The Zeppelin Raid

On the night of the 13th October 1915, England experienced one of the worst air raids of the First World War, when five German zeppelins flew in formation with the intention of bombing London.

Oberleutnant-zur-See Werner Peterson, in charge of Imperial Navy Zeppelin L16, was part of a group of five zeppelins which arrived off the coast of Norfolk together at around 7.30pm. They took their bearings from Cromer and Great Yarmouth, and then waited for it to get dark. At a height of around 6,500 feet they then set off for their target - London.

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Only one, L15, found London at all.

Peterson and his crew mistook the curve of the river Lea and the lights from warehouses along it for the Thames and the east end of London and dropped their load of 48 incendiary & explosive bombs before returning home where they reported a successful mission.

The first bombs fell in Hertford at around 10pm on the Folly. The zeppelin’s course then took it over Bull Plain. Four men came out of Lombard House (the then Conservative Club) to see what was happening and they were all killed. The explosions in Bull Plain also severely damaged several of the houses and killed a 4 year old boy in his bed.

Old Cross was hit next with incendiaries which damaged three houses and left several people badly burned. Houses were also damaged at nearby North Road where the only military casualty of the raid was hit and killed, Acting Bombadier, Arthur John Cox of the Norfolk Regiment

A high explosive bomb fell immediately outside the gates of Hertford County Hospital and broke 200 panes of glass and around a quarter of the iron railings surrounding the hospital were shattered. Some of the iron railings came through the front windows of the hospital building. Two workmen, standing in Garrats Mill Yard, across the road from the hospital were killed.

Overall some 71 people were killed across London and East Anglia that night and a further 128 injured - the heaviest casualty list from an air raid during the war. Seventeen of the dead were soldiers and sailors.

Visitors flocked to see Hertford the next day, rumour suggested it had been wiped off the map, and extra police were summoned to maintain order.

The Hertford zeppelin victims

Nine people were killed in the zeppelin attack on Hertford. Seven working men, one soldier and a four year old boy. Unusually their names are all listed on the town’s war memorial.

James L Gregory, 55, organist of All Saints and professor of music
Ernest Thomas Jolly, 27, bank cashier
John Henry Jevons, 67, Borough Surveyor of Hertford
George Cartledge, 56, linen draper
Charles Waller, 43, labourer
Arthur Hart, 51, labourer
George Stephen Game, 4
Charles Spicer, 30, labourer
Arthur James Cox of Yarmouth, bombardier in the Norfolk Regiment, stationed in Hertford.