Riddlesden man made famous by crucifix-find dies aged 89

German airship Hindenburg flies over Keighley

German airship Hindenburg flies over Keighley

Jack Gerrard

(8202380)

First published in Keighley

A RIDDLESDEN man who as a boy famously recovered a crucifix dropped from the German airship Hindenburg has died.

Jack Gerrard and his pal Alf Butler picked-up the small cross, together with carnations and a letter, in the centre of Keighley as the Zeppelin flew over in May 1936.

The package had been 'delivered' by priest Father John P Schultz, a passenger aboard the Hindenburg, who asked the finder to place the crucifix and flowers on the grave of his brother – a prisoner of war who died locally in 1919 – at Morton Cemetery.

The story made national headlines and Boy Scouts Jack and Alf were subsequently filmed by British Movietone News placing the items as requested. Barriers had to be erected at the cemetery to keep souvenir hunters at bay.

Jack – a great-great grandfather who died this month at Riddlesden Care Home, aged 89 – had never forgotten his moment in history.

"That day the airship flew over always stayed with him" said his daughter-in-law Julie Gerrard, who also lives at Riddlesden.

"He and Alf had seen the package being dropped from the airship and found it around the Temple Row area.

"I remember they both ended up on Granada TV at one time talking about it!

"Sadly Alf died a few years ago."

The appearance of the Hindenburg, which had altered the course of its regular flight from the United States to Frankfurt, caused a huge stir across the town.

Even a rugby match was interrupted when players stopped to look skywards.

Almost exactly a year later the Hindenburg was destroyed when it crashed and was engulfed in flames at Lakehurst, New Jersey. Thirteen of the 36 passengers on board, 22 crew members and a member of the landing party died in the tragedy.

Jack, who had lived all his life in Keighley, used to work as a caretaker at the town hall.

His wife, Emilie, died in 2000.

He leaves a son Michael, three grandchildren, six great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

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