Air Raid-May 1915
Southend-on-Sea
It had been a sunny fun filled day at Southend, as night drew in the townspeople had gone to bed not giving a thought to what the seemingly peaceful sleeping hours would bring. The night was dark and moonless, in the early hours of the 10th May 1915 small clouds were seen skipping quickly across the dark sky, the sun was still a few hours from rising over the horizon. Higher in the sky lay a haziness which made it difficult to detect anything moving. It was at such a favourable juncture, that the blow was struck and fell upon the unfortified watering-place of Southend-on-Sea. It was not the first air raid on Southend but this time it would be the deadliest, for the few minutes the raid lasted, it would see houses wrecked and one woman dead. Where the bombs fell Over 100 bombs were dropped by the Zeppelin that morning, many exploded on impact luckily for those below many more failed to explode: 45 Ashburnham Road: Bomb fell into back bedroom Mr & Mrs May escaped with their baby one room gutted by fire one damaged by water whilst fire crews were on scene. 65 London Road (junction Ashburnham Road): the home of Dr Henry Woolcraft-Hull badly damaged The Cromwell Boarding Establishment: Bomb fell through the roof and first floor exploding in the living room the ensuing fire raged for three hours destroying the building. 1 Richmond Avenue (off London Road): bomb hit home shattered but failed to ignite the four adults and one child inside the property escaped. 7 Richmond Avenue: The home of Mr C. W. Pavey was badly damaged he escaped unharmed. St John’s Road: two bombs fell in street. Hamlet Court Road: Bomb fell through main window of Ainslide bros Butchers and failed to explode. London Road: several bombs fell without exploding. 65 West Road: The home of Mr Pen was heavily damaged when a bomb fell through the roof destroying the stair case and setting the lower half of the house on fire the family Mr Pen his wife and two daughters had to jump from the upstairs window the pet cat died in the fire. West Road (unknown house): A boy aged 4 and his Nanny were hurt by debris after a bomb fell between their beds but failed to explode. 105 Baxter Avenue: House destroyed by fire. 120 North Road: A bomb fell through the roof of the home owned by Mr & Mrs Whitwell, the bomb struck Mrs Agnes Frances Whitwell as she slept in bed killing her instantly the doctor called to the scene described her body as “little more than a charred mutilated mummy” she was 60 years old, she had worked for the Salvation Army for 35 years, her husband survived with head, shoulder, neck injuries & burns he was taken to the Victoria Hospital. 192 York Road East: Bomb fell a short distance from St Erkenwalds Church, the shock-wave from the blast caused extensive damaged to the home of Mr & Mrs J. C. Warr who escaped with their two daughters. Honiton Road: a bomb fell on open land between Ambleside Drive/Southchurch Road/Honiton Road exploding and shattering the windows and blowing doors off buildings close by, the resulting crater measuring 8ft in circumference and 3ft deep. Toledo Road: A small bomb fell on to open group leaving a 9 inch wide 4 inch deep crater. J. C. Flayman Builders yard Southchurch Road: Two incendiary bombs fell into the yard and immediately set fire to the large amounts of wood stored in the yard, an elderly horse stabled in the yard was rescued by fire crews the fire took five hours to bring under control. Royal Terrace: Slight damage to the home of Mr Tolhurst. Prittlewell Square: An incendiary bomb landed in the square where a patrolling police office collected a pail of water and threw it over the fizzing bomb, this failed to extinguish the bomb so the bomb was lifted and placed in to a second pail, the water boiled for three minutes. 40 York Road: Roof and ceiling damaged. Cobweb Corner The Technical School: Large explosive device landed five yards from the tramway shelter passing through the wooden decking, and concrete path but did not explode it was recovered and taken to Shoeburyness for evaluation, the extensive damage became a tourist attraction! Leigh Close: One bomb fell and exploded but little damage was caused. 5 Essex Street: Out building hit and slight fire damage caused. 15 Scratton Road: Bomb fell in back garden failed to explode. The Beach east of the Pier: Single bomb failed to explode. Beach west 100 years west of the Pier: Bomb failed to explode. London Road: Outside the Electric Light Substation failed to explode. Summer Court: Fence set on fire. Nazarath House Convent, London Road: Two bombs fell in grounds. The Great Eastern Railway Yard Southend. St Vincent’s Road. Campbell Road. Coleman Street, Prittlewell. 2 Clifton Mews. Harcourt Road. Tudor Road. Westcliff Sea Front: A single bomb fell in front of the Westwood Ho Hotel. 14 Grange gardens. Carlton Drive. Cambridge Road. 16 Princes Street. 68 Princes Street. Essex Terrace. Junction of North Road & West Street. 53 London Road. Bentalls Farm, Prittlewell. 