The Zeppelin raids of the Great War were the first military attack on London for centuries. These enormous dirigibles caused widespread fear and isolated but devastating destruction. A plaque in Farringdon marks the destruction of a raid in September 1915
The lasting effect of the Zeppelin raiders that terrorised London in 1915 and 1916 pales into insignificance compared with the damage caused by German bombers a quarter of a century later. Online maps of the two show the difference in scale: a forest of bomb sites from the Blitz compared with a sites few dotted around London in the Great War. However, when they did strike, the air-ships could cause considerable damage.
Some of the most destructive Zeppelin raids came in early September 1915, months before the first Zeppelin was shot down over Britain and a full year before British airman started being able to shoot down the raiders.
First World War.com neatly summarises one of the raids that month:
The most successful Zeppelin raid on London in the entire war was on the 8th of September 1915. This raid caused more than half a million pounds of damage, almost all of it from the one Zeppelin, the L13, which managed to bomb central London. This single raid caused more than half the material damage caused by all the raids against Britain in 1915.
Among the buildings destroyed was at 61 Farringdon Road in central London. The destruction of the building is marked on the building erected in its place in 1917.
Today, the building is called the ‘Zeppelin Building’. This was, of course, not its name in 1915. In the 1915 London street directory, the occupiers are listed as John Phillips (Brass foundry and lamp Co.) Ltd. and West and Price, manufacturing jewellers. Clearly Phillips and Co were better placed to cast the plaque on the building, which bears their governing director’s name.
It may be more subtle than the impact of the Blitz and the V weapons, but here and there – as at Cleopatra’s Needle – the German air raids on London left a lasting mark.