Cuffley and Essendon remember fateful airship raid

Andy Frost as Leefe Robinson, wearing his VC on the left

Andy Frost as Leefe Robinson, wearing his VC on the left - Credit: Archant

Two neighbouring villages marked the centenary of an unforgettable and historic night with moving ceremonies on Saturday.

Cuffley celebrated the famous destruction of a German World War One airship, while a service at St Mary the Virgin Church in Essendon commemorated death and destuction inflicted by the very same raid.

Pilot Leefe Robinson shot down a Schutte-Lanz airship in Cuffley on September 3, 1916, before a following airship dropped bombs that killed two sisters in Essendon, while damaging the village church.

After Saturday’s ceremony in East Ridgeway, Cuffley, where a memorial marks where the stricken airship fell, a plaque on a brick plinth was unveiled in Millennium Gardens.

A service in St Andrew’s Church was followed by a musical play, performed in Cuffley Hall by the Cuffley Operatic Society.

During the service, the actual Victoria Cross won by Leefe Robinson was presented to Andy Frost, the actor playing the role in the play.

Parish councillor Peter Dace, who chaired the organising committee, said: “It was a wonderful moment. It was the first time the medal has ever come to Cuffley, and I am sure it will never come back.

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”It is Cuffley’s one moment of history.”

The events were attended by representatives of the RAF and the German Embassy, as well as eight great-nephews and great-nieces of Leefe Robinson.

At the Essendon service, relatives laid flowers on the graves of Frances and Eleanor Bamford, killed at 26 and just 12 that night.

And relatives of former churchwarden George White also attended to honour his role in rebuilding the church.

Thanks to his genereous foresight in paying a heavy wartime insurance premium, the church, although badly damaged, was reopened in just a year.

The raid is further explored in an exhibition at Cuffley Hall, on until Friday evening.