Humberside

The day World War One came to Hull

Zeppelin bomb damage near Holy Trinity, Hull Image copyright Hull Museums
Image caption The building survived the onslaught and the subsequent fire

The city of Hull was bombed several times by Zeppelin airships during World War One. Saturday marks the centenary of the first raid.

Civilians in Britain had been largely unaffected by the war but in January 1915 the first Zeppelin raids on other parts of the UK had shattered the illusion of safety.

On its way to Hull six months later, on June 6, Zeppelin L-9's presence was first spotted just after 19:00 by intercepted wireless traffic when it was 100 miles away over the North Sea.

The brainchild of Count von Zeppelin, a retired German army officer, the airship was capable of travelling at about 50mph and carrying up to two tonnes of bombs.

Major General Ferrier, commander of the Humber Defences, ordered all lights in the city to be extinguished at 21:30.

Image copyright Nordholz Aeronauticum
Image caption The Zeppelin L-9 dropped bombs and incendiaries on the city

At about 23:45, L-9 was spotted above Hedon, to the east of Hull. General Ferrier's staff officer said it was distinct against a clear sky, at an altitude estimated to be 3,000ft (900m). The officer saw three bombs dropped.

One bomb landed on the city's ancient High Street, in the centre of the Old Town, making a hole 6ft (2m) deep and fracturing the water and gas mains.

The gas main was ignited by the blast but a pipe layer with Hull Corporation stopped the breach with wet clay and extinguished the fire.

The inferno caused lead in the church's stained glass windows to melt, but the building survived. A drapery store, only 27ft (8m) from the church and The Fleece Inn nearby were consumed by fire.

Image copyright Hull Museums
Image caption Soldiers and civilians survey damage to Walter's Terrace on Waller Street

In all, the first of eight Zeppelin raids on the east coast port left 24 people dead and 40 wounded.

Dr Nick Evans, of the University of Hull, said: "Hull, and other large cities, became a magnet as they were bright at night.

"If blackout was successful, Zeppelins could follow the natural light on a moonlit night along the Humber's edge."

He added: "Britons were not prepared for something from the sky, this enormous beast.

"That's what really frightened people."

The death and destruction resulted in anti-German feeling on the ground and provoked attacks against German-owned butchers in the city.

Image copyright Hull Museums
Image caption Posing for a picture inside the bomb-damaged house at 154 Walker Street

The last of about 40 bombs and incendiaries dropped on the city fell on Humber Dock at 00:15, hitting the cargo ship Crocus. The raid had lasted 30 minutes.

At 00.30, Brigadier General Dixon reported several fires in the city, including the serious blaze that threatened Holy Trinity Church.

Arthur Credland, who has written a book on the Zeppelin raids on Hull, said: "The main targets were the railways and the docks but inevitably they intertwined with the city and residential housing.

"Around the docks and the railways it was densely built and occupied by large numbers of workers.

"It was inevitable that places adjacent would be damaged and destroyed."

BBC Radio Humberside will broadcast Yearning Hearts, a drama about Hull's first Zeppelin raid, from 10:00 BST on 6 June.

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