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Archive Report: 1914 - 1918
Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
First air-raid fatality in Britain
First Air-Raid Fatality In Britain

The webmaster taking a cold winter walk close to his home in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk in January 2016, always looking for remotely located graves of WW2 aircrew, when he came across a well hidden grave of one of the first victims of aerial bombing in Great Britain.

On the 19th January 1915 3 Zeppelins set off to bomb the Humberside area. Zeppelins L3. L4 and L6. Due to mechanical problems L6 was forced to return. Navigation proved difficult for the remaining two and with fairly high winds they decided to bomb targets further to the south.

L4 with Kapitänleutnant V. Platen in charge, flew over Kings Lynn and Sheringham whilst L3 with Kapitänleutnant Hans Fritz on board were to bomb Great Yarmouth. L3 took off from Fuhlsbüttel together with L4 on January 19 at 11:00 hrs. They carried fuel for 30 hours, 8 x 110 lbs bombs, and 25 x incendiaries. The attack on Gt. Yarmouth lasted for some 10 minutes, dropping 6 x bombs and 7 incendiaries before heading out to sea and back to Fuhlsbüttel arriving at 09:40 hrs.

Zeppelin L3:- Length: 518 ft. Diameter: 48 ft. Maximum speed: 47 mph. Range: 1,366 miles. Operations: 27 reconnaissance and 1 bombing raid.

Matilda Mary Taylor aged 72 and Samuel Alfred Smith aged 53 a shoemaker were both killed instantly. It was reported that Mr. Smith had been walking along the pavement at the time the bombs hit. Also injured during the attack a Pte. Poulton of the Essex Regiment with injuries to his chest, Mr. Blake, with injuries to his legs and an artillery gunner Pte. Dunevy - all received treatment and survived.

The death certificates read as the cause of death: ‘From the effects of the acts of the Kings enemies.’ The major effect this raid had on Britain was to boost the recruitment into the British army. Local newspapers offered regular readers various compensation - £250 for loss of life due to an attack from a Zeppelin plus other payments for loss of limbs and property.

In Kings Lynn other casualties reported were Percy Goate aged 15 and Mrs. Maud Gazeley - both killed. (Her husband serving with the Rifle Brigade had been killed on the Western Front)

The funerals way back then were very discreet, arranged to avoid publicity that may affect morale from the total shock of bombs being dropped from the air! At this stage of the war a totally unheard of event and one that could cause terror amongst the population. German aircraft - over Britain?

With immediate affect the population were advised to black out windows and local authorities started to douse the street lights as this had thought to have assisted the raiders.

The effects of war were brought home to the British people. The propaganda value was exploited by both sides. Recruitment was improved. The programme quotes the Hague Convention to show that the Zeppelin attacks, against two undefended towns, were illegal under international law.

Less than a month later on the 17th February 1915, L3 was forced to crash land on the Danish island of Fanø after engine failure and poor weather. None of the crew were injured and they managed to destroy the ships documents and destroy the airship prior to capture and internment for the next 3 years.

During the first world war over 500 (note) people had been killed, 1,100 others injured by the Zeppelins on 208 operations - dropping nearly 6000 bombs. The fighter aircraft of the time were no match and their machine guns hard little effect on the airships - anti aircraft batteries also had little effect against this new menace. But things were to change, despite the initial fighter aircraft failings they quickly adapted to air warfare and started to use incendiary bullets. Not forgetting neither the Germans or the British had the back up of parachutes.

Note: Aerial bombing - compared with some 67,000 civilians killed in Britain during WW2 - Dresden, Germany lost nearly 500.000 in a couple of days in February 1945, Japan 200.000+)

Interesting as a plaque had also been placed to mark 100 years since this event on the 19th January 2015 by the Mayor of Great Yarmouth, Cllr. Marlin Fairhead. The unveiling of this had been covered by Sky in a news report, also by the BBC and ITV.

Burial details:

Matilda Mary Taylor is buried at Caister Cemetery. Samuel Alfred Smith buried at St, Nicholas Cemetery, Gt. Yarmouth.

With many thanks to various sources who have contributed to this page:

Patrick Russell a freelance writer based in Chicago, Illinois who has carried out extensive studies of airship history. "Faces of the Hindenburg".

Retired naval commander Simon Askins, Margaret Gooch of the Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeological Society (GYLHAS),

BBC, ITV, Sky TV, Faces of the Hindenburg, Peter Alhadeff - Centenary News. Kate Tame for the newspaper articles.

Zeppelin Museum Tønder, Denmark.

We welcome any further contributions to this, or indeed any other page we have on the website - also to any new stories that you would like to contribute.

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling WW1 material include: Dunnigan, James F. (2003). How to Make War: A Comprehensive Guide to Modern Warfare in the Twenty-first Century. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-060090-12-8.Durkota, Allen; Darcey, Thomas; Kulikov, Victor (1995). The Imperial Russian Air Service: Famous Pilots and Aircraft of World War I. Mountain View: Flying Machines Press. ISBN 978-0-060090-12-8.Franks, Norman; Bailey, Frank W.; Guest, Russell (1993). Above the Lines: The Aces and Fighter Units of the German Air Service, Naval Air Service and Flanders Marine Corps, 1914–1918. Oxford: Grub Street. ISBN 978-0-948817-73-1.Franks, Norman (2005). Sopwith Pup Aces of World War I. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-841768-86-1.Franks, Norman; Guest, Russell; Alegi, Gregory (1997). Above the War Fronts: The British Two-seater Bomber Pilot and Observer Aces, the British Two-seater Fighter Observer Aces, and the Belgian, Italian, Austro-Hungarian and Russian Fighter Aces, 1914–1918. Oxford: Grub Street. ISBN 978-1-898697-56-5.Franks, Norman; Bailey, Frank W. (1992). Over the Front: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the United States and French Air Services, 1914–1918. Oxford: Grub Street. ISBN 978-0-948817-54-0.Guttman, Jon (2009). Pusher Aces of World War 1. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-846034-17-6.Guttman, Jon (2001). Spad VII Aces of World War I: Volume 39 of Aircraft of the Aces. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-841762-22-7.Kulikov, Victor (2013). Russian Aces of World War 1: Aircraft of the Aces. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-780960-61-6.Newton, Dennis (1996). Australian Air Aces: Australian Fighter Pilots in Combat. Motorbooks International. ISBN 978-1-875671-25-0.Pieters, Walter M. (1998). Above Flanders Fields: A Complete Record of the Belgian Fighter Pilots and Their Units During the Great War. Oxford: Grub Street. ISBN 978-1-898697-83-1.Shores, Christopher (2001). British and Empire Aces of World War I. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-377-4.Shores, Christopher; Franks, Norman; Guest, Russell (1990). Above the Trenches: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces 1915–1920. Oxford: Grub Street. ISBN 978-0-948817-19-9.Shores, Christopher; Franks, Norman; Guest, Russell (1996). Above the Trenches Supplement: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces. Oxford: Grub Street. ISBN 978-1-898697-39-8., Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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Last Modified: 07 April 2021, 15:06

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