The First World War ushered in many new and increasingly deadly weapons, along with strategies for using them. No more so than Germany’s sustained aerial bombing campaign against Britain, which opened an entirely new theatre of war — the Home Front. It was a shocking awakening to 20th Century warfare for the military and civilians alike.
The centenary commemorations of the war, ending in 2018, brought renewed attention to this campaign, so often hidden in the shadow of the Blitz of the Second World War. Many Britons heard, some for the first time, how taking on the German airships and aeroplanes in this First Blitz laid the ground rules for how the nation would face up to and ultimately defeat that later aerial campaign.
There are still fascinating glimpses of this first air campaign to be found in the streets of our towns and cities. Often unnoticed, each tells its own dramatic tale of death and destruction, or maybe of heroism and narrow escapes. In museums the length and breadth of Britain there are tantalising reminders of the air raids, from complete aircraft that defended this country to relics of great Zeppelins that initially brought terror to the British population but ultimately were doomed to become nothing more than great heaps of burnt and twisted wreckage.
This first-time assault from the air both terrified and fascinated our forebears. Unexpectedly, a significant trade in air raid souvenirs developed, from postcards of wrecked houses and bomb craters to china models of Zeppelins and their bombs, and pieces of Zeppelin wreckage too. And amongst the 100 Objects brought together in this book, there can also be found tales of resilience and determination as well as humour, which all have their place in the story of this First Blitz.
Whether you choose to read this book in the comfort of your own home or are encouraged to get out and explore the visible heritage of this dramatic time in Britain’s history, spare a thought for the courage and sacrifice displayed by those on both sides who played their part in the story it tells.