Local Hero: Arthur Tom Harman

Recent research has unearthed the story of a local man Private (air mechanic) Arthur Tom Harman of Edmonton who won the Distinguished Flying medal for his part in shooting down a Zeppelin in 1918.

Arthur Tom Harman was born on 27th September 1894 in Edmonton.  The 1901 Census shows him living at 2 Galmer Cottages, Maldon Road. He is living with his father Arthur, his mother Louisa and sister Louisa, age 3. His father’s occupation is given as a general labourer.  Arthur Harman was a pupil at Latymer School. By 1911 his mother is described as a widow.  She is working in a restaurant as a cook. The family are living in Balfour Road. Arthur is sixteen and has left school and is working as a printer. Prior to joining up he worked as a mechanic at the South Metropolitan Gas Company in Rotherhithe

Arthur Thomas Harman
Arthur Thomas Harman

On his service record he is described as 5ft 10½ in with brown hair and grey eyes. His next of kin is recorded as his wife Elsie Howard who he had married in 1917. She was the daughter of a Detective Sergeant Thomas Howard who was in the CID at Edmonton.  He joined the navy in January 1916 and transferred to the RAF in April 1918.

The action for which he received the DFM took place off the north east coast on 5th August 1918. A squadron of Zeppelins attempted a raid on the coast. One of the Zeppelins was L70 which was one of the latest X class on its maiden flight. On board was Fregattenkapitan Pieter Strasser Chief of the Naval Air Division. Two of the planes that went up to tackle the Zeppelins fired on L70.  In one plane was pilot Major Cadbury and Captain Leckie and in the other Arthur Harmon and probationer Lieutenant Ralph Keys. Between them they succeeded in destroying the large German airship. It was actually Harman who shot down the airship while Keys concentrated on piloting the plane. The Zeppelin fell into the sea with the loss of all 28 of the crew. According to the Tottenham & Edmonton Weekly Herald the commander of the Zeppelin had a ‘record of baby-killing in England’. Due to a fault in the plane’s instruments Keys thought he was at 500ft when in fact he was a 50ft and commenced a nose dive. The plane crashed and both Keys and Harman were injured. Fortunately both recovered. The loss of Strasser who was the driving force behind the use of Zeppelins meant that this was the last Zeppelin raid on Britain during the First World War.