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Dragon

Airship raids, London: any in St Luke's area?

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Dragon

Airship people, I would be glad of some help.

 

I am trying to pin down an event in someone's family history story. It may be a myth. The family believed that their grandmother had a nervous collapse "when she saw the Hindenburg explode in the First World War". I know this is impossible because the Hindenburg disaster was 1937 and to the best of my knowledge the grandmother had never been to America anyway.

 

The woman in question lived in St Luke's, London before and after the Great War. I'm thinking that it's far more likely that she either witnessed an airship raid and its consequences or saw an airship come down, maybe when she was away from home, though I don't think the family were sufficiently affluent for extensive travel outside their home area.

 

My question is: were there any airship crashes, explosions or disasters in that particular area of London during the war years? Were there any airship raids which took place in that particular area? I've looked on the Zeppelins over London map but the author says that he hasn't marked all the raids, just the most prominent.

 

Thank you for any insights.

 

Gwyn

 

 

Edited by Dragon
Correcting spelling in title

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johnboy

Where is St Lukes area?

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EDWARD1

Will this help. Part of a map showing  Airship & Aeroplane raids on London 

St Lukes045.jpg

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topgun1918

After a quick trawl on the interweb thingy - St Luke's is a neighbourhood and former civil parish in central London in the London Borough of Islington. It lies just north of the border with the City of London near the Barbican Estate, Farringdon and Old Street areas.

 

On the above map, the centre of the parish approximates to the middle of the three red dots, immediately south of Old Street.

 

Graeme

 

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EDWARD1

PS Each red dot is where a bomb fell during a raid, of which there were aprox 12 airship raids and 19 aeroplane raids according to  Fire Brigades of London information printed in Vol 13 of The Great War.

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johnboy

Thanks Top Gun

My grandparents and gt grandparents lived close by in Percival Street

Edited by johnboy

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Dragon
1 hour ago, johnboy said:

Where is St Lukes area?

 

I didn't know where it was either. I had to look up St Luke's on a map. I didn't explain where it was because I thought maybe it was obvious and it was just me who hadn't heard of it because I'm not familiar with London.

 

She lived on Helmet Row.

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Dragon

Thank you for the excellent map. Having triangulated her home with the map, it seems that there were several bombs in her immediate area (Helmet Row) and many more within a short walk. It's very likely that she would have witnessed at least the aftermath of a raid, if not the raid itself.

 

Her husband and later her son saved all (I mean all) the family letters from the Great War. She was a Sunday School teacher engaged to a man she had met through the church and they corresponded throughout his military service. Unfortunately there are probably thousands of letters because the family threw nothing away and hundreds of them are so mundane as to be hardly worth opening. (Eg "I will be on the half past five train" or "Please get eggs" , that sort of thing.) For the time being, the letters are safe in plastic boxes in our garage.

 

I daresay that if I were able to locate her letters, and if they are properly dated (rather than just "Monday"!) I might be able to find references to airships, but maybe not. She wasn't very educated and so she tended to be quite restricted in her topics ("Saw Mrs Smith today." ). His handwriting is almost impossible to decipher. After the war, he began to type up some of his letters for posterity but seems to have become overwhelmed by the scale of the task.

 

By the way, they are not my family but my husband's relatives. The topic of the alleged Hindenburg explosion came up in a discussion of how trauma in a parent or grandparent is inherited by the descendants [the woman > her daughter]. I wanted to explore what the supposed Hindenburg might have been.

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kenf48
6 hours ago, Dragon said:

 

By the way, they are not my family but my husband's relatives. The topic of the alleged Hindenburg explosion came up in a discussion of how trauma in a parent or grandparent is inherited by the descendants [the woman > her daughter]. I wanted to explore what the supposed Hindenburg might have been.

 

 

On the night of the 31st May/1st June 1915 Zeppelin LZ. 38 skilfully piloted by Hauptmann Linnarz dropped a full load of bombs on the capital.  In all eighty nine incendiaries and thirty grenades were dropped.  There were seven fatalities and thirty five injured.  This was the first successful air raid by a Zeppelin on the East End of London. 

 

There were four further raids in 1915, the next was on the 17th August (Leytonstone).  On the 8th and 9th September the Zeppelin L.13 bombed the City of London, described as night of drama watched by hundreds of thousands of Londoners, including Asquith, as the flames the bombs set burned on the skyline and the airship was caught in the beams of the searchlights as the anti aircraft guns blazed away.

 

On the 13th October 1915 as part of a more concerted raid L.15 dropped nineteen high explosive bombs and eleven incendiaries in the area covered by the map i.e. the Strand, Holborn, Aldwych, Hatton Garden, Gray's Inn etc., in terms of casualties it was the most damaging raid of all with 38 killed and and a further 87 casualties in London alone.   

 

There was then a long hiatus until August 1916, however in that time due to continuing raids elsewhere London was said to be in a state of breathless anticipation and some panic.

 

As for airships brought down, most were shot down around the coast where the main defences were located, with additional cover for London in Essex.  However on the night of the 1 - 2 October 1916 the Zeppelin L.31 was shot down at Potters Bar and its end was visible across London.

 

One diarist who was on Blackfriars Bridge wrote:-

"Looking up the clear run of New Bridge Street and Farringdon Road I saw high in the sky a concentrated blaze of searchlights, and in its centre a ruddy glow which rapidly spread into the outline of a burning airship.  Then the searchlights were turned off and the Zeppelin drifted perpendicularly in the darkened sky, a gigantic pyramid of flames, red and orange like a ruined star falling slowly to earth.  Its glare lit up the streets and gave a ruddy tint even to the water of the Thames.  

