s The Forgotten Blitz - Hull Museums Collections

The Forgotten Blitz

zepplin caught in searchlights

Birth of the Zeppelin

Although balloons were used in wars before the First World War, mainly for observation purposes, it was during this period that the development of dirigibles- cigar shaped airships with frames- began to become more widespread. The company that became synonymous with the dirigible was the Zeppelin Company. After retiring from the German army Ferdinand Von Zeppelin began developing the idea for the airship in 1897. The first zeppelin flew in 1900 and by the outbreak of the First World War the German army had seven military zeppelins.

Zeppelins Attack Hull

During the years 1915 to 1918 Hull was subject to eight bomb attacks but the people of Hull endured up to 50 air raid warnings sounded by 'Big Lizzie'; the largest steam buzzer ever made. Luckily most of the air raid warnings were false alarms but Hull was unfortunate as it became a target for many of the air raid attacks by accident when the zeppelins were unable to reach their intended target.

The attack on the 5 March 1916, for example, only occurred because winds had prevented the zeppelins from reaching their target. During this raid a ship in Earles ship yard was Zeppelin bomb partially destroyed and a bomb blast near Paragon Station's glass roof caused seventeen deaths.

It was a similar story in June 1916 as a failed attack on London resulted in a bombing raid in Hull which led to over twenty deaths and damage to shops and houses. The air raids led to an increase in anti German sentiment and as a result some businesses supposedly owned by Germans were vandalised.

In September 1917 nine zeppelins dropped bombs at various points along the coast. Even though Hull now had more anti aircraft gunners which had been issued after the 1915 air raid, they proved useless as due to poor visibility the anti-aircraft gunners were unable to see through the mist. Forty four bombs fell in total killing sixteen people.

The zeppelins also attacked places like Goole, Driffield, Scunthorpe and Hedon. Driffield and Hedon fortunately reported no casualties during their raids on the 4 June 1915 and 24 August 1917 respectively. However, the air raid on Goole in August 1915 resulted in 16 deaths and there were four more deaths in Scunthorpe after a raid in January 1916. The final zeppelin attack of the war occurred in March 1918 with bombs being dropped on Sutton and Swine.