19th January 1915. Terror from the Air.
‘If Zeppelins come, keep indoors, put lights out and keep quiet; British means Pluck’, written on a school blackboard in beautiful copperplate, in a propaganda photo of a teacher and class.
A Zeppelin airship raid in 1915 took place Today dropping the first bombs to kill civilians, when Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn and Sandringham, were targeted. (1)
1915 was to be the worst year for Zeppelin raids on the English east coast and it was not until June 6th, after a raid on Hull and Grimsby, that the first Zeppelin was destroyed in the air by Lieut. R Warneford RN.
As always. innocent victims suffered as on a night January, 1916, in a situation confused by fog, when the midland’s brewing town of Burton-on-Trent, which was still illuminated, was hit leaving 15 dead and 72 treated for injuries.
Ironically the building hit was a Mission Hall, where the Missioner was illustrating her subject, according to a witness, with: ‘One would be taken and the other left, when Crash! and we were thrown into darkness’.(2)
On the night of 2/3rd September 1916 in the biggest raid of all, when sixteen airships attempted to bomb London.
Two were shot down on the 2nd/3rd September 1916: the L32 and L33 the first at Billericay and the second at Little Wigborough, both in Essex, the third, on the 1st October, the L31 at Potters Bar, Herts.(3)
The first Zeppelin to crash on Britain was at Potters Bar on 23 September 1916.
There were fifty-one Zeppelin raids on Britain from 19th January 1915 to April 1918, during which a total of 196 tons of bombs were dropped, with 556 people killed and 1,357 injured. One raid killed eight children in London’s East End in June 1917.
At this time a bigger menace from the air the Gotha aircraft would bring devastation in Britain: air-warfare had entered a new phase in earnest!
The Zeppelin entered literature in 1930s literature when in Dorothy L.Sayer’s, novel ‘The Nine Tailors’, set in the Fenland, Mrs Venables, the parson’s wife talks of concern she had for the old church glass, when the Zeppelin came over in World War I, when it dropped a bomb at Walbeach only twenty miles away.
(1) One of those killed was Frederick Pile in Wellingham in Norfolk. He is commemorated on the local war memorial.
(2) On 31st January as Reported in History of Burton-on-Trent, Vol 2 by Denis Stuart.P17 1974.
(3) William Leefe Robinson and Reginald Warneford were awarded VCs after shooting down Zeppelins.
Ref: The Zeppelin Menace, London 1914-17, Ian Castle 2008.
Ref: worldwar1.com/Pic Image.