Stop 9. Dark Shadows in the Skies of York: The Zeppelin Raids, 1916.

Walk along Peasholme Green to the Black Swan Pub. Cross the road and look for the entrance to The New School House Gallery, where you’ll find a garden and benches to sit on.

 There were numerous Zeppelin airship attacks on the north of England during the war, and the German Naval Airship Division targeted York on three occasions. ‘Rain and mist’ was the weather forecast on 2nd May 1916 as the distinctive shadow of the Zeppelin appeared in the skies of the city. The airship dropped sixteen bombs, inflicting terror on the citizens of York. It passed over Nunthorpe Avenue where according to George Benson, a well known local historian of the time, “it dropped a bomb which blew off a lady’s arm, killed one of her daughters outright and injured another daughter in the spine”. It then continued its deadly course towards the city centre causing damage to Upper Price Street, Caroline Street and Peasholme Green. The latter was the scene of the most casualties, with six people killed and one injured. Overall, the May raid saw nine people killed, twenty-seven injured and substantial destruction to many homes.


On 25th September 1916, eight airships left their North German sheds to raid England once again. L-14, commanded by Hauptmann von Manger, headed towards York. However, the German aircrew were caught by surprise when they encountered the city’s newly prepared defences. The powerful anti-aircraft gun and searchlight at Acomb picked out the Zeppelin as it flew across the city. After performing a number of manoeuvres to try and avoid the ceaseless firing of the gun, the airship then managed to continue its course and dropped bombs to the east of the city centre. The next bomb caused the most serious damage of the September raid, falling between Holy Trinity church in Heworth and a house occupied by a Dr. Lyth. All the windows in the church including a stained glass memorial were smashed, and part of Dr .Lyth’s house was partly demolished. Fortunately Dr. Lyth himself been warned of the raid and he and his family had already evacuated their home. The airship subsequently flew away in a North Easterly direction. There were no casualties, although a woman did die of shock.

The final Zeppelin visited York on 27th November 1916. Lights which would have provided the Zeppelin a valuable guide were quickly extinguished by the police and the city was plunged into darkness. The searchlight hastily picked out the airship and the anti aircraft gun peppered the Zeppelin with bullets. In its swift retreat, the Zeppelin dropped twelve bombs on Haxby Road, Fountayne Street and Wigginton road. On this occasion the only casualty was a single injured person.

George Benson wrote that the November raid on the city “provided the citizens with a thrilling spectacle and enthusiasm ran high when the marksmen proved the victors”. This triumphant atmosphere gave the citizens of York a brief respite from the countless stories of loss and bereavement from the Western Front. York’s resistance to the Zeppelin attacks united the people of the city and established a new belief that Britain could end this war victorious.

Stop 9. Dark Shadows in the Skies of York: The Zeppelin Raids, 1916.


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