Zeppelins Bomb English Towns

The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that shaped our modern world. Erik Sass is covering the events of the war exactly 100 years after they happened. This is the 164th installment in the series. 

January 19, 1915: Zeppelins Bomb English Towns 

“He had seen airships flying low and swift over darkened and groaning streets; watched great buildings, suddenly red-lit amidst the shadows, crumple at the smashing impact of bombs; witnessed for the first time in his life the grotesque, swift onset of insatiable conflagrations.” Science fiction when H.G. Wells wrote his serial novel “The War in the Air” in 1907, just a few years later these words proved all too prophetic, as the Great War brought the first aerial bombardment of civilian targets, including the first raid on Britain on January 19, 1915. 

When the war started Germany had a fleet of 18 zeppelins, which grew to over 100 by 1918. Although their large size and relatively low speed might seem to make them an easy target, zeppelins were difficult to destroy before the invention of tracer bullets containing burning magnesium that could set the hydrogen alight, and they could carry a much larger bomb payload for longer distances than any airplane then in operation (the largest payload carried by a zeppelin during the war was seven tons). Eventually both sides would build larger planes as heavy bombers, but at the beginning of the war zeppelins were the best option for long-range bombing raids. 

Strategic bombing became a more attractive option as the war on the Western Front settled into stalemate and the Allied blockade began to squeeze German civilians, prompting calls for retaliation against the enemy’s home front. In November 1914 Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, Germany’s most successful prewar politician, demanded firebomb raids against London, but Kaiser Wilhelm II balked at this, supposedly for fear his relatives in the British royal family might suffer (King George V was his cousin) so the first raids targeted British coastal towns, which were also easier to reach. 

After an unsuccessful raid on December 21, 1914, the Germans tried again with better (or worse) results on the night of January 19-20, 1915, when the zeppelins L-3 and L-4 bombed the towns of Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn in Norfolk in northeastern England; a third zeppelin, L-6, was forced to turn back by engine trouble. The zeppelins dropped a total of eight bombs as well as dozens of incendiary devices on the towns and surrounding villages, killing four people and injuring 16.

The zeppelin raids succeeded in spreading fear in the British civilian population.  One young Englishwoman, Hallie Miles, wrote in her diary: 

It is a specially anxious time just now. Last night there was a German raid on the East Coast by Zeppelins and Aeroplanes… There have been several killed by the cruel bombs. So we are on the tip-toe of expectancy that they will continue these visits, and try hard to get London. Such awful things are being prophesied: it makes one’s heart stand still to hear of all that may be going to happen to our beloved England.

Although these casualties were relatively light in comparison to the continuing carnage on the Western Front, the aerial attack on civilian populations, coming close on the heels of the naval bombardment of Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby, shocked the British public and (like the naval raid) soon became fodder for British propaganda and recruiting efforts (above, a recruiting poster). Subsequent raids over the course of the war, including zeppelin and plane attacks on London, sparked more outrage as well as fierce criticism of the British military for failing to protect civilians. As Miles noted: “It is strange to read of trenches being made in England, and full of soldiers too, all ready and on the watch. And yet with all the watchfulness from air, land, and sea, the Germans seem able to slip in and take us unawares… We have to be prepared to fly to our basements, and have candles ready, and ‘lamps trimmed’…” Mounting criticism eventually led to expansion of the Royal Flying Corps, which received responsibility for home defense in February 1916.

However it’s worth noting that there was never any mass hysteria, as the Germans hoped, and some people were positively blasé. Another Englishwoman, Helen Franklin, was more curious than fearful: “Some people take [them] awfully seriously, and go about with respirators in their pockets for poisoned gases. I do wish I could see one, it would be so thrilling, and so awfully nice to swank about after. I can’t get up any panic about it…”

See the previous installment or all entries.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

The 10 Best Shark Movies of All Time, According to Rotten Tomatoes

MCA/Universal Home Video
MCA/Universal Home Video

If the ongoing popularity of shark films has taught us anything, it’s that we simply can’t spend enough screen time with these predators, who can famously ruin a beach day with one swift gnash of their teeth. And even if shark attacks are far less common than Hollywood would have us believe, it’s still entertaining to watch a great white stalk an unsuspecting fictional swimmer—or, in the case of 2013’s Sharknado, whirl through the air in a terrifying cyclone.

To celebrate Shark Week this week, Rotten Tomatoes has compiled a list of the best shark movies of all time, ranked by aggregated critics' score. Unsurprisingly topping the list is Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic Jaws, which quite possibly ignited our societal fixation on great white sharks. The second-place finisher was 2012’s Kon-Tiki, based on the true story of Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s harrowing voyage across the Pacific Ocean on a wooden raft in 1947.

If you did happen to write off Sharknado as too kitschy to be worth the watch, you might want to reconsider—it ranks sixth on the list, with a score of 78 percent, and its 2014 sequel sits in ninth place, with 61 percent. The list doesn’t only comprise dramatized shark attacks. In seventh place is Jean-Michel Cousteau’s 2005 documentary Sharks 3D, a fascinating foray into the real world of great whites, hammerheads, and more.

But for every critically acclaimed shark flick, there’s another that flopped spectacularly. After you’ve perused the highest-rated shark films below, check out the worst ones on Rotten Tomatoes’ full list here.

  1. Jaws (1975) // 98 percent
  1. Kon-Tiki (2012) // 81 percent
  1. The Reef (2010) // 80 percent
  1. Sharkwater (2007) // 79 percent
  1. The Shallows (2016) // 78 percent
  1. Sharknado (2013) // 78 percent
  1. Sharks 3D (2004) // 75 percent
  1. Open Water (2004) // 71 percent
  1. Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014) // 61 percent
  1. Jaws 2 (1978) // 60 percent

[h/t Rotten Tomatoes]