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Zepps overhead, a night of terror in the Black Country

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: April 17, 2014

  • Dudley Castle, the target of a misplaced incendiary bomb during the Zeppelin raid in 1916

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THE night of January 31, 1916, was when terror reigned over the skies of the Black Country as German Zeppelins indiscriminately dropped bombs, killing innocent folk and wrecking buildings across a large swathe of the region.

Ian Bott, a local historian of some distinction, will be bringing that infamous night back into focus on Tuesday, April 29, 2014, when he presents an illustrated talk entitled "Zeppelin Night of Terror" at St Bartholomew's Parish Church, Church Hill, Wednesbury. The doors of this beautiful Black Country church will open at 7pm and Ian will begin his journey back 98 years at 7.30pm prompt. Admission is £4, which includes refreshments.

The raid of January 31, 1916, was carried out by 9 Zeppelins, and was one of the largest air raids over Britain during the First World War. The Germans objective that winter eve was to bomb the port of Liverpool, extending the distance a Zeppelin airship could cover quite considerably. But poor navigation put the Black Country towns of Bradley, Tipton, Wednesbury and Walsall in the firing line.

Interestingly Ian has provided us with a picture of an incendiary bomb which is reputed to have been dropped on Dudley Castle. He also told us that according to observations made by a house maid on the night of January 31, 1916, at Whittington Hall near Kinver, and written in her diary, a droning noise was heard and then the shape of a flying machine was seen heading towards the industrial Black Country.

There is nothing Ian doesn't about Wednesbury history, and the impact of the Zeppelin raid on the town will all come to light during his talk. As a postscript to this feature he has provided us with a photograph taken on Saturday January 22 of a civic procession around the Borough of Wednesbury to exhibit a captured German gun. It shows High Bullen, outside the Horse & Jockey Inn, with the corner of Ladbury's Lane on the left.

The postcard was dated January 28, 1916, just three days before the Zeppelin raid, and the message to an address in Exeter reads, "This is part of the procession which paraded with a captured German gun last Saturday, love Nat"

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