‘Zepp. Raid which Wrought Havoc in Streatham and Brixton’ – 23rd September 1916

This title was the subheading of a lengthy article in the South London Press on 31st January 1919 (cont. 14th February 1919) detailing the zeppelin air raid of Saturday 23rd September 1916, which saw bombs rain down on South West London. It reports that the first bombs of the raid fell on Bromley-by-Bow shortly after midnight killing five people and injuring several others. Fifteen minutes later  ‘the terrifying thunder of incendiary and explosive bombs aroused the inhabitants of Streatham, and then followed the terrible results of one of the most remarkable raids of the series – at all events as far as South London was concerned.’

In an earlier post we told of how London had beefed up its air defences in the early part of 1916 and had successfully averted a zeppelin raid at the beginning of September. A few weeks later however, London was not so lucky and on this occasion the airships used flares to blanket the searchlights, putting the anti aircraft gunners at a disadvantage and enabling the airships to proceed on their deadly course. John Hook also reports in his booklet The Raids on Lambeth and Wandsworth, that the L31 zeppelin, commanded by Heinrich Mathy, was flying ‘unusually high and fast’ at an estimated 12,000 feet, crossing London from south to north and then making its escape.

 

heinrich_mathy

Kapitanleutnant Heinrich Mathy / Imperial War Museums Collection / © IWM (Q 58566)

It is thought that Mathy directed the L31 zeppelin towards London by following the railway line from Eastbourne to London. After Mathy’s flares had dazzled the gunners at Croydon, the airship made its way towards Streatham Common station, dropping bombs on Mr. Tomlin’s vegetable garden at 30 Ellison Road along the way. Some of the railway tracks were then hit, followed by houses on Estreham Road opposite the station. A shop on Greyhound Lane had its windows blown in by an incendiary bomb which left a small crater in the pavement outside. Special Constables rushed to the scene and with the help of local residents began rescuing trapped and injured occupants of the bomb damaged buildings. The Red Cross treated nine casualties who were taken to Streatham Common station, where an emergency first aid post had been set up.

The zeppelin inflicted further damage along Gleneagle Road and Leigham Court Road, but according to at least one source ‘the worst incident of the raid occurred outside Streatham Hill Station.’ Streatham Hill Modern School stood on the junction of Streatham Hill and Sternhold Avenue, next to the station. A bomb exploded in the school’s garden, the blast from which killed four men outright who were on board a tramcar standing outside the station at the time. Another passenger died later from his wounds. The booking office and waiting rooms at Streatham Hill Station were damaged, as well as surrounding properties. Later, as morning dawned it was discovered that there was an unexploded bomb on the roof of Sainsbury’s opposite the station, which had to be removed to safety.

streatham-hill-c-1910

Streatham Hill c.1910 / Wandsworth Heritage Service Postcards collection

 

streatham-hill-modern-school

Bomb damage to a girls’ school near Streatham Hill station following the Zeppelin raid on the night of 23 – 24 September 1916 / Imperial War Museums Collections / © IWM (HO 99)

Further explosions erupted further along Streatham Hill, in Pendennis Road, Tierney Road and Telford Avenue, as the zeppelin progressed towards Brixton and on towards Central London. John W. Brown reports in his book Zeppelins Over Streatham: ‘During a period of less than 15 minutes, Heinrich Mathy had dropped a total of 32 bombs on Streatham, comprising 10 explosive and 22 incendiary devices. He had killed seven people and had seriously injured a further 27 in what was the worst night of destruction Streatham had ever known.’

