Tuesday, 20 March 2018

This Month in Hull: March

This is the first in a new series of blogs, which we will be posting regularly. The series will highlight some of the city's interesting historical happenings for a given month. So today, Verity launches our 'This Month in Hull' blog with some historical happenings from March 1915/16.  

On 5 March 1916, Hull came under attack from the air. Having failed to reach Scotland because of bad weather, two German zeppelins bombed Hull. The bombs, which included both incendiaries and explosive bombs, fell on the city centre, damaging parts of Paragon Station, Hull Grammar School and Holy Trinity Church. Seventeen people were killed and 52 injured. This, however, was not the first such raid on Hull. The first zeppelin raid had been on the 6 and 7 June 1915 and had resulted in the deaths of 24 people. During the First World War, Hull was bombed on at least 8 separate occasions, the courses of the Humber and River Hull making navigation to the city easy for the zeppelin pilots. 

A Zeppelin visiting the North East Coast, 1915

The raid of 5-6 March was terrifying for the inhabitants of Hull and many first-hand accounts of the devastation wreaked by the bombs were related in the local papers in the days following the attack. Shortly afterwards, details of the inquests held for those who died were also printed in the newspapers. The tragic stories were ones of family members seeing their loved ones killed but also ones of heroic rescue attempts.

Midnight raid on Market Place, Hull, by Zeppelin, 1915

The attack heightened calls for greater air raid defences and the provision of anti-aircraft guns for Hull. Since the first air raids, Hull had established their own warning system, using steam whistles (‘buzzers’) to alert the city’s inhabitants to the imminent threat. The largest buzzer in the country was made in Hull and was known affectionately as ‘Big Lizzie’. The city had also established air raid drills and following the raising of the alarm, 3000 volunteer Special Constables would walk the streets to ensure citizens were adhering to blackout rules. Like the Blitz during the Second World War, messengers, dispatch riders and stretcher bearers were also recruited and first aid stations were created. However, Hull had no means of retaliating against the bombardment and people could only look on helplessly as parts of the city were destroyed and neighbours were killed. Subsequent angry protests, however, quickly led to authorities providing mobile guns and searchlights for Hull’s defence.

Zeppelin damage in Queen Street, Hull, 1916

The attack in March 1916 was not the last. Hull suffered a further two attacks in 1916, one in 1917 and another two in 1918. Over the course of the First World War, there were 160 casualties in Hull from air raids. If you would like to learn more about the zeppelin raids on Hull during the First World War, please see Arthur Credland’s book The Hull Zeppelin Raids 1916-1918 [L 9.7083].

Verity, Archives Assistant

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