What were the airship raids?During the First World War Germany became the first nation to conduct aerial bombings against Great Britain. These were carried out in airships, which were long cylindrical rigid structures filled with gas. The first type of airship constructed was called a Zeppelin after its inventor Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin and these were the main type of airship used during the First World War.
The boys of Princeton Street Elementary School were aged between 5 and 14. Some of the boys recorded their recollections of the airship raids. Their accounts reveal how unexpected the air raids were and how unprepared Britain was to deal with this new threat. Most of the boys were getting ready for bed or playing out on the street when the Zeppelins arrived, which shows that Londoners had no prior warning of either the attack of 8 September or that of 13 October. The boys expressed both excitement and fear at the sight of the air ships and most went out to inspect the damage once they had left.
PRINCETON STREET (B.) SCHOOL.
BEDFORD ROW, W.C.
Second London Air Raid
At half-past nine pm, my a uncle who had only been home from France five hours, and my aunt were talking to my mother. At twenty five minutes to ten my uncle and aunt left, and I sat talking with my mother. After a while I fell asleep. All of a sudden I was awakened by a reverberating roar, like lions when they are hungry. I leapt out of bed like a slice of greased lightning and slipped into my clothes. I thenm heard a sound like a tattoo on a kettle-drum. I lil looked out of a window and saw a searchlight flitting about. Someone shouts, ‘Put your lights out” and I obeyed. My mother and sisters were in the parlour. I went downstairs and looking up I saw an elongated shape not unlike a cigar and of a silver grey in colour There were little splashes of flame around it but none appeared to hit it. After a while I thought I’d like to have a look at a gun.
- Full title:
- Impressions of the airship raids over London on 8 September and 13 October 1915, as recorded the next day by boys of Princeton Street, Elementary School, Holborn
- Manuscript / Essay
- Held by:
- British Library
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- Add MS 39257-39258
- Article by:
- Bernard Wilkin
- The war machine
From Zeppelin airships to propaganda leaflet drops, Bernard Wilkin explores the significant role of aerial warfare in World War One – where it was used on a large scale for the first time.
- Article by:
- Ian Cooke
Curator Ian Cooke discusses the ways in which propaganda influenced children’s perceptions of World War One, encouraging them to develop particular values and to contribute to the war effort.