Memories of the Zepellin raid.

Memories of a narrow escape from death for Sally Penny as she recounts the Zeppelin raid.  (published in local Newspaper in1988)

Sally who used to live at her Gran’s house in King Street, Wednesbury, was at the pictures when the Zeppelins struck.

When she returned from the Kings Hill Picture House, just off the High Bullen, opposite the undertakers, they found that the house had been destroyed.  Most of the surrounding houses were also flattened.

“Gran received compensation because she owned the house” said Sally. “But Mum received nothing, although we lived with Gran and our furniture was there”.

After the raid they rented rooms at the back of Hall’s china shop.  At this time Sally’s Dad was in the army. When he returned, Sally’s sisters Edie and Edna were born.  Edna she died as a baby when Sally had not long started school.  Things became even worse when they were evicted.

“We had nowhere to go.  All we had was a kitchen table, a wooden armchair, some little kitchen chairs, a corner cupboard, a side table, the beds and some trunks”.

They stayed with various neighbours until Gran got a room on the Holyhead Road, which they shared with a Mrs. Blundel.  Gran died there when Sally was 10.

Then they moved in with her uncle.  Her brother Cyril and sister Marie were born at this time.  Marie also died as a baby.  Sally said “my Father was home from the war to a place they said was a land fit for heroes to live in.

“They didn’t give father a council house until I was 15.  We moved to 48 Kilvert Road”.

Sally can remember the days before the raid when she went down the bottom of the road to a little shop to fetch a halfpenny worth of treacle in a jam jar and a penny worth of Quaker Oats!

She recalls Halls shop which used to sell second hand clothes, and the sweet factory, just off Cross Street. Sally and her friends used to fight each other with pigs bladders which they got from a nearby slaughter house.

Other landmarks were: the Cross Keys pub at the bottom of Cross Street, Denton’s cake shop in King Street and Grainger’s sweet shop.

In the Second World War her father was too ill to join up.  He had been gassed and shot in the First World War.  Instead he joined the Home Guards.  He died in coronation year, 1953.

Sally Penny's Dad Ted

Sally Penny’s Dad Ted

“What a sad story and yet all too common.
And what a lot of old memories Sally Penny has left us, when she decided to put pen to paper.
This is ‘real’ history, and its all thanks to people like Sally Penny, that we know so much”!

Goodnight Wednesbury.


1916 by Estelle Mzz

This lovely but sad story was posted in sections to our THOW Face book page. I didn’t want to change a thing, so you see it as it was posted.


The Great Zeppelin Raid – Wednesbury 31st January to 1st February 1916
1916 is a year to remember for Wednesbury.
I refer to 1916 because it was a hard time, our brave Wednesbury lads had gone off to fight and many not conscripted, but went willingly to fight for our freedom, family and way of life.
January 31st to 1st February Wednesbury was hit bad when The Great Zeppelin raid came. I though it was very sad that the people who died were never remembered in a marked grave of any kind. All 13 of these poor souls were buried together in a grassed area in Wood Green Cemetery. The interesting update in 2003 remarks that this page is the only one that remembers them by name
So, in case you haven’t seen the web site I have listed the names to remember and say a prayer:
January 31st, 1916
Mary Ann Lee, aged 59
Rachel Higgs, aged 36
Frank Thompson Linney, aged 36
Susan Howells, aged 30
Matilda Mary Burt, aged 10*
Joseph Horton Smith, aged 37
Ina Smith, aged 7
Nellie Smith, aged 13
Thomas Horton Smith, aged 11
Mary Emma Evans, aged 5
Edward Shilton, aged 33
Betsy Shilton, aged 39
Albert Gordon Madeley, aged 21
Hellfire Corner Web site further notes:
In November 2012 a new memorial appeared in Wood Green Cemetery, commemorating the victims of the Zeppelin raid. There was no prior announcement of the placing of the memorial in the cemetery and at the time of writing (December 4th) no-one knows who provided it. No doubt the identity of the donor will become known in due course.
What a great act of kindness to the families of these Wednesbury folk. God Bless the person who has placed this stone here
Now I haven’t quite finished about my story of Wednesbury and the eventful year of 1916. Wednesbury was hit with Zeppelin raid and deaths, everyone in Wednesbury would have known someone in a family who never returned from the front line. Then the terrible news of the tragedy of the fallen on the first day of the battle of the Somme. 58,000 men during the battle fell, the bravest and the best of British men and boys, a third of that number fell on the first day. On a personal note, my husbands two uncles both died only in their 20s during this battle, and his grandmother’s brother also died. We cannot imagine how Wednesbury folk would have carried on as morale must have been at an all time low. I will continue my story on 1916 on another post…….to be continued…
1916 continued….There was a thing called the moving image,Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplain and all these on the screen in the very first cinema in Wednesbury….with all our technology we cannot imagine how exciting this must have been, The Picture House opened in Walsall Street on 25th March, 1915. In 1938 its name was changed to the Gaumont. The sight of a train coming towards you would make people scream and even faint.
….continued…with the new moving pictures came people who toured the country with their new technology of the moving image, they would look for events all over the country, and go along and film these events, then show the film in the town it was filmed in, imagine seeing yourself on the local cinema….what excitement, I would love to be a fly on the wall to see their faces. These film entrepreneurs at the start of cinematic history gave us images of life of ordinary people. Now for the best bit Wednesbury ….
…1916 had one bright spark in the darkness of such a fateful year…News of a Wednesbury man (my great uncle) Joseph Davies had been awarded the Victoria Cross. This must have been a boost to morale for the town and the country. These travelling film makers heard of Joseph Davies, and came to Wednesbury on the day he returned at Wednesbury Train Station, to greet him was his Mother and grandmother, imagine my excitement when I saw this film for the first time….to see the faces in motion of my great grandmother and her mother. Because of copyright I have been allowed to have a copy, this took me 11 years to continually beg for it. A few months ago I pleaded for the last time, but with copyright I cannot upload the video, it’s available for my family to view anytime. However, I have got round this and been able to take some snapshots from the day. Enjoy the following images xxxx
Joseph arrived at Wednesbury Railway 1916 and crowds throng the streets waiting to see their hero..
Joseph arrived at Wednesbury Railway 1916 and crowds throng the streets waiting to see their hero.

