Stories of airship raids finally revealed

Airship poster

Censorship was tight during the Great War and it was not until after hostilities had ceased that full stories could be told. For instance, although Luton had come through unscathed from Zeppelin raids, townsfolk had witnessed a blazing airship or two that targeted the London area.

The Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph of December 28, 1918, finally gave details of the Zeppelin raids on the capital that put British civilians in the firing line from air raids for the first time, thanks to an official report prepared by the London Fire Brigade. It revealed:

In the Zepp raid of September 7, 1915, five members of a family named Beachy were killed in Deptford, five men and women were killed at 181 Hilderton Road, Rotherhithe, a man and his wife were killed at 68 68 Clifton Hall, New Cross Road, and a man woman and child at 32 Childeric Road, Deptford. Twenty-eight people were badly injured.

In the raid the following night, when the great Wood Street blaze in the City drew all London, incendiary bombs fell in the heart of the silk and woollen trade warehouses. Damage to the various premises was estimated at £1,500,000. Some 1,200 squares of glass were wrecked in St Bartholomew's Hospital; Butcher's Hall, close by, was wrecked, and the permanent way of the Great Eastern Railway near Liverpool Street was torn up.

On Wednesday, October 13, 1915, a shower of bombs in one region damaged the Lyceum Theatre, the Strand Theatre, the Bankruptcy Court and new extensions of the Royal Courts of Justice. Even men and six women were killed in Wellington Street, Strand, and 21 persons injured. Three men were killed at the Strand Theatre and 15 persons injured.

On August 25, 1916, the Greenwich Station of the S.E.&C.R. Was demolished, and damaged was caused to the depot of the Army Service Corps at the Foreign Cattle Market, Deptford, where 15 soldiers were injured.

In the raid of the early morning of Sunday, September 24, 1916, Inspector Ward received fatal injuries at his house in Beechcroft Road, Brixton Hill, while his daughter was instantly killed and his wife severely injured. The Black Swan, Bow Road, was wrecked; great damage was caused to the locomotive works and stores of the North London Railway Company at Burdett Road,Bromley-by-Bow; a woman had her head blown off at a tobacconist's shop in Brixton; five men were killed and two injured when a tram was wrecked on Streatham Hill; and much damage was cause to the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company. The Kennington Theatre also sustained some damage.

In the daylight raid of Wednesday, June 13, 1917, very heavy damage was caused in Salmon Lane, Limehouse, and at Liverpool Street Station, where 12 railway coaches were smashed, 16 men being killed. The L.C.C. Fire Brigade station in Tabernacle Street, St Luke's, was wrecked. In Beech Street, Barbican, a bomb struck the premises of E. Barrett & Sons, brass founders, and killed seven men. At the L.C.C. Schools, Upper North Street, Stepney, nine boys and seven girls were killed and 31 children injured.

The daylight raid of Saturday, July 7, 1917, saw 68 explosive bombs dropped on Central London, but several failed to explode. Enormous damage was caused in the City, particularly in St Bartholomew's Close, Cox's Court, Little Britain, St Martin's-le-Grand (where the General Post Office was hit and badly damaged and one man killed), Aldersgate Street, Golden Lane, Finsbury, Bread Street, Cheapside, Whitecross Street, St Pancras Road, Euston Road, Stoke Newington, Shoreditch, Tooley Street, Fenchurch Street, Leadenhall Street, Lime Street, Bermondsey, Holloway, Peckham, Limehouse, Holborn, Old Street, City Road, Hackney, Haggerston, Islington, Bow, Southwark and Hoxton.

On Tuesday, September 4, 1917, in the first moonlight raid, the Little Theatre, of the Adelphi, was badly damaged; and a tramcar, a statue at the base of Cleopatra's Needle, 270 feet of the Embankment, four electric light columns and 16 trees were also damaged. Charing Cross Hospital was just missed.

Then came the famous barrage, and the report of raid No. 13 – Tuesday, September 25, 1917 – states that much damage was caused to roofs by anti-aircraft shells.

The following Saturday, September 29, a bomb fell on the London and South-Western Railway. On Monday, October 1, 1917, the gas main was ignited on the Grosvenor Railway Bridge, and set up a huge blaze.

Raid No 17 was the silent Zeppelin raid on Friday, October 19, 1917. Three bombs only were dropped, but the loss of life was heavy. At 13 Glenview Road, Lewisham, five mailes and nine females were killed and nine persons injured. In the roadway at Piccadilly, outside Swan & Edgar's premises, five makes and two females were killed and ten males and eight females injured. In Albany Road, Camberwell, five males and five females were killed and 22 persons were injured.

On Thursday, November 1, 1917, a post office in Norwood Road was demolished. On the morning of Thursday, December 6, 1917, a depot of the British Red Cross Society at Dulwich Common was destroyed.

The last raid was on Whit Sunday, May 19, 1918, when 29 bombs were dropped and great damage caused at Bethnal Green, Kentish Town, Rotherhithe, Hackney and other places.