On the night of the 19th January 1915, two German Zeppelins appeared out of the dark on the Norfolk coast and conducted the first airship attack on British soil. They had set out for Humberside, but strong winds had seen them divert to the areas around Great Yarmouth, Sheringham and King’s Lynn.
It would be the first of over 50 Zeppelin attacks on the UK. Strategically, they proved largely ineffective, with night raids and bad weather conditions making it difficult to target specific areas. The large, lumbering airships, that would materialise out of the darkness accompanied by an “eerie throbbing sound”, became widely known as baby-killers.
Four people were killed during that first attack on Norfolk, while another 16 were injured. While the low number of casualties meant that many people declared the attacks a failure, it did draw attention to the country’s lack of air defence, and eventually lead to the formation of the RAF.
Despite the attacks, the British public were determined to remain stoic. Newspapers published articles advising readers not to bow down to the opposition’s attempt to spread “Zeppelinitis”, as well as cartoons depicting the airships as more of a novelty item than any real threat.