Zeppelins mocked as ‘monster gas bags’

TERROR FROM ABOVE ... Zeppelin raids. (Photo: Kevin Blair)
TERROR FROM ABOVE ... Zeppelin raids. (Photo: Kevin Blair)

A CENTURY ago this spring, the civilian population of the UK was finding the war brought not just to its doorstep, but directly overhead.

The cause of this terror? The Zeppelin.

Not only were the air-pirates unsuccessful in killing any women and children but the amount of material damage they did was comparatively trifling. The military value of the raid was nil.

Newspaper report

To mark Local History Month, which commenced today, I’ve been interested to see that libraries in South Tyneside will be hosting coffee mornings and displays, through to the end of May, which look at the Zeppelin raids that took place over this area in 1915.

Two next week are at Cleadon Park Library in Shields on Wednesday, and East Boldon Library on Friday, both from 10am to noon.

There will also be an opportunity to research your First World War relatives.

The Zeppelins, it’s worth pointing out, were met with bravado, even disparagement – at least in the Press – when they first began to menace coastal areas.

There is a report from April 1915, of what was still only the second raid on the country, which targeted the North East.

Zeppelin Z9 crossed the coast at Blyth and was later seen departing back across the sea by folk here at Shields.

One commentator wrote that the raid “has proved even more futile than the first”.

“Not only were the air-pirates unsuccessful in killing any women and children but the amount of material damage they did was comparatively trifling. The military value of the raid was nil.”

The Zeppelin had dropped bombs, mainly incendiaries.

Wallsend was among the places hit but the damage was minimal.

In fact the Zeppelins were scorned as little more than ‘monster gas bags’, although it’s interesting that people were chided for going out into the streets to look at them, rather than taking to their cellars as they had been advised.

Needless to say, there would come a tragic awakening when subsequent Zeppelin raids proved lethal, not least the one on Jarrow on June 15, 1915, when Palmer’s shipyard took a hammering from what was described on this card as the “midnight assassin” and 16 people lost their lives.

Other venues for the Zeppelin coffee mornings include Whitburn and Jarrow Libraries.