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Florence Cole as a child

Air raids over Britain
in World War One

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Deaths in air raids

Contemporary child's drawing of a German biplane swooping down in World War One

A German biplane swooping over Edmonton in the First World War - contemporary drawing by my uncle, Bill Clarke, a child at the time.

The tremendous death toll of the 1914-18 War was borne by the soldiers fighting on the overseas fronts, not by civilians. As children, we were too young to understand death, loss of mobility or disfigurement. So the variety of sights associated with the war on the home front were fascinating and even enjoyable.

Air raids were mainly along the east coast which the German planes and zeppelin air-ships could most easily reach. We in London did have air raids, but they were nowhere near as lethal as those of the Second World War because the weapons were less advanced.

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The sky in air raids

When there was an air-raid, we children loved to see the searchlights criss-crossing the sky at night, and it was a highlight for us to see a German aeroplane caught in one of them.

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People's reactions to air raids

I remember one evening in particular when a German plane was brought down in flames. The brilliance and colour of the display lit up the whole sky and my brothers and I were mesmerised at the sight of it, and thrilled and proud at what we regarded as a mini-victory for our country.

Our mother, though, did not smile. She simply remarked on the sadness for some family, somewhere. With hindsight, as an adult, having lived through the air raids of the Second World War, I of course feel the same, and am ashamed of our childlike reactions.

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Local air raids

Zeppelin crash

Zepellin airship

Reports of zeppelin bombings on the Eley munitions factory show one bomb hitting it, but not detonating on October 13th 1915. (Enfield At War 1914-1918, Geoffrey Gillam, page 30)

Zeppelin attacks during 1916 (3rd September and 1-2nd October) were shot down with no major damage done within Enfield. (Tottenham And Edmonton Weekly Herald microfilm September & October 1916)

Information courtesy of
Enfield Local Studies Centre & Archive

On October the 1st 1916, when I was ten, a German air ship did manage to reach near us in Edmonton. It was brought down in flames at nearby Cuffley and made headline news because it came so close to the centre of London and because it killed the most renowned of the German airship commanders, Heinrich Mathy.

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