For anyone visiting The Museum’s new exhibition, Gas Bags to Super Zeppelins, it becomes quite apparent that the terror tactics of being attacked from the air for the first time in history had a profound effect upon the British public. Despite eventually being victorious in shooting down Zeppelins, the large German airships must have left many dark memories. It’s truly remarkable, therefore, that a far more peaceful visit to Yorkshire by none other than the majestic Hindenburg has retained a strong recollection in local history.
Whilst returning from a trans-Atlantic trip to New York in May 1936, the airship crossed over Britain and stopped – over Keighley in the West Riding of Yokshire. This is the only know time when this famous airship bearing the huge 8m high NAZI swasticas in its tail, actually stopped over Britain, and was only a few months before its spectacular explosion in Lakehurst USA.
In May 1936, the Hindenburg was returning to Frankfurt in Germany from the USA on one of her scheduled passenger flights, when she changed direction over Yorkshire and descended a significant level in altitude over Keighley.
Her purpose was not to inflict terror, but to drop a parcel containing spray of carnations and a crucifix. On board the Hindenburg that day was John B Schulte, known as the first ‘flying priest’
His brother was buried in the local cemetery in Keighley, having died as a prisoner of war during the Great War. Along with the parcel were some postage stamps and a request to deposit the parcel on his brothers grave.
The dropped parcel was found by two schoolboys, who were filmed by Movietone News completing the Priests wishes.
One of the boys, Jack Gerrard, passed away in 2014 at the grand age of 89. His daughter commented that it was an occasion he never forgot.
Such is the significance of this peaceful gesture that this year, many decades later, the local school in Keighley are also producing a film about the event, to be shown soon.
It is quite fitting in the turmoil of conflict in the 20th Century that the abiding memory of a German Zeppelin over Yorkshire is not one of terror, but one of peace and compassion. The new exhibition at The Museum covers the history of early flight, encompassing the period from the Montgofier Brothers, through the First World War and on to the spectacular passenger airships of the 1930s.