How did First World War Zeppelin raids affect British civilians?
Before the 20th century, civilians in Britain had been largely unaffected by war. Previous overseas wars rarely touched British shores. The First World War was to change all that. Historians have described it as a 'total war', a global war which involved both civilians and the armed services on a massive scale.
Count von Zeppelin, a retired German army officer, flew his first airship in 1900. They were lighter than air, filled with hydrogen, with a steel framework. When the war started in 1914, the German armed forces had several Zeppelins, each capable of travelling at about 85 m.p.h. and carrying up to two tons of bombs. With military deadlock on the Western Front, they decided to use them against towns and cities in Britain. The first raid was on Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn in January 1915. These documents refer to a Zeppelin raid on Hull in June 1915.
- Find out the basic facts of the raid. Note down: the date, the times when the raid started and finished, how many Zeppelins took part, what direction they were travelling.
- What kind of bombs seem to have been used?
- How did some people in Hull react to the raids?
- Why do you think they reacted in this way?
- How did Major General Ferrier deal with this situation?
1. This is a report of the raid by Major General Ferrier, Commander of the Humber Defences.
- When did the Fire Commander receive his first information about a raid?
- What weapons were used to try to shoot down the Zeppelin? How effective were they?
2. Read this diary of events and report of action taken, by Major Robert Hall, Fire Commander Humber Defences.
3. At the end of his report, Source 1, Item 17, Major General Ferrier refers to a separate letter giving suggestions for "what is in my opinion urgently required."After reading Sources 1 and 2, what do you suggest would improve the defences of British cities and their civilian population?
- In what ways does this source add to our understanding of the raid on Hull?
- Which of these three sources do you find most useful for finding out about the raid?
- The Zeppelin raids of 1915 brought death to ordinary civilians, in their own homes. Was this a new feature of warfare?
- Use your knowledge of the First World War and this lesson to explain the meaning of the concept of 'total war'.