Airship stopped play!

15 Apr

In Llandudno Cricket Club’s 122 year history there can never have been an incident as strange as the day an airship interrupted play on the last day of June 1918. 

Since the autumn of 1915 there had been a Royal Naval Airship Station on Anglesey and it was their duty to escort and protect the merchant ships of the Atlantic convoys from the menace of German submarines in the Irish Sea.

On that sunny afternoon, while a match progressed at the Gloddaeth Street recreation ground, an airship was experiencing engine trouble overhead. The pilot scribbled a note and dropped it onto the wicket below and while he circled he watched as they first studied the piece of paper and then formed an arrow pointing into the wind. As the airship descended he threw out his trail rope and, like a trained landing party, the cricketers and spectators rushed forward and hauled down the balloon. The engineer diagnosed the problem to be a dirty spark plug, which was soon replaced, and the engine restarted.  The pilot thanked his helpers and to great cheers, the airship took to the air and the match resumed.

This was not the first time that mechanical trouble had forced a Royal Naval airship to land at Llandudno. Anyone sat on the promenade on the afternoon of April 26 1918 would have seen the curious sight of a trawler towing a semi inflated ‘blimp’ out in the bay.  That morning, just before dawn, airship Z35 – with a crew of three – took off from Llangefni, tasked with searching for a German submarine that had been seen near to the Formby Lightship. After several hours the engine seized and the on-board engineer was unable to re-start it. As the craft drifted towards the North Wales coast, its May day message was picked up by an armed trawler which came to its aid. The initial plan was to tow the craft to Red Wharf Bay but with the wind strengthening, a heavy swell and patchy fog it was decided to try for Llandudno as the Great Orme was visible through the gloom. From their billets in the town a platoon of soldiers was summoned to the end of the pier and took over the tow rope from the trawler, walking the stricken airship, high in the air, to the promenade and soon after five, tethered it close to The Hydro Hotel. 

A large crowd milled around, excited at seeing the huge silver balloon moored at such close quarters. The police roped off the area and people were warned about the dangers of smoking in the vicinity of the hydrogen filled airship! Meanwhile the pilot, Lieutenant Williams, was invited to take a bath and a meal at The Hydro Hotel but when dressing after his wash found he had no tie to wear for dinner.  He was lent one by the hotel manager but later recalled that it “was very gaudy for a Naval Officer, and caused considerable amusement.”

In the meantime mechanics had arrived from Llangefni to fix the engine of the airship and inflate the balloon’s envelope and by eight that evening the craft took off from “between two lamp standards” for the 40 minute flight back to Anglesey.

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