The grave of Samuel Smith in Great Yarmouth, the first of four people killed in the bombing of the Norfolk coast in 1915 (Photo: courtesy of Great Yarmouth Borough Council)

Remembering the UK's first air raid casualties - Norfolk January 19

Posted on on 12 January 2015
Share |

The 100th anniversary of the first Zeppelin air raids on the UK will be remembered at events in Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn on January 19th 2015.

Four people were killed in the bombing of the east coast towns by Zeppelins in 1915, attacks underlining an ominous development in modern warfare.

The giant airships had already been used to strike the Belgian cities of Liège and Antwerp in the opening weeks of the First World War, killing a number of civilians during the siege of Antwerp.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council is inviting the public to two remembrance services on January 19th, while a light show in King's Lynn heralds the start of a week of commemorative activities.

Great Yarmouth's Mayor, Marlene Fairhead, will lay a wreath at the grave of Samuel Smith, a 53-year-old man who became the British civilian killed by aerial bombardment.

Samuel Smith's grave has been refurbished, together with that of 72-year-old Martha Taylor, the second victim of the Great Yamouth bombing.

Councillor Fairhead said: “Samuel Smith and Martha Taylor were the first British civilians to be killed by aerial bombardment, prefiguring the deadly air raids that took so many more lives during the Second World War.

“In 1915, their burials were carefully arranged to avoid publicity, so it is appropriate during the centenary of the First World War to remember them more publicly. The public is most welcome to attend and I would especially like to invite along any descendants of the victims.”

A ceremony will also be held in St. Peter's Plain, the town centre district which suffered the worst damage.

Bomb damage in King's Lynn (Image supplied courtesy of True's Yard Fisherfolk Museum)

King's Lynn

Two Zeppelins carried out the Norfolk raids, the second of them moving along the coast to King's Lynn where the bombing killed a further two civilians, Percy Goate and Alice Gazley.

The town's historic Custom House will provide the backdrop for a Centenary light show, running each evening from Monday January 19th to Sunday January 25th.

The opening night will additionally feature a soundscape and pyrotechnics, drawing to a close with 100 red flares floating across The Wash.

It's been created on behalf of the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk, as part of 'Zeppelin Week,' a series of events organised by the West Norfolk and King’s Lynn Archaeological Society.

Cllr Elizabeth Nockolds, Borough Council Cabinet Member said: “The Zeppelin strikes represented a change in the strategy of war and brought, in a very real sense, war to the doorsteps of people living in King’s Lynn.

"It is important to remember both the tragic night of the bombing and the wider role of our community in the overall war effort. 

"The light show, along with the talks, conferences and activities organised by West Norfolk and King’s Lynn Archaeological Society, will give people the opportunity to explore this part of our history and to remember the courage and sacrifice of those involved.”

Zeppelin airships were pioneered by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin at the start of the 20th century. London suffered its first air raid on May 31st 1915. Paris was also bombed by Zeppelins during the First World War.

To discover more, visit the websites of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk, and the West Norfolk and King’s Lynn Archaeological Society.

Sources: Great Yarmouth Borough Council; Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk; Wikipedia; various

Images courtesy of Great Yarmouth Borough Council (Samuel Smith's grave); True's Yard Fisherfolk Museum (King's Lynn bomb damage)

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News