 

The spectacle lasted two or thee minutes....When at last the doomed airship vanished from sight there arose a shout the like of which I have never heard in London before...a swelling shout that appeared to be rising from all parts of the metropolis, ever increasing in force and intensity."

 

Michael Mcdonagh cited in 'Zeppelin Nights - London in the FWW' Jerry White.

 

If he was on Blackfriars Bridge it would have been clearly visible from the St Luke's area, this raid more or less ended the Zeppelin assault on London, though it would be bombed by aeroplanes.

 

One imagines if she saw the newsreel of the Hindenburg 'oh the humanity' it could trigger some form of PTSD or buried memories if she had also witnessed the raids and the death of L.31 and her crew in 1915 and 1916.

 

Ken

 

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EDWARD1

The Table of air raids that accompanies the above map includes the raids as mentioned in the above post 9 plus raids in 1915 7/8th Sept , 1916 2/3rd April, 25/26th April, 24/25th Aug, 2/3rd Sept, 23/24th Sept, 1/2nd Oct (as mentioned) 1917 19/20th Oct. It also lists the air raids by Aeroplane 1916 28th Nov.19176/7th May, 13th June, 4/5th Sept, 24/25/26th, 29/30th Sept, 1/2 Oct. 31/1st Sept. 6th Dec, 18th Dec. 1918 28/29/30th Jan, 16/17/18/19th Feb, 7/8th March, 19/20th May.

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Dragon

Thank you, Ken. That's very interesting and I will ask whether the destruction of the L31 is likely to fit the story the family believed.

 

I believe the family were convinced that she had a "nervous breakdown" at the time of seeing the incident during the war. (I'm putting the phrase in inverted commas because it's the language they used, not a diagnosis.) It is of course easily possible that seeing newsreels of other explosions such as Hindenburg or R101 could have been a trigger for a recurrence of an episode of mental unwellness, but I'm told she was actually in her shocked state during the war.

 

I have to say that seeing the footage of Hindenburg in the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen was horrifying for me, and I knew how it ended.

 

Edward, thank you for providing the dates.

 

(We were discussing inherited family trauma - the ways in which trauma passes down the generations. My personal example is that my mum lost her mother, brother and cousin before she was 13, all suddenly and unpleasantly. As a young female she was already carrying the eggs which eventually became me and there is research evidence that the biological effects of trauma in the parent can be passed down to the children. So if young Florence of Helmet Row was traumatised by witnessing an airship explosion during the Great War, we were wondering how far that may have had an impact on her children.)

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johnboy

Helmet  Row still exists how many houses of the time are still there I do not know. Google search brings up pics and properties for sale or rent,

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Dragon

Thanks, John. I think their house would have been in the continuation of Helmet Row where it's now a path. Old maps show Helmet Row linking Norman Street and Old Street whereas now the actual road part stops at Mitchell Street. (I've just this minute looked - I've never been there.) There were several generations in the house; Florence, her parents, then later on Florence and her new husband, then their three children and possibly the odd aunt or uncle. I've been told it was cramped.

 

Her new husband had a MM and was very difficult to live with. She was simple and could be awkward. It was not an idyllic household.

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johnboy

Gwyn

Clerkenwell  and Findsbury were poor areas. not the affulent areas they are now, I think it was around 1930 that the LCC rehoused people from slum dwellings to Dagenham and Burnt Oak I have traced my family being in Clerkenwell from around 1800. Untill the 1960's they all lived in North London.

Edited by johnboy

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GreyC
4 hours ago, EDWARD1 said:

It also lists the air raids by Aeroplane 1916 28th Nov.19176/7th May, 13th June, 4/5th Sept, 24/25/26th, 29/30th Sept, 1/2 Oct. 31/1st Sept. 6th Dec, 18th Dec. 1918 28/29/30th Jan, 16/17/18/19th Feb, 7/8th March, 19/20th May.

 

Hi,

if it is of interest here a rare map (original is about 25 inches wide) from my collection showing the path of a long distance reconnaisance mission from the time they entered the British coast. The plane was from a specialised German squadron, the Feldfliegerabteilung 5 Lichtbild (Lb) on their 27th flight on 21st May 1918, one day after the last raid on London as given by Edward1. It was probably undertaken to assess possible damage. They flew at a hight of 5700 meters and used a wide-angled len to take the photos. The German National Archive holds the report based on the photographs (Lichtbilder) that were taken by the crew of this plane. This particular unit also flew missions over Calais for example. A Leutnant Erhard Milch, later Generalfeldmarschall Milch was deputy-or acting commander of this unit in 1917. On the map you see their way to London and back to the coast. The little squares marked a-z and aa each stand for a large photograph that in itself was made up of thirteen long panoramic views that were pasted together. This was called Reihenbild-Photographie (Serial-Photography). There were a number of units (at least 5 that I know of) that were technically responsible for this kind of aerial-photography  and developed and assessed them after the Feldfliegerabt. 5 Lb took them. From this flight I have photos of squares a, g and h. Unfortunately they are to large and too brittle to be scanned. But maybe this map/plan helps to understand how the German Airforce followed up on their raids.

GreyC

xLondonRaidsAReconnaissanceUlt21051918Feldflieger5Lichtbild_kl.jpg.5b1bf5995db5edb6bf786006f0f06b6b.jpg

 

Edited by GreyC

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Dragon

Thank you very much for sharing the diagram, GreyC, The description of their procedure is really interesting.

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