Zepplins over Tipton – Black Country 1916

Penny W-TStarred Page By Penny W-T, 14th Jun 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/21-yvhao/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

By 1916 The Great War had become a war in the air with the advent of aircraft, and the fascinating ‘flying balloons’ that were the Zepplins. On one occasion the Black Country region that was home to my grandfather, came under attack – by accident !

Accidental Attack on the Midlands

Amongst my grandfather’s letters from Gallipoli, there are two that refer to Zepplin attacks that occurred in the Black Country area on 31 January 1916, a report on which he had actually read in a newspaper that had been sent out to him.
18 February 1916
Father I read in the newspaper about the Zepps visits (to) the Midlands, but I didn’t think it was so near as Tipton. I guess you were all afraid of your lives, but we must hope they won’t come to the large town of Halesowen. I think it would be a good idea for you to get Dugouts somewhere around Clent, it would be a little safer. {The Clent Hills are about three miles outside the town, and are now managed by the National Trust.}
24 Feb 1916
Dear Grandmother, Grandfather and all.
Just a few lines hoping they will find you all in the Best of Health as I am pleased to tell you I am myself. I was sorry to learn you had been disturbed by the ‘G Zepps’ but I hope it won’t happen again, if it does the people will be afraid to go to bed.

So what exactly happened?

It was reported that, on January 31st 1916, nine airships apparently left their bases at Friedrichshaven and Lowenthal, an unusually large number for this attack, their orders being to fly across the entire breadth of England and bomb Liverpool. Kapitänleutnant Max Dietrich, commanding the L 21, was the first to cross the North Sea, and he and his men could see a clear sunset, promising good weather. Inland, though, mists and fogs were already forming around the heavily-populated areas, making ground observation difficult. Dietrich saw the lights of a city below him. A calculation measuring airspeed against time told him that this was Manchester. He saw likely targets but decided not to drop any bombs, saving them and the surprise they would cause, for Liverpool.

Mist and fog . . . and effective blackouts!

At 8.50 p.m, twinkling below were the lights of a large town. Towards the South, separated by an area of darkness, was another, smaller town. Dietrich concluded that he was over Birkenhead and the larger Liverpool, separated by the wide mouth of the River Mersey. He ordered action stations and began his approach. But Dietrich's calculations had been wrong. What he thought was Manchester, was in fact Derby. What he thought was the Irish Sea, was a sparsely-populated and unlit areas of North Shropshire and Eastern Wales. He was not over Liverpool. He was 75 miles to the South-East. His "Birkenhead" was Tipton, a small industrial town in the middle of the Black Country region of the Midlands. Where he thought was the Mersey was in fact, an area of industrial wasteland and collieries known as Lea Brook, and where he thought was Liverpool was actually the town of Wednesbury. Bombs initially fell on Tipton and Bradley, and then the first bombs fell on Wednesbury. They landed in the King Street area, near to a large factory. The Zeppelin was seen there high above the burning Crown Tube Works.

Nothing is secret

In Union Street Tipton, two houses had been completely demolished and others damaged and the gas main had been set alight. In all fourteen people were killed in Tipton. The people of Halesowen and Cradley, some distance away, were awoken to the sound of it's engines, and the glow in the distant sky.
The raid on Wednesbury and the nearby towns was covered in the next evening's newspapers. Photographs had been taken, but due to censorship, no towns were named in the report. But that made no difference, everyone in Wednesbury knew what had happened, and where, and the news of this raid even reached my grandfather in the hospital base in Malta, hence his comments in his letters shown above. Obviously, the people who sent out the newspaper to him, also said where the incidents had occurred. So much for national security !

References

This is just a brief cameo of the incident, but there is a wealth of information on the following websites, to name just a few.
Photo references

Further detailed reports can be seen in copies of the Shrewsbury Chronicle.
www.shrewsburychronicle.com
Black Country Muse Blog also has some detailed reports on these attacks.
www.blackcountrymuse.com
Black Country Bugle has two reports on this event.
www.blackcountrybugle.co.uk.

Tags

Black Country Towns, Great War, History, Zepplin Attacks

Meet the author

author avatar Penny W-T
Published articles on education themes, travel, history and writing techniques. Written a book on WW1 - Gallipoli, and travel books. Run a marketing network for small businesses.

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Comments

author avatar cnwriter..carolina
14th Jun 2013 (#)

another awesome piece Penny...i love what you write...

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author avatar Penny W-T
14th Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you CNW. You are very complimentary.

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author avatar Mike Robbers
14th Jun 2013 (#)

Great historical article, Penny and useful references.

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author avatar Penny W-T
14th Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you Mike, from all the reference material there is, a whole book could be written

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author avatar Eileen Ward Birch
14th Jun 2013 (#)

Is this the same raid when the Mayoress of Walsall was killed?

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author avatar Penny W-T
14th Jun 2013 (#)

Yes Eileen, that's the one.
I thought that might make another piece. Perhaps you would like to research that one. Thee is some material on different sites.

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author avatar philpalm
15th Jun 2013 (#)

The early days of the zepplin may not have navigated well but the final deathblow to the zepplins is the Hindenburg disaster. Ironically I believe some British passengers were aboard.

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author avatar Penny W-T
15th Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you for your information Philpalm. Nice to see you on my pages.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
15th Jun 2013 (#)

Fascinating history and you really brought it home with your outstanding presentation. Thank you Penny..

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author avatar Penny W-T
15th Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you Delicia, nice to see you today

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author avatar Eileen Ward Birch
15th Jun 2013 (#)

All I know is what I read and my mother showed me the bullet holes in the wall, near the Jerome K Jerome museum.

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author avatar Penny W-T
15th Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you Eileen, that is a very useful piece of information.

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author avatar Tom Morgan
5th Jul 2013 (#)

I was very interested to read your work, Penny, because quite large parts of it are word-for-word copies of an article I wrote about this raid, an article which has appeared on my own website since 1996. (Just google for Wednesbury Zeppelin and you'll find it). Hoe do you explain this coincidence?

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