Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Thurrock News: November 1916….Victors of the Zeppelin honoured

From the Grays and Tilbury Gazette
November 1916

THERE was a large gathering on Saturday afternoon in a South-east Essex village in honour of the three gallant airmen who had each succeeded in bringing down a Zeppelin over the Grays, Tilbury, Purfleet and Upminster area.

The greatest interest was evinced in the event; It being rightly felt that the village had a peculiar claim to share thus in the triumph over the hostile raiders. Unfortunately, owing to shortness of notice, Lieut Tempest, whose identity as the “strafe” of the third Zeppelin was only revealed that morning, was unable to be present, but a warm welcome was given to Capt. Robinson. V.C. and Lieut. Sowrey. D.S.O. who arrived fresh with their newly announced honours upon them. The promoters of the presentation had, however, decided that even at the eleventh hour equal honour should be done to the threelocal heroes, and, consequently three massive silver cups graced the platform.

The first described how Lieut. Wm. Leefe Robinson. V.C., Worcester Regiment, and Royal Flying Corps, when stationed at ——- with conspicuous bravery destroyed an enemy airship, under circumstances of great difficulty and danger on the night of Sept 2nd-3rd 1916. The second bore testimony to Lieut. Frederick Sowrey. D.S.O., Royal Fusiliers, and Royal Flying Corps, having displayed great gallantry in a similar feat on the night of Sept. 23rd-24th, 1916. The third, as yet, bore no inscription, but it was announced it would have one placed on it later.

The Chairman, in opening the proceedings, recalled the fact that six weeks ago they had some very unwelcome visitors, who had come sneaking around dropping bombs in the night and killing innocent women and children, and calling that “fighing”. Consequently, when they had the pleasure of seeing one of these monsters come down from the heavens in flames of fire, they were extremely delighted. –Applause-;

Their delight was still greater when within the course of an hour or two they heard that it had been brought down by one of their own village airmen. Most of them had had the pleasure of knowing Lieut., he should now say Captain Robinson, for some time and had often admired the daring and boldness with which he manipulated his aeroplane. They were even more delighted when two days later the honour of the V.C. was conferred on him. Capt. Robinson had received many congratulations and numerous honours, but they all felt that they in that place would like him to receive some token of gratitude and admiration from his neighbours. –Hear, Hear.-

Everyone felt it was the right thing to do, and they formed a Committee, obtaining between 2,000 and 3,000 subscriptions, ranging from 1d to 2s 6d. with the result that a substantial sum was collected. Then just as they were arranging matters they saw another Zeppelin come down (Laughter ) and “You’ll see some more yet”, and within an hour or two he heard a motor car stop outside his house and three cheers given, so that he knew another local man had distinguished himself. Later he received a most generous and sportsman like letter from Lieut. Robinson, as he was then, who said “Since Lieut. Sowrey has done a magnificent deed I wish he should equally share the gift, whatever it may be”. (Hear, Hear).

This was brought before the Committee and they felt it was only right to accede to the request. It was, therefore, decided that two handsome silver cups should be obtained and suitably inscribed. Not long after that, down came another Zeppelin- (laughter)- and that very day it had been confirmed that its victor was Lieut. Tempest. Consequently there were three cups before them and he asked the Mayor of ——–, the Chairman of the Parish Council to present them. (Applause) – The Chairman of the Parish Council, in presenting the gift, said he had great pleasure in doing so on behalf of the whole of the parishioners. (Applause). The gifts were then presented. The cup of Lieut. Tempest being handed over to Capt. Robinson on his behalf.

Capt. Robinson , V.C. responding, thanked them most heartily and sincerely for their kind words and most gorgeous present. As had been said, he had received many honours but there were very few which he appreciated as much as that one. He felt that he belonged to the District. (Hear,Hear). As they knew his home was in India but he felt that this was his English home. (Hear, Hear). He had been here so long that he felt quite a homely feeling among them and it was chiefly because of that that he appreciated their gift so highly. (Applause).

Lieut. Sowrey, D.S.O. responding, said such a position as that was new to him. He was extremely grateful to them for their kindness. With regard to everything they had done, he could only say he hoped they would carry it out in the way they had started. (Hear, Hear).

Capt. Robinson, replying for Lieut. Tempest said, as a matter of fact that gentleman was taking his, Capt. Robinson’s duty while he was attending that ceremony.

Cheers were then given for the three heroes and for Lieut. Brandon, another Zepp “strafer”.

Sir John Bethell, M.P., proposing a vote of thanks to the Chairman, said they were gathered to do homage to three gallant airmen who had rendered great service to their country. He had recently been in France and saw some of the early stages of the Somme battle, and could testify to the valuable service rendered by our airmen at the Front. Although he never saw a German airman attempt to come over the British lines, yet the British airmen were continually over those of the enemy , and as a result, brought back most valuable information.

Sir Peter Griggs seconded, and the proceedings closed with the National Anthem.


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