Explore Theberton

Only 3 miles north of Leiston and just north of the ruins of Leiston Abbey, Theberton is a picturesque rural Suffolk village with a Lion (pub), a thriving community and a charming thatched church at its heart.

Serving the parish of Theberton and Eastbridge, St Peter’s Church has features dating back nearly 900 years and a beautifully painted interior. Its octagonal tower is surprising, but it’s Theberton’s wartime stories of a terrible airship disaster and a significant American airbase which are perhaps amongst its best kept secrets. 

Theberton Suffolk village sign

A sign of the times

Located opposite the church, Theberton’s village sign shows the vicar of St Peter’s standing in the church doorway. In the distance by the trees is the haunting skeleton the German Zeppelin airship L48 which crashed in the nearby fields.

There’s a windmill remembered here too – the wind and steam driven corn mill which still stood tall on that fateful June day in 1917, but lost its sails just years after and was later reduced to just a stump.

Visit thatched St Peter’s Church

Thatched and with parts dating back nearly 900 years, St Peter’s church Theberton is a real Suffolk gem, set back off the road amidst a tranquil country churchyard.

Lords of the manor topped off its original round tower with an octagonal belfry in the 1200s, added a fine flintwork porch 300 years later and gave the place complete overhaul in Victorian times. Inside, the altar end is intimate and richly painted and there’s a Norman treat of a carved doorway in the vestry.

Making the biggest impression though are the contorted metal Zeppelin airship fragments in the porch and the memorial in the adjacent cemetery to the German airmen who lost their lives in the 1917 disaster.        

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Theberton Church Suffolk

Did you know? 

When the airship crashed in 1917, keen local photographer, J.S Waddell of Leiston, vividly captured the scene. He was a prolific producer of early postcards and ‘souvenir’ cards of soldiers guarding the wreckage were sold locally. More daring ‘souvenir’ hunters visiting the site left with airship fragments and many were made into trinkets such as ashtrays.


Theberton – A witness to wartime action 

These days, it’s hard to imagine an airfield full of American military service personnel on picturesque, rural Theberton’s doorstep. Or how its Suffolk skies once resounded with wartime action…  

Theberton’s story of Zeppelin L48

Pursued by two Royal Flying Corp aircraft, the 660 ft long German Zeppelin airship L48 was shot down and crashed in flames in the fields of Holly Tree Farm, Theberton on June 17th 1917.

The commander and only a few crew survived.

The disaster was attended by The 6th Cyclist Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment who pedaled in from their Saxmundham base.

The 16 bodies recovered from the wreckage were buried at St Peter’s until the 1970s until they were removed to a German cemetry in Staffordshire. The touching memorial plaque still remains in the graveyard on the south side of Church Road as a tribute.

After the crash, around 30,000 people are reported to have landed on little Theberton to see the skeletal remains of the airship.

Station F373 – Leiston Airfield at Theberton

Built in 1942 on Theberton farmland, Station F373 airfield was operational as a USAAF fighter airbase until 1945.

It then became No.18 Recruitment Centre Technical Training Command until 1953, before being sold off in 1965.

Now the site of the Cakes & Ale caravan park, a good amount of the airfield’s infrastructure still exists.

Thunderbolts and Mustangs flew out from the airfield during the course of its operational history, on raids including missions over Berlin and Leipzig.

The airbase was home to the 358th ‘Yoxford Boys’ and 357th Fighter Groups, including 362nd, 363rd and 364th Fighter Squadrons.

Harrow Lane (off Abbey Road) crosses the old airfield site and is home to the airbase memorial.

A coast & countryside to remember…

Leiston’s Long Shop Museum has displays and exhibits related to both the WWI Zeppelin airship L48 disaster and the WWII USAAF fighter base, Station F373. Learn more about the area’s WWII role in defending the coast, Leiston’s wartime HQs and the Long Shop’s role in the war effort by clicking on the button below.

Memorials & more