"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

July 13, 2005

ZEPPELIN RAID - 1916






Much has been written about London and the German air raids of World War II. The city also underwent aerial bombardment on a smaller - but still deadly - scale during the First World War, testing the resources of the fire bridage.

Aero Conservancy - a virtual aviation museum - provided details of a German air raid on London. Quoting Douglas Robertson's ``The Zeppelin in Combat," Aero Conservacy said 13 airships steered toward their target on the night of Aug. 24, 1916:

(The German commander) Mathy followed the Thames straight up to London. For the first time in almost a year the inner defenses were tested, and apparently they were caught napping. The searchlights were much hampered by clouds and mist, which Mathy cleverly utilized as cover during his attack. At 1:30 a.m. he began bombing the south-eastern districts (his report says, “All bombs struck blocks of houses in south-western London and the western part of the City”), and was not found by the searchlights until five minutes later, when 120 rounds were fired at the Zeppelin as she was retreating into a cloud bank.

Though the damage caused by this swift assault was exceeded only by that in Mathy’s record raid of September 8-9, 1915, it is the worst documented of any of the Zeppelin attacks on London. It seems difficult to account for the damage toll, for aside from a hit on a power station in Deptford, it appears that private homes were the chief sufferers from Mathy’s 36 explosive and 8 incendiary bombs. The casualties were few: nine killed and forty wounded."

The fire brigade was busy, according to Aero Conservancy:

The London Fire Brigade were called to Dickson Road at 2.11 am on Friday 25 August 1916 and found damage caused by explosive bombs (as opposed to incendiary bombs which were dropped elsewhere along the Zepp's route). Damage to No's 22 to 38 Dickson Rd was confined to "roofs and window glass damaged by breakage."

Similar damage affected No's 31 to 51. Worse occurred at No 33 - privately owned by J.Horrocks - "house of six rooms and contents severely damaged by explosion" and No's 4 to 20 - houses of six rooms and contents severely damaged by explosion and about 30 x 4 ft of wood fencing damaged by fire."

The only casualties in the road occurred at No's 5 to 27 - "houses of six rooms and contents severely damaged by explosion" where 3 males (aged 23, 24 & 8) and 4 females (aged 22, 20, 17 and 53) were injured, only the 53 year old apparently being taken to hospital. All the houses, except No 33, were let out in tenements. Generally damage also to the roadway, a gas main was broken and a tree damaged by fire.

A very busy night for the Brigade during which 6 firemen received commendations for saving 6 lives at Bostal Hill, Plumstead and 4 firemen received commendations for saving 1 life at South Vale, Blackheath.

Other raids

The web site of the Euston fire station - complied by retired Station Officer Mick Pinchen - tells of other zeppelin attacks, including a raid that claimed the life of a London firefighter and another that damaged the King's Cross railroad station:

From May 1915 air raids were carried out on London by German Zeppelins, augmented in 1917 by Gotha bombers. During one such raid damaged was sustained to Kings Cross railway station and ironically the German Gymnasium in Cheney Road. Another raid, on Holborn's ground, involved Euston firemen tackling a major blaze in Lambs Conduit Passage, during which Fm Green, (Holborn), lost his life attempting to save life. He was subsequently awarded the Silver Medal.

The web site for the Euston fire station also noted:

To conform with the wartime lighting restrictions the distinctive 'Red Lamps' that adorned the outside of fire stations were removed, and, were never reinstated.