Zeppelins over east anglia – the on the spot reports

On the night of Tuesday 19th January 1915 the first Zeppelin raid on English towns was carried out after darkness fell. At half past eight four bombs were dropped Yarmouth, a man and a woman being killed, a soldier seriously injured, and much damage done to property. The raiders flew over Cromer but did not actually attack that town, but Sheringham was. At a quarter to eleven the hostile aircraft dropped bombs, which fell near Sandringham. King’s Lynn was the last attacked, the bombs killing one man and injuring three.
The King and Queen, with other members of the Royal Family, had been staying at Sandringham for the previous few days, but had returned to Buckingham Palace on that morning.
Reports from Holland and Denmark said that three Zeppelin airships had passed over Terschelling Island during the afternoon, travelling westward. Terschelling is situated on the north-west coast of Holland, just 150 miles from the nearest point on the English coast. In the end it appears that six Zeppelins came over, separating when they reached the English coast.

The sequence followed by the Zeppelina appears to have been:
Great Yarmouth, then followed the line of the coast to Cromer (which was not attacked) where they turned west to Sandringham before heading to King’s Lynn and then, some say, returning to the coast in a south-easterly direction. Others have said they immediately turned away from Lynn across the North Sea.


The Press Association correspondent’s reports sum up the night:
YARMOUTH TUESDAY, 11pm – hostile aircraft pass over Yarmouth and drop three bombs. One man is reported killed and several injured. Considerable damage has been done to buildings.
11.30pm – latest information is that four bombs were dropped at Yarmouth. One man and one woman were killed and a soldier was seriously injured. No bombs were dropped at Cromer.
Midnight – the dead man has been identified as Samuel Smith, a shoemaker. A woman was found dead and a soldier was wounded. It is believed that this is the total number of casualties. Four bombs were dropped.


The Press Association’s Yarmouth correspondent reported the happenings:
At 11.00 this evening a hostile aircraft passed over Yarmouth and dropped several bombs, doing a good deal of damage to property, and, it is thought, causing some loss of life. One man is reported to have had his head blown off. Windows were shattered in a number of shops and houses. As far as it is as present known one bomb was dropped in Norfolk Square, another St Peter’s Plain near St Peter’s Church and a third struck near the Drill Hall, fragments of the casing of the bomb hurtling through the glass roof of the billiard room at the headquarters of the National Reserve. A fourth bomb alighted near Trinity Depot.

It was dark at the time of the visitation and quite impossible to see the aircraft, but the buzzing of its machinery was heard quite plainly. It was believed to have been carrying a searchlight, as flashes of light appeared at intervals in the sky. The whole period of the bomb-dropping could not have been more than ten minutes, and the aircraft appeared to pass diagonally across the town. Soon after the raid had apparently ceased the electric street lamps were extinguished by order of the authorities, and the town was plunged into total darkness. The police and special constables were dispatched in every direction to find out and succour the injured and see to the safety of people whose houses had been struck by the bombs. It is believed that the hostile craft was a Zeppelin.

The Midnight update – The man found inside his house at St Peter’s Plain with his head smashed has been identified as Samuel Smith, a shoe maker. A woman, whose identity had not been established up to a late hour to-night, was also found dead, while a soldier was discovered in Norfolk Square with a wound in his chest. The two bodies were conveyed to the mortuary, and the wounded soldier was taken to hospital. The town being plunged into complete darkness it was difficult to ascertain definitely the total number of casualties, but as far as was known at 11.30 tonight they were limited to the three persons above-mentioned.
It appears that four bombs in all were dropped. The first fell in Norfolk Square, and made a big hole in a gentleman’s garden. The second was dropped in St Peter’s Plain, near St Peter’s Church, and damaged a whole row of houses. The third smashed a water tank on the fish wharf, and the fourth fell on South Quay, next the river. The greatest damage was done at St Peter’s Plain. The windows of nearly all the houses were smashed and slates and brickwork hurled into the street.

The local East Anglian Times reported that great excitement was caused at Great Yarmoth at 8.30 last evening by the visit of hostile aircraft which dropped several bombs over the southern part of the town. It is reported that 4 lives were lost. The night was dark and still, and it was difficult to distinguish the aircraft, but some people state that they saw the outlines of an airship. The whirr of the propellers first attracted attention, and this was soon followed by the sound of explosions and the smashing of glass. The first bomb dropped near the recruiting ground and others fell near the Drill Hall, which was struck. People streamed out of their houses into the streets, the alarm being very great. The aircraft seemed to disappear towards the south-west.
The local representative of the East Anglian Daily Times was knocked down by one explosion, and covered with broken glass, but fortunately escaped uninjured. Subsequently the electric supply was cut off and the town left in utter darkness. Special constables were on duty to assist the police, whilst the military were hurriedly called to headquarters. It is reported that some cottages near St Peter’s Church were badly damaged.
The visit of the aircraft lasted only a few minutes but five bombs were discharged on the town.
At about half-past eight a German aircraft dropped bombs into Great Yarmouth. It use flashlights and passed over the centre of the town, discharging 5 bombs from a low elevation. Windows were broken in several places and a man and a woman were killed. The hostile visitor came from the north-east and went rapidly south, the attack occupying just 5 minutes. Several people were injured by broken glass, but no serious damage was done to the buildings.


The Cromer correspondent of the Eastern Daily Press says that some Zeppelins passed over the place about 8.30pm. They approached from the east and though they were not visible their engines were distinctly heard. Having encompassed the 3 towns they seem to have made for Weybourne without, as far as is known, having dropped any projectiles on Cromer. At 10.00 o’clock an airship was reported over Hunstanton.


The Press Association correspondents reports sum up the night:
KINGS LYNN TUESDAY 11.30 – a Zeppelin passed over Lynn at 10.45 to-night and dropped four bombs, and also dropped bombs near Sandringham

Wednesday 1.00 am – One young man was killed three persons seriously injured. Seven bombs dropped.
Further messages state that four bombs were dropped at Sheringham but little damage was done, and there was no loss of life. Over the next 24 hours the story of the night became clearer

The Manchester Courier & Lancashire General Advertiser of 20th January reported on bombing raids on Britain:
CHILDREN INJURED AT KINGS LYNN – the Central News’ Kings Lynn correspondent telegraphing early this morning says: ‘The Zeppelin which passed over Lynn at about 11 o’clock last night dropped 5 or 6 bombs, and a youth of 17 was killed. One house was completely wrecked and another was set on fire. Several children were injured also.
The Press Association Kings’ Lynn correspondent telegraphs: Definite news has been received that a Zeppelin dropped a bomb not far from Sandringham, but no damage was done to the royal residence. At Lynn the airship circled over the town and dropped 4 bombs which exploded with terrific flashes. One fell near the docks, splinters flew in all directions from the bombs and houses were damaged. It is believed that there were no fatalities. In a later message a Lynn correspondent says that a bomb that fell in the centre of town wrecked a house killing a youth aged 17 who was in bed at the time. His mother, with a baby, and his father were buried in the debris and were extricated seriously injured. In all 6 or 7 bombs were dropped and several houses damaged.


At 19.30 on Wednesday 14th January 2015 BBC 4 showed a 30 minute programme ‘World War One at Home: the Zeppelin Terror’ narrated by Ben Robinson. It touched on the stories above with photographs and interviews with people of the time that was recorded in the 1970s.  I have accessed on bbc4ondemand via youriplayer.co.uk
It is worth a look.


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