Plaque unveiled to commemorate Purfleet gunners

Andrew MacKinlay addresses the audience after the plaque was unveiled. In the adjacent tree, an image of Zeppelin L15 has also been placed.

DIGNITARIES, service veterans and residents stood side-by-side this morning (Sunday, 31 March) to pay tribute to artillerymen who shot down a Zeppelin from their site in Purfleet.

A Thurrock Council historic green plaque was unveiled close to the position of the guns on Tank Lane.

Former borough MP Andrew MacKinlay, a passionate follower of military history and supporter of the Purfleet Heritage Centre and Military Museum, recalled the story of how the gunners brought down Zeppelin L15.

The action, the first successful downing of a Zeppelin, took place on
the evening of 31 March 1916.

Among those present were his successor as Thurrock MP, Jackie Doyle-Price, borough deputy mayor Cllr Terry Piccolo, ward councillors and Mr Dennis George Rensch MBE, a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Essex. Standard bearers from military organisations were also in attendance, having marched from the nearby Heritage Centre to the site.

Guests were transported by a WWI replica bus from the historic fleet of the Ensign Bus Company.

Mr MacKinlay paid tribute to the gunners and told how their success was key to showing the Germans their strategy of bombing from Zeppelins was not going to work.

On the day of remembrance, the life of the last Purfleet soldier of the First World War to die of his injuries, Sapper Joseph James Randal was also recalled by Mr MacKinlay. Sapper Randal passed away on 21 March, 1919.

Mr MacKinlay also took the occasion to pay tribute to the work of the late borough historian Jonathan Catton, whose research had played a part in getting the plaque installed.