Airship wreck, 25-5-1909

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This was the scene in a field near Sewell after a mysterious airship crashed there in 1909. It caused a sensation in the area where people were awakened in the night by what in those days would have been the unusual sound of an engine. A lime burner on night duty at Sewell lime works saw the lights of what he thought was a car travelling towards the kilns. He thought the driver was lost in the lanes around Dunstable. But next morning the wreckage of an airship was found in a hedgerow at Sewell and crowds of people from Dunstable travelled out to view the scene. The crash made headlines in national newspapers and a local photographer took these pictures which were later sold as souvenir postcards.

But the newspapers later discovered that it had been an unmanned airship sent across the country as an advertising stunt by “a West End firm of motor factors”. The company cheerfully admitted that it had sent two cigar-shaped balloons on a bamboo frame complete with motor and lights on a journey from London to Norfolk . There had been stormy weather that night and the airship had gone off course and crashed.