WWI centenary: The terrifying Zeppelin menace that plagued London during the First World War

The German Zeppelin bombing campaign of London during WWI has been brought to the fore again days before the centenary of the war in a film made by schoolchildren.

The first ever example of strategic bombing in history - a tactic used in total war with the goal of defeating the enemy by destroying their morale or economy - was during the First World War

Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II initially banned attacks on the capital because of his close connection to the royal family, but by mid-1915 these restrictions had been lifted.

The airships, which were notoriously difficult to bring down and often wildly inaccurate with their bombs, proved to be a terrifying menace.

The Zeppelin menace that plagued London in the First World War (Third Sector Media)

An educational and creative media project undertaken by pupils at Westminster Academy sought to uncover the impact of these bombing raids.

The students, aged 13 and 14 years old, examined and explored the subject, produced a short film and then involved and shared their experience and knowledge with the rest of their school.

They shared what they learned by organising two screening events for students, teachers and local residents.

A plaque commemorating a Zeppelin raid in Queen's Square (Third Sector Media/Westminster Academy)

Krassimir Damianov, the director of Third Sector media, who worked with the students on the project, told the Standard: “Lots of people thought that the Zeppelins raids happened during the Second World War not the First World War.

"It was the first time London had been bombed from the air.

“This strategy was used by the Germans during the Zeppelins raids as a tactic to threaten the British into ending trench warfare.

“The Zeppelin raids were targeting the home front - the first time civilians were targeted during a war.

"The pupils visited the sites in London where bombs were dropped."

One notorious raid in September 1915 began in Stoke Newington and worked its way south, randomly dropping bombs in Holborn and Clerkenwell and continuing into the City of London before heading back to Germany.

The students visited 61 Farringdon Lane and Queen’s Square, both locations where bombs were dropped during the raid.

A plaque commemorating where a bomb was dropped in 61 Farrington Road (Third Sector Media/Westminster Academy)

Mr Damianov added: “We went to see a plaques at 61 Farrington Road and The Queen’s Square - the buildings was totally destroyed during the Zeppelin raids.

“But the damage was mainly psychological - the Zeppelins caused terror amongst the civilians.”

Londoners endured numerous similar bombing raids from Zeppelins as the war went on.

“The damage was mainly psychological - the Zeppelins caused terror amongst the civilians,” Mr Damianov added.

“One of the raids’ fatalities was Lena Ford who wrote the wartime song, Keep the Home Fires Burning.”

Ms Ford, who collaborated with Ivor Novello on Keep the Home Fires Burning, was killed along with her son Walter in March 1918 when a 1,000kg bomb was dropped on Warrington Crescent, Maida Vale.

They were among 12 people to die during the raid and the first US citizens to die in London during the war.

Mr Damianov worked closely with Westminster Academy history teacher and head of humanities Pavel Charitorizhsky on the project.

Mr Chartorizhsky said: “The Zeppelins Over London project was great in terms of helping students develop their historical skills.

“Apart from it being a true case of active learning, with the students experiencing history first hand through an analysis of primary materials through visiting the London archives, bomb sites and through historians and authors, the students also got to find out a little bit about the film maker's craft.

“All the students worked particularly hard and also got to enjoy themselves, despite not realising beforehand just how hard it is to get simple interview snippets on film and other factors affecting filming such as light and sound.

“I was particularly proud of the way a large part of the project was entirely student led. The 6th formers came up with their own questions for historians and the younger students created their own narrative presentation for use in the film.

“All in all, it was a truly enriching experience for the students and myself, and one that we are all grateful for.”

First World War plagued London
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