58 Cranleigh Drive: Incendiary bomb caused a fire that was quickly extinguished. Marine Parade Westcliff. Leigh Gasworks: Incendiary and high explosive bombs were dropped in the area around the Leigh-on-Sea Gasworks site, 28 various bombs were later recovered from the foreshore those that fell within the site failed to explode. Leigh Road: One bomb. The Plough Public House, Westcliff: One bomb fell outside the pub and failed to explode. Ceylon Road: Six bombs fell in a 100 yard stretch. 11 Rayleigh Avenue: One bomb fell and failed to explode attached to the bomb was a piece of card with a message in blue pencil reading “You English, We have come, We will come again, Kill or Cure” The Aftermath The raid resulted in eleven houses being destroyed and countless others being damaged. There were countless craters caused by bombs falling onto open land and exploding others fell without exploding. There was also the much more sobering casualty list, dozens had been hurt but despite the large volume of bombs that had been dropped only one person had been killed, this was Mrs Whitwell of 120 North Road. As well as the death of Mrs Whitwell the raid also killed a Dalmatian dog and a cat the estimated cost of the damage was put at £5301. In the following few days the resentment for the raid boiled over and riots broke out, this saw the German owned shops in the High Street have their windows smashed and properties ransacked, the police unable to deal with the uprising had to call upon the Local troops and Territorials stationed at Shoeburyness. The Bombs In total over 80 bombs were dropped on Southend that morning, those that did not explode were recovered and examined. The incendiary bombs were found to be about 50lbs in weight and made from steelzine tar, wire, filled with petrol or benzene, charcoal, a channel ran through the body in several places containing a slow burning fuse. Upon impact the bomb would shatter the burning fuse which in turn would set fire to the flammable elements of the bomb, the tar would help the mixture stick to whatever it touched. Right: The Southend Museum owns one of the unexploded bombs (Photo 2008) The Zeppelin The Zeppelin that carried out the raid that day was the LZ38 commanded by Hauptmann Erich Linarz, the first flight of the P-Class Army Zeppelin LZ38 had taken place on 3rd April 1915. The airship was 536ft long and had a hull width of 61ft its max weight was 35721lbs, cruising speed was 52kts at a maximum height of 12795ft. Propulsion came from four Maybach MC-X engines each giving 207hp. The LZ38’s life was relatively short the bombing missions it took part in were: Thursday 29th—Friday 30th April 1915: bombs dropped on Ipswich and Bury St. Edmonds. Monday 10th May 1915: Bombs dropped on Southend (bombs dropped early hours of 10th). Monday 17th May 1915: Bombs dropped on Ramsgate and Dover. (bombs dropped early hours of 17th). Wednesday 26th May 1915: Bombs dropped on Southend. Monday 31st May 1915: London the raid saw 120 devices being dropped, totalling 3,000 lb, including 91 incendiaries, 28 bombs and two 'grenades'. 7 people were killed, 35 were injured; forty-one fires were started, burning out seven properties, damage was priced at £18,596. The LZ38 was destroyed in its shed at Evere on Monday 7th June 1915 It had just returned from an aborted raid on England, when the bombers struck the crew escaped. The Controversy In the days after the attack, two local newspapers the Southend Standard and the Westcliff Graphic both printed “Air Raid Supplements.” These two publications contained full details of the level of damage, the roads that were hit and named those injured and the woman that was killed. At the time publication of such details and the censorship of photos was regulated by the Government, so that the information on the efficiency of the German air raids would not be used by spy’s aiding the German forces to improve their targeting. The publication of the supplements caused a storm in Parliament but as the supplements were already in general circulation there was little that could be done to re-call the offending material.

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The Zeppelin Returns Southend had little rest before the return of the Zeppelins on the 26th May 1915, again it was the LZ38 commanded by Linnarz the mission was originally to find a safer route to bomb London. The Zeppelin was first sighted of Clacton at 10:30pm it then turned to go over Southminster where anti-aircraft gunners opened fire. The craft then turned South and headed for Burnham-on-Crouch, before passing over Shoeburyness, the local 3 inch naval guns opened up on the LZ38 which continued onto Southend. The raid saw some 70 bombs being dropped resulting in three fatalities and three seriously injured, damage to buildings was light. The Zeppelin then turned to head back over Shoeburyness, when the 3 inch navy guns opened up on it once again, the airship carried on its route to pass again over Burnham-on-Crouch before the ground guns picked it up again and opened fire. Upon reaching the mouth of the River Blackwater LZ38 turned out to sea avoiding the five RNAS fighters that had taken off to intercept. Two of the fighters were involved in serious landing accidents.
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