“On this day in history” S/Lt Warneford shoots down a Zeppelin, 1917

On this day in history 7 June 1915, Sub-Lieutenant Reginald Warneford, a pilot serving with No.1 Squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service, attacked the German naval Zeppelin LZ 37 and consigned it to flames.

The Zeppelin’s explosion overturned Warneford’s aircraft and damaged his engine. He made a forced landing behind enemy lines, whereupon he quickly repaired his engine, then took off and returned to base.

Byron, Brian, b.1938; Flight Sub-Lieutenant Warneford Attacking the Zeppelin, 7 June 1915

For his actions on 7 June 1915, S/Lt Warneford was awarded the Victoria Cross. His citation reads:

For most conspicuous bravery on the 7th June 1915, when he attacked and, single-handed, completely destroyed a Zeppelin in mid-air.

This brilliant achievement was accomplished after chasing the Zeppelin from the coast of Flanders to Ghent, where he succeeded in dropping his bombs on to it from a height of only one or two hundred feet. One of these bombs caused a terrific explosion which set the Zeppelin on fire from end to end, but at the same time overturned his Aeroplane and stopped the engine.

In spite of this he succeeded in landing safely in hostile country, and after 15 minutes started his engine and returned to his base without damage.

Warneford was also awarded the Légion d’honneur.

Sadly, on 17 June 1915, while conducting a test flight, Warneford’s aircraft suffered a catastrophic failure of its airframe and he was killed in the crash. He is buried at Brompton Cemetery in London.

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