meetingThe mayor and dignitries of Wednesbury greet Jo

The mayor and dignitaries of Wednesbury greet Jo.

And they all head off in a horse drawn carriage around the crowds and accompanied with bands and marching men, I cried the first time I saw this my grandmothers mother and grandmotherThe who of Wednesbury hang out of windows and crowd the entire town flying their flags and waving

And they all head off in a horse drawn carriage around the crowds and accompanied with bands and marching men, I cried the first time I saw this my grandmothers mother and grandmother.

and more crowds And more crowds!

Posted in WW1

The Great Zeppelin raid in Wednesbury, the night of Jan 31st 1916

Posted on THOW on October 8, 2012

The great Zeppelin raid in Wednesbury
The night of Jan 31st 1916

This is an amazing story about Wednesbury at war. I have had to condense this story somewhat to post it here but the whole story can be read at the link below.

On January 31st, 1916, nine airships left their bases in Germany intending to make a statement about the Germans’ ability to raid the United Kingdom.
Their orders were to fly across the entire breadth of England en masse and bomb Liverpool..
Kapitänleutnant Max Dietrich, commanding the L 21, was the first to cross the North Sea, passing over the Norfolk coast at 5.50 p.m.
To the West he and his men could see a clear sunset, promising good weather. But inland mists and fogs were already forming around the heavily-populated areas, making ground observation difficult.
Dietrich, using a combination of calculation and observation whenever the clouds provided a gap through which he could see thought he saw Manchester below and decided not to drop any bombs, saving them and the surprise they would cause, for Liverpool.

He then saw twinkling lights & Dietrich concluded that he must be over Birkenhead. He ordered action stations and began his approach, intending to fly over Birkenhead, crossing the Mersey and so on to Liverpool itself.

At 9.00 p.m. on 31st January, 1916, the people of Liverpool who were out and about heard no droning engines to make them look upwards. There was no fear. There was no panic. There was no danger. because Dietrich’s calculations had been wrong, he was not over Liverpool.

His “Birkenhead” was Tipton!

His dark, featureless Mersey was an area of industrial wasteland and collieries known as Lea Brook.

And his jewel, his “Liverpool” was Wednesbury – our town.

Dietrich’s bombing run began.
Bombs fell on Tipton and Bradley and then the first bombs fell on Wednesbury.

