Posts Tagged ‘WW1 air raids’

7 March 1918 air raids on London

March 7, 2018

Continuing the story of the WW1 air raids on London from an unpublished diary:

7 March 1918: Air Raid at 11.20. In bed.
It looks like Edith Spencer, London clerk and one of the many women who were given working opportunities during WW1, was often back in the family home in a now demolished Manse in Watford each night.

You can read more about Edith and see her diary entries  here:

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/the-first-blitz-on-london-from-an-unpublished-ww1-diary/

This daily commute to and from Watford may have been a clever move by Edith to avoid the London air raids  as she missed the threat of injury in the air raid undertaken by 3 ‘Giants’, large German bomber airplanes that replaced the Zeppelin airship bombers. 2 other Giants raided other coastal areas.

WW1 air raid expert Ian Castle records the activities of the night here on his excellent website: http://www.iancastlezeppelin.co.uk/78-mar-1918/4594233236.

This 7 – 8 March 1918 raid  left 23 killed, 39 injured in the St. John’s Wood and Clapham Common area. A single 1000 kilogram bomb at Maida Vale was responsible for 12 of those killed and 33 injured. Damage to property in 1914 prices was £42,655.

 

KeepTheHomeFiresBurning1915

(Wikipedia image source)

 

One of those killed on 7 /8 March 2018 was an American, the first American citizen to be killed in an air raid on Britain, a lyricist called Lena Ford who wrote the words for Ivor Novello’s First World War wartime hit song “Keep the Home Fires Burning”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lena_Guilbert_Ford

An imaginative but  fact based retelling or reconstruction of the events of the 7 / 8  March 1918 raid by Julian Futter can be found here:

https://www.crescentgarden.co.uk/history/

This area featured by Julian Futter is not that far south from Regents Park and London Zoo, so you can imagine the impact that aerial bombing, the barking of nearby Anti Aircraft guns or ‘Archies’  and searchlights would have had on some of the more sensitive animals by day or night.

Special precautions had already been put in place to counter air raid damage in the form of First Aid posts and special reinforcement or coverings for the enclosures of poisonous animals such as in the reptile house.

Remembering all those affected or involved in the air raid of 7-8 March 1918 on its 100th anniversary. 

Blogposted (scheduled post) by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo, 7 March 2018

 

 

 

January 1918 WW1 Air Raids on Britain

January 28, 2018

IMG_2922

https://worldwarzoogardener1939.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/the-first-blitz-on-london-from-an-unpublished-ww1-diary/

Edith Spencer in her WW1 diary records two evening air raids on London on January 2018.

Monday 28 January 1918: Raid, lights down 8.10 onwards.

Tuesday 29 January 1918: Raid, warning 10pm.

The 28th January 1918 raid saw 65 killed and 159 injured from 44 bombs, including 38 killed and 45 men, women and children injured in the basement shelter of Odham’s printing works at Longacre in London.

This was the sort of basement shelter that Edith Spencer and work colleagues used at Bishopsgate.

A night time raid warning maroon was sounded for the first time shortly after 8pm. Sadly panic from these unfamiliar explosions led to a crush in Shoreditch heading towards one air raid shelter at Bishopsagte Goods Yard, leaving 14 killed and 12 injured.

Thankfully only 3 of the 13 Gothas and 1 of the 2 new Giant bombers made it as far as London. Several attacked coastal targets and 5 were lost to landing accidents or one shot down over Essex.

There is more detail on Ian Castle’s excellent website  about each nights Raid mentioned by Edith Spencer:

http://www.iancastlezeppelin.co.uk/2829-jan-1918/4594183965

http://www.iancastlezeppelin.co.uk/2930-jan-1918/4594184363

It is interesting that she refers to ‘lights down’ suggesting a form of blackout in practice, either routinely or in response to air raid warning. This precedes the chaos of life in the blackout in WW2 As well as brothers who were Methodist ministers, Edith had family fighting in the war.

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, 28 January 2018.

 

 

A gardener named Banks, Britain’s first air raid casualty 24 December 1914

December 24, 2014

Did you know that the first bomb from an aeroplane ever to fall on England in 1914 fell in a garden?

“Shortly before 11 o’clock on December 24th [1914] an aeroplane was seen flying down the valley and it dropped a bomb which burst in the kitchen garden of Mr T.A.Terson at the end of Leyburne Road [Dover]. The bomb was probably meant for the Castle and where it burst it did no damage beyond breaking adjoining windows  and throwing a gardener named Banks, who was working at St. James’ Rectory, out of a tree to the ground, slightly injuring him.

The Journalist, 1914

This intriguing story of a “gardener named Banks” makes him Britain’s first air raid casualty, but thankfully one who survived.

It  was featured as the opening panel of the Garden Museum London exhibition on Gardens and War (which ended 19 December 2014).

 

A ceiling field of pressed wild flowers and flower press picture frames,  Gardens and War exhibition, Garden Museum London 2014

A ceiling field of pressed wild flowers and flower press picture frames, Gardens and War exhibition, Garden Museum London 2014

Whilst the famous Christmas Truce and football matches of No Man’s Land were unofficially happening in the front line trenches on land, in the air several wartime firsts were about to happen.

The spot (according to the Britain at War history magazine First World War) is now marked by a Blue Plaque from the Dover Society: “Near this spot on Christmas Eve fell the first aerial bomb ever to be dropped on the United Kingdom.”

The plaque is pictured on Ian Castle’s excellent website on WW1 air raids.

Ian is the author of two Osprey books London 1914-17: The Zeppelin Menace and London 1917-1918: The Bomber Blitz amongst other airship related that I have recently read, researching a 2015 blogpost about how zoos responded to the Zeppelin and aerial threat and featuring air raid related mentions from Edith Spencer’s 1917 civilian diary in our collection.

I am curious to see how people prepared for this new threat. London Zoo and Regent’s Park were in the flight path of several raids but thankfully spared air raid damage in WW1. The London Zoo was spattered with spent shrapnel from the “Archies” (Anti-aircraft guns) on Primrose Hill  and prepared against possible animal escape with firearms trained staff of “a special emergency staff of picked men was always on call. Heavy shutters were fitted to the glass fronts of the poisonous snakes’ cages” (Source: The Zoo Story, L.R.Brightwell, 1952). A long-term outcome of the WW1 air raid preparation was the provision of a First Aid post for visitors continuing after the war (Source: The Zoo, J. Barrington-Johnson, 2005).

Other wartime firsts
Three days earlier on 21st December 1914 a German seaplane dropped bombs in the sea near Dover Beach. However towns on the East Coast of Britain had been bombarded from the sea by German ships  on 16th December 1914 with a number of civilian casualties.

Within weeks on 19 January 1915, the first Zeppelin raid on Britain had taken place, aimed for London but diverted by bad weather to Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn. The raids would eventually reach London on 31 May 1915.

The gardener in St James Rectory garden  reportedly pruning a tree for Christmas greenery was called variously James Banks or in some sources John Banks.

I have seen three different pilots named as the pilot responsible for the 24 December 1914 attack. Various sources ranging from Ian Castle, Neil Hanson’s First Blitz book to Dover history sites give a range of often conflicting details about the incident, no doubt down to wartime reporting restrictions and propaganda. The bomb appears to have been a single hand-held 22lb bomb, dropped by hand from 5000 feet  and probably aimed at Dover Castle from a FF29 Friedrichshafen  floatplane of the German Naval Air Service. It fell 400 yards from the Castle and created a crater ten feet wide in the gardens.

Tommy Terson was a local auctioneer and there are a few, no doubt, jokey Christmas references to him picking Brussel sprouts from the patch which was bombed!

The cook at the Rectory was reportedly showered with glass. The garden and window damage is pictured in the http://doverwarmemorialproject website.co.uk

Christmas Truce in the trenches, but in the air?

The next day the 25th December 1914  the same German Navy air force unit attacked again, aiming for London but dropping its bombs on  Cliffe Railway Station. The raid  was seen off over the skies above Erith  by a British Royal Flying Corps Vickers Gunbus from Joyce Green Airfield near Dartford.

This was the first aerial interception of an enemy aircraft over the United Kingdom of the First World War.

On this same day, there was an attack on German Zeppelin sheds at Cuxhaven on Christmas Day 1914, beyond the range of British air stations. This was known as “The Christmas Raid” with British Royal Navy Air Service RNAS seaplanes from a converted passenger ship HMS Engadine and HMS Empress. Whilst the raid was not that effective, all the pilots and 3 of the 7 seaplanes survived. It was to foreshadow aircraft carrier operations in the next war.

With these two days of bombing, the long road to the Battle of Britain and Blitz in 1940 had begun, with all the chaos that World War 2 caused to the people, animals and plants of British zoos and botanic gardens and in turn to European counterparts.

Aircraft of the period can be seen at air museums like the Imperial War Museum Duxford, RAF Museum Hendon and the Shuttleworth collection.

There is also an interesting and ongoing airfield restoration of a recently listed and most complete surviving WW1 air station at Stow Maries in Essex http://www.stowmaries.org.uk. It’s also home to some very interesting wildlife, the area being used for filming part of the BBC’s The Great British Year in 2013.

Have a peaceful Christmas!

Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.


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