The Story of the LZ85 Compass

My thanks go to Bernard Green who contacted the Society to tell us about his book on Zeppelins, which includes a section on LZ85 – brought down over Salonika on 5 May 1916 – and, in particular, its compass. Bernard very kindly sent a copy of the book so that I can tell you more about it.

Zeppelin L15 & The Wakefield Gold Medal was privately published in 2018. The book is a compendium of three booklets and the title refers to the second of these, so there is much more than the story of L15 and the Wakefield Medal, fascinating though that is.

The book is an attractively produced, larger format paperback, full of illustrations and photographs, many in colour

Part 1 – Zeppelins that bombed London

An easy to read guide to the Zeppelin raids on Great Britain, and particularly London, during the Great War.

This really is a great introduction to Zeppelins, their raids over Britain and the various counter-measures used against them, including aircraft, anti-aircraft guns and searchlights. It is well illustrated with pictures and photographs of these, unit badges and the souvenirs produced to commemorate the raids. It really does seem the height of bad taste to produce crested china models of the incendiary bombs that caused death and destruction on the home front but they were made and there was a demand for them and other Zeppelin souvenirs!

Part 2 – Zeppelin L15 & The Wakefield Gold Medal

The story of how Sir Charles Wakefield, The Lord Mayor of London, discharged a personal debt of honour when London was under attack from Zeppelins.

This is the story of how Sir Charles Wakefield – inventor, philanthropist, businessman and patriot – offered a prize of £500 to the first person to shoot down a Zeppelin over London. When L15 was downed the reward was claimed on behalf of an RGA anti-aircraft gun crew, but the War Office was cagey about giving such an award to an army unit that was doing its job. In the end it was decided it was a joint effort, so the honours should go to all the RGA anti-aircraft and RE searchlight units in the Thames Estuary, but no one could have a cash prize. To get round this, Sir Charles had about 350 gold medals made for those involved. The book includes an appendix listing the known recipients of the Sir Charles Wakefield Gold Medal in 1916.

Part 3 – The Story of the LZ85 Compass

How a chance find in an antique shop uncovered a little known piece of World War One history.

It was Bernard’s discovery of the compass from LZ85 in an antique shop in the 1960s that sparked his fascination with Zeppelins and lighter-than-air flight; indeed he later became a hot air balloon pilot. LZ85 was launched in 1915 and took part in raids against Russia. In 1916, flying from Romania, it started raiding Salonika but, on its third raid, it flew too low and was brought down by HMS Agamemnon and crashed in the Vardar marshes on 5 May 1916. British Motor Torpedo Boat TB18 also scored a hit and the crew and Royal Marine detachment entered the marshes in search of the Zeppelin crew. The crew was captured – although they were subsequently captured again by French cavalry! – and the Royal Marines took possession of the compass, inscribing the Corps’ crest on the base.

The downing of LZ85 is known to most SCS members, I am sure, and has featured on this website before, but this book adds an extra dimension as well as much useful background information on this novel weapon of war.

  • ZEPPELIN L15 & The Wakefield Gold Medal
  • By Bernard A. N. Green
  • Published privately in 2018
  • ISBN: 978-0-9576042-2-3

Copies are available to buy on eBay or you can contact me and I will pass your message to Bernard.


Author: Andy Hutt

Andy's interest in the campaign comes from his grandfather, Arthur, who served in Salonika as a sapper with the Royal Engineers from 1916-1918. Opinions expressed in these posts are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Society.

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