They landed in the King Street area, near to a large factory.
A woman, Mrs. Smith, of 14, King Street, left her house to see what the noise was.
A little way down the street she saw fires and presumed an explosion at the factory.
She walked towards the fires but bombs began to fall behind her. She turned and hurried home, to find her house demolished and all her family killed.
The bodies of three members of her family – her husband Joseph, daughter Nellie aged 13 and son Thomas, 11, were quickly located.
The youngest girl Ina, just seven, was lying dead on the roof of the factory. Her body would not be found until the morning.

The first Wednesbury deaths had occurred.

The streetlights were out, people moved out into the street and saw the Zeppelin.
There it was, high above the burning Crown Tube Works at the end of Union.
They heard the engines begin to race and saw the machine swing towards them.

A householder ran out and opened the heavy doors to his cellar, which normally formed part of the pavement. “Down here, quick!” he shouted, and many took him up on his offer.
Others stayed out in the open to watch the Zeppelin.

Thomas Morris told later how when he reached his mother-in-law’s house in Union Street he found that it was one of those demolished and among the rubble he found five bodies – those of his wife, two of his children and his wife’s parents.

After leaving Wednesbury, flying the L21 Dietrich headed North for Walsall. The first bomb there landed on a Congregational church.
A preparation class of children from a local primary school was meeting in the church but no-one was injured.
Dietrich flew over the centre of Walsall and his final bomb, fell. He then headed back to base in Nordholz.

Was it all over? No!
In less than a quarter of an hour they would see another Zeppelin bombing Wednesbury.

About three miles to the South Kapitänleutnant Loewe consulted his maps.
Loewe had not been in contact with Dietrich in L21, but appears to have drawn the same mistaken conclusions as he flew over England.

He, too, believed he had located Liverpool!

Below him, he could see fires, still burning, convincing him that he had at last reached his target.
As people slept, Commander Loewe gave his orders.
Wednesbury was in for it again.

Loewe dropped his bombs in the same area as Dietrich, several falling on Wednesbury.
This second raider caused only minor damage and there were no casualties.
Because of the lateness of the hour, there were few witnesses and Loewe’s attack caused less of a sensation than Dietrich’s

For Loewe, for his crew and for L19, this would be the last flight. With engine difficulties the L19 came down in the North Sea.

The floating wreck was spotted by a British steam trawler , the “King Stephen,” whose captain refused to take them on board, fearing (as he said later) that they might overpower him and his men and force them to sail to a German port.
The airship sank, no survivers.

Sadly …Dietrich and L21, returned home safely, to raid again.

The raid on Wednesbury and the nearby towns was covered in the next evening’s newspapers.
There were photographs but due to censorship, no towns were named in the report.
It made no difference. Everyone in Wednesbury knew what had happened, and where.

Today, hardly anyone knows about that night,
The cast-iron lamp standards in King Street, peppered with shrapnel holes, were replaced at about the same time.
The simple little wooden memorial which used to be seen fixed to a wall in King Street, bearing the names of those killed, disappeared many years ago, when the houses in King Street were demolished.
Just one section of wall remains, its elderly bricks still bearing the scars of a bomb which fell nearby.


The author of the above tried later to find the graves of the Wednesbury victims but there was no sign of any graves which mentioned the raid.
After a while with help from Local Authority’s Cemetery Department he was able to locate the site of the now-unmarked graves.

The Zeppelin victims lie in one anonymous section of a large grassed area.
Not far away are the graves of some Great War soldiers who died of wounds.
Of course, these men have Commonwealth War Graves Commission gravestones which are carefully tended.

The 13 Zeppelin victims – also victims of the war – have no memorial at all, apart from this one here below:

January 31st, 1916
Mary Ann Lee aged 59
Rachel Higgs aged 36
Frank Thompson Linney aged 36
Susan Howells aged 30
Matilda Mary Burt aged 10
Joseph Horton Smith, aged 37
Ina Smith, aged 7
Nellie Smith, aged 13
Thomas Horton Smith, aged 11
Mary Emma Evans aged 5
Edward Shilton aged 33
Betsy Shilton, aged 39
Albert Gordon Madeley aged 21

How very very sad.

The full story is here:


October 8, 2012

A little update on the previous post; I have just found some news about the L21 Zepplin that bombed Wednesbury.
It is reported that the L21 made 17 reconnaisance and 10 attack missions on England dropping 14,442 kg of bombs.

On the 28th November 1916 it was intercepted and destroyed of Lowestoft by fighter pilot Flt Lt Cadbury firing phosphor rounds.

I salute you Flt Lt Cadbury!