Zeppelin flies again at museum

Ray Wright from Acton with his model aircraft made from wood.
B17 Flying Fortress 174 Squadron Sudbury Airfield
Picture Mark Westley ANL-161105-170046009
Ray Wright from Acton with his model aircraft made from wood. B17 Flying Fortress 174 Squadron Sudbury Airfield Picture Mark Westley ANL-161105-170046009
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How often do you meet a man with a spare Zeppelin hanging around in his workshop?

In the case of Sudbury Museum Trust, just at the right time.

sudbury museum kapital leutnant bocher - commander of the zeppelin that bombed sudbury ANL-161005-214759001

sudbury museum kapital leutnant bocher - commander of the zeppelin that bombed sudbury ANL-161005-214759001

A chance encounter with aircraft enthusiast Ray Wright happened as they were planning an exhibition including the story of a terrifying Zeppelin raid on the town.

Five people were killed when the giant airship L14 bombed the town in 1916.

Ray, who lives in Acton, had made a seven foot-long model Zeppelin for an event in the village in 2013.

“It was hanging from the roof of my workshop. It’s lucky it survived because I didn’t really know what to do with it,” he said.

sudbury museum - zeppelin damage in east street ANL-161005-214810001

sudbury museum - zeppelin damage in east street ANL-161005-214810001

“Then I met someone from the museum and they said they were putting on a First World War exhibition, so I said, I’ve got a Zeppelin.

Now the model is adding a touch of menace to a new presentation showing continuously on a big screen in the museum and heritage centre at Sudbury town hall.

Historian David Burnett has put together pictures and text about the night death rained from the sky.

The Zeppelin – which in reality was 200ft long – hovers close by above one of the bombs it dropped, which was recovered from the River Stour.

sudbury museum - zeppelin damage in east street ANL-161005-214810001

sudbury museum - zeppelin damage in east street ANL-161005-214810001

To give an idea of scale, another of Ray’s models, a Royal Flying Corps B.E. 2c biplane with a wing span of scarcely three inches, is shown attacking the airship.

Museum trustee Val Herbert said: “The Zeppelins were huge. It’s been calculated that L14 was half the length of North Street and twice the width.

“Beside the model, the night fighter made on the same scale looks like a flying insect.”

The German Navy flew the airships from their base near Cuxhaven on the Baltic. Before the war the commander of L14, Kapitan Leutnant Bocher was a captain with the Hamburg-Amerika steamship line.

Ray, 70, who used to run an upholstery factory in Sudbury, said: “I just love making things from wood, and because I’m interested in aviation I’ve done a few planes.

“I made the Zeppelin from a series of hardboard rings, tubes from rolls of fabric, strips of wood and papier mache.”

He also flies light aircraft and volunteers for the Duxford Aviation Society, which looks after the civilian aircraft at the Imperial War Museum. One of his jobs there was re-doing the upholstery on Concorde.

Sudbury Museum and Heritage Centre is open during office hours on weekdays and occasionally on Saturday. There is no entry charge.