Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Durham Ghost Zeppelin

I was walking through North End last Tuesday when I happened to glance up and see an astonishing sight. For there, hovering above me in the twilight, was the legendary Durham Ghost Zeppelin. I grabbed my mobile and quickly took these pictures before the apparition faded away into the darkness. You can clearly see the scale of it from the houses and trees in the street.

According to local folklore, the Durham Ghost Zeppelin is the spectre of the German naval airship L34 that was shot down in flames over Hartlepool on September 27th 1916. Ever since then, the phantom dirigible has been seen regularly, patrolling the skies over County Durham as if the First World War had never ended. Some witnesses have claimed that they could hear the distinctive throbbing sound of her Maybach petrol engines; others say that they could even hear the sinister sound of marching jackboots on the zeppelin's ghostly gangways.

German records say that the L34 had never been expected to fly that night back in 1916, due to a long spell of bad weather. In fact, the ship's commander, Kapitanleutnant Max Dietrich, had been celebrating his 46th birthday at the airbase, when, at the last minute, the orders were received to attack. The abrupt end to the festivities had left a sombre impression on the airship officers at the party, two of whom were destined to die that night. Perhaps it is this sense of grievance and unfinished business that drives the commander of the L34 and his ghostly crew ever onwards towards an inflatable eternity.