Friday, 5 April 2013

Civilians during the First World War


The First World War put the civilian population in the firing line for possibly the first time since 1066.   The independence of the British Isles was under threat in a more terrible way than since the threat posed by the Spanish Armada or even Napoleon.

On 16th December 1914, Scarborough, Whitby and Hartlepool were bombarded from the sea by German warships – 137 people were killed and 592 were injured.  That was just the beginning of the First World War in the air.

According to Arch Whitehouse in his book “The Zeppelin Fighters” (Robert Hale Ltd., 1968), there were 208 Zeppelin air raids, 200 of which took place at night, on the British Isles between 1915 and 1918.  5,907 bombs were released, 528 people were killed and 1,156 people were injured.  Eye witnesses at the time attested to their feelings of terror.

Whitehouse goes on to describe the exploits of the pioneers of flight, both in the Royal Flying Corps (which became the Royal Air Force in 1918) and the Royal Naval Air Service, whose dedication and bravery undoubtedly ensured the continued liberty of our islands during the 1914 – 1918 War.

Most people in the UK had families involved in the Great War. My  Grandfather joined the Royal Artillery as a boy soldier in 1905.  By 1914, he was a Sergeant and his Regiment was about to deploy when war broke out, so he was among the first to go to France.   

It came to me today, that however good the Royal Artillery were in those days, they were not used to firing at planes or Zeppelins because these had not been used in anger before then. Planes were still very new in 1914.   

Mother used to tell me that after WW1 her Father used to go with his Battery on exercise on Salisbury Plain and he would always go up in the aircraft that towed the 'Queen Bee' in order to guide and better train the gunners how to aim at planes.   Now I understand why this would have been necessary!

LL
5th April 2013

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