Town marks centenary of first Zeppelin air raid on Lowestoft
- Credit: James Bass
A special event, held to mark the 100th anniversary of the first recorded air attack on Suffolk in the First World War, has been hailed a success after more than 20 people gathered to commemorate the historic event.
On the night of 15-16 April 1915, a German Zeppelin carried out an air raid on Lowestoft.
Three bombs were dropped by an L5 airship- one in the gardens of numbers 46/47 and number 48 in Denmark Road, one further down the same street and the third near Kimberley Road.
To commemorate the occasion, Lowestoft historian Bob Collis, along with the Lowestoft Aviation Society and the Jack Rose Old Lowestoft Society, organised a gathering where people remembered the event, re-enacted the pictures from the time and gathered close to where the original bomb crater was formed.
Mr Collis brought along a cardboard version of the zeppelin and also gave a talk about the raid to keen members of the public.
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The only human casualty in the raids was an 18-year old girl named Katie Crawford, who died a few months later on August 9, when a bomb struck a house on Lovewell Road.
A special guest at the event was Yvonne Lead, the niece of Miss Crawford, and she was presented with a framed picture along with some key information about the bomb.
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Mrs Lead said: 'It was lovely and unexpected; I didn't know much about my aunt.
'I have seen one photograph of her and that was it. Only once I was ever told what happened to her and that was because I asked.'
Mr Collis said: 'The event was great and meeting Mrs Lead was a privilege and an honour.
'The Denmark Road crater is probably one of the most photographed bomb-sites in the history of our town.
'All we have left are the pictures from a century ago and the knowledge that while the inhabitants of our town could not have envisaged it then, that first raid in 1915 was but the forerunner of a terrible rain of death and destruction from the air that was to follow 25 years later.'
The Zeppelin L5, which was part of the German Naval Airship Division and carried between 17 and 22 men, was heard offshore at 9.40pm but did not cross the Suffolk coast near Southwold until 11.50pm. Before reaching Lowestoft at 1.15am, the Zeppelin visited Reydon, Bramfield, Halesworth and Henham Hall.
A flare found at Wrentham is believed to have been dropped by L5 to light her way northwards to Lowestoft.
While the crew of L5, led by airship commander Kapitanleutnant Alois Boecker, correctly identified Lowestoft, it is a fact that the vast majority of airship raids often dropped bombs on targets at random or by mistake on places many miles from their intended targets.
In addition to the 3 x 50 kg HE bombs, the Zeppelin dropped seven incendiary bombs and one of these fell amongst the wood piles in Latten's Timber Yard, Commercial Road, causing a serious fire.
Sailors from a RN vessel moored nearby tackled the fire until the fire brigade arrived.
At the time, the Lowestoft Journal reported how the 'Zeppelin came over from the sea, and taking a westerly swoop, passed away out to the north east. Its grey shape was distinctly seen against the starlit sky. The night was dark, but fine, with no wind'.
Lowestoft received a second Zeppelin raid on August 9 1915, in which houses in the south of the town were damaged, and a girl was killed.
The final German assault came on Easter Monday 1916, when German battle cruisers bombarded the town from offshore, killing four people.
At the time, the Lowestoft Journal reported how the 'Zeppelin came over from the sea, and taking a westerly swoop, passed away out to the north east. Its grey shape was distinctly seen against the starlit sky. The night was dark, but fine, with no wind.'
Roger Smith, chairman of the Lowestoft Aviation Society added: 'I think it is great that people are interested in the history of the town.'
Ian Robb, secretary of the Jack Rose Old Lowestoft Society said: 'It is lovely that people gathered and it is vitally important that we remember the heritage of Lowestoft.'
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