Southend Timeline

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Zeppelin Raid 1915

This article is from Essex Countryside Magazine

Following the argument that has existed for some months in our readers' forum on the Zeppelin raid on Southend we have received from Miss D Boview of Eastwood Drive , Leigh-on-Sea, a copy of the "special Zeppelin supplement" issued on the day after the fateful raid on May 10 1915.

The supplement was printed by the Southend and Westcliff Graphic, described as "the journal with the most influential circulation in south-east Essex," and was priced at one halfpenny.

The story of the raid is headlined "Zeppelin visit to Southend. Nearly 100 bombs dropped.  Great damage to property, but only one life lost.  Special constable's glimpse of the airship" and gives a graphic description.

The report says: "At five minutes to three yesterday (Monday) morning Southend was startled by two terrific explosions, and almost simultaneously the sky was lit up by flames in different parts of the borough.  Special Constable Redhouse, who was on duty with three special constables, saw the Zeppelin hovering over the town at no considerable height, and saw bomb after bomb dropped in various parts of the town.

"The first explosion occurred from a bomb dropped in York Road, partly damaging a house i which a soldier was billeted, and the glass from the shattered window slightly injured the soldier's face.  The second explosive bomb dropped on the piece of land adjoining Ambleside Drive and Honiton Road, making a hole about four feet deep and shattering the glass of hundreds of windows in the immediate vicinity.  the door of Councillor Iles's house in Ambleside Drive was blown open through the catch being dislodged.  therer was ponly one other explosive bomb and this was embedded in the roadway at Cobweb Corner, where at the time of writing it was still awaiting removal.

"All the other bombs were of the incendiary type.  One fell through the roof of a house in North Road, Prittlewell, occupied by Mr Whitwell, a carpenter in the employ of the corporation.  The bomb killed Mrs S Whitwell instantaneously, and Mr Whitwell, suffering from severe injuries, was afterwards conveyed to the Victoria Hospital.

"Two other incendiary bombs were dropped on Mr Flaxman's premises in Southchurch Road.  One fell through the roof without exploding and the other set fire to his spacious timber yard, the greater part of which was destroyed.  A bomb also set fire to the Cromwell, a boarding establishment in London Road, which was gutted; while an empty house in Baxter Avenue, vacated only a day or tow ago, burst into flames as the result of another bomb."

The report then goes on to give a brief account of some of the places that suffered damage.  For instance, Mr Pensan's house in West Road was set alight and he and his three children and their servant escaped by jumping from the windows.  In Ceylon Road several bombs were dropped in the garden of Dr Coll Macdonald.  Baxter Avenue, Richmond Road (Westcliff) and Macdonald Road had bombs dropped on them, but only the last-named escaped any damage.  A bomb was dropped on the cliffs and three fell on the beach, one of them near a prison ship moored near the pier upon which were about 1,200 interned German civilians.

What time did the raid take place?  The evidence of Mr W B Tattersall, of London Road, Southend, is pretty conclusive.  He said:  "The first bomb fell at 2.55 and the last at 3.15.  These times are definite, because I particularly noted them."  Mr Tattersall's description of the raid as "a veritable hail of bombs" is borne out by the fact that by 4am twenty bombs had been recovered and four hours later eighty more had been discovered.  At one time no fewer than six big blazes were going on in the town.

In the centre pages of the supplement are a number of photographs.  men are shown removing furniture from a house damaged by bombs, and another picture shows people f=gazing at a broken lamppost in St Vincent's Road.  Some children are seen seated in a hole made by a bomb on a piece of land by Ambleside Drive.  Superintendent Eliss and other police officers are seen holding several of the bombs which failed to explode, and troops are shown assisting firemen at Mr.Flaxman's timber yard, where the damage was enormous.

Mr Walter Bingham, of Benfleet, said that as the anti-aircraft guns began to fire at the Zeppelin "it turned and went in a westward direction towards London."  He adds:  "She turned apparently in her own length and her manoeuvring was wonderful.  There was a big bank of cloud and she went right into the middle of it.  I saw her first when she was at a very high altitude, showing like a blur between two stars.  From 2.50 to 3.30 i had my glasses on her all the time and saw her quite plainly.  She appeared at first to be showing lights, but closer investigation proved she was not.  The Zeppelins sailing was fine.  She was going right dead against an easterly wind when she disappeared."

And with that we hope our readers will be well satisfied with the "full story."



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