Mr Evan-Hart even believes his team found one of the bullets used to bring down the Zeppelin.

What makes the team's job harder is the fact that at the time of the crash people would take parts of the wreckage away with them as souvenirs because the Zeppelins were so feared - they were even known as baby killers because they would kill whole families.

So when they were shot down it was a great public event, with lots of cheering and a huge salvage operation followed.

One souvenir from the crash - a large piece of metal converted into an umbrella stand - was found in a junk shop in Brighton.

Neil Faulkner, of the Great War archaeology group, is heading the dig.

He said the dead Germans had been removed after the crash but there was a possibility that remains would be found and great care was being taken.

Mr Faulkner said there was a renewed interest in World War I as the deaths occurred of the last soldiers who fought in it.

He said: "We are on the cusp of living memory becoming history."

The BBC Timewatch programme will air in the autumn.

This isn't the first time Mr Evan-Hart has appeared on a documentary. Last year he featured on a Sky programme called The Secret Life of Suburbia.

He first got a taste for metal detecting when he was a young boy. On his way to school he was told of the wood in Weston where two B17 bombers had collided in 1944.

It was this story which ignited his passion for all things metal and it was this story which appeared on the documentary.

He is also keen to encourage others into the world of metal detecting.

He said: "There is so much out there to find. We just need to encourage more people to get out there looking for it.


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