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But German Zeppelins were the biggest game of all for the sporting chaps in the Royal Flying Corps, and far harder to down than any duck.
During the First World War, when it transpired that Zeppelins could take a peppering of machine gun bullets and stay afloat, a bright spark in the Admiralty imagined that a wad of shot would have more of a dramatic effect on the dirigibles, and so Holland and Holland were commissioned to come up with a suitable gun and cartridge.

This was their answer to the Zeppelin problem – a 12 bore boxlock ejector that had been adapted, with sights on the rib and rifling to the choke, to fire this special chain shot cartridge. The gun was mounted to the wing struts of Sopwith planes and fired one-handed – the chain of shots causing maximum rippage to the Zeppelin’s epidermis, it was hoped.

In fact, there are no records to suggest such guns were anything other than dismal, if rather eccentric, failures. Of course, sorties against Zeppelins (and barrage balloons) were notoriously dangerous, and participants may not have lived long enough to officially report any successes, but it is more likely that this innovation was yet another example of the amateurish way in which High Command conducted the Great War.

Still, this weapon generated tremendous interest from two camps of collectors when it appeared at Bonhams’ sale in Knightsbridge, London on November 30, and eventually it was a collector of Zeppelin memorabilia who beat off the shotgun crowd with a winning bid of £1500 (plus 15 per cent buyer’s premium).