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Zeppelin Raids – The birth of the Blitz.

St. Peter’s Plain, Great Yarmouth (MAP: OS Town Plans 1:500 – published in 1885)
Zeppelins over Great Yarmouth

2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Zeppelin air raids on the UK.

On the 19th January 1915 two Zeppelin naval airships, 190 metres long, were heading for Humberside but were blown further down the east coast by strong gusts. They were forced to switch their attacks to the coastal towns of Norfolk. Zeppelins L3 and L4 crossed the coast of East Anglia, north of Great Yarmouth. Zeppelin L4 flew on towards Kings Lynn while Zeppelin L3, piloted by Kaptain Lt. Hans Fritz, turned back towards Great Yarmouth.

The first bomb dropped by L3 was an incendiary which landed in a waterlogged field in Little Ormesby, the second fell on a lawn in Albermarle Road near Wellesley. The first explosive to be dropped struck the pavement in Crown Road, but failed to explode, but the fourth and most destructive of the bombs to land on Great Yarmouth fell in St Peter’s Plain and burst with devasstating effect instantly killing Martha Taylor and shoemaker Sam Smith, while two more people were injured. By the end of the night two more people had been killed in Kings Lynn.

By the end of the First World War Zeppelin’s and other airships made about 51 bombing raids on England, killing 557 and injured another 1,358 people. More than 5,000 bombs were dropped on towns across Britain, causing £1.5 million in damage. 84 airships in all took part, of which 30 were lost, either shot down or lost in accidents. At the start of the war there were few weapons capable of combatting the Zeppelin threat. Conventional bullets would pass harmlessly through the aluminium frame and gas-bags. Not until the invention of incendiary bullets was there an effective way of bringing the Zeppelins down.

This first raid marked a change in the face of conflict, with the bombings serving as a forewarning of what was to come during the Blitz in the Second World War.

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