Zeppelins cause havoc on the minds of the people back home

The threat of bombing by a Zeppelin air raid brought the war to the shores of Britain

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On 16 January 1915, the First World War would have felt a whole lot closer to millions of people living in southern England, for this was the day that the Germans launched their first bombing raid on Britain.

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The Zeppelin airship attacks of 1915 and 1916 caused only a tiny fraction of the damage wrought by the Luftwaffe 20 years later, yet they had a significant psychological impact. Suddenly everyone, whether in the trenches on the home front, felt under attack.

Throughout 1915, Zeppelins bombed the south-east regularly – the first raid on London in May killed seven and injured 35 – with relative impunity, as they flew too high for most British planes.

The most successful raid on the capital arrived on 8 September 1915 when Zeppelins caused half a million pounds’ worth of damage. There were no anti-aircraft weaponry to combat the attacks, this was a brand new concept for a new form of warfare. 

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By 1916, better defences – including planes armed with incendiary bullets – were beginning to bring an end to the Zeppelins’ reign of terror, but not before they had killed some 550 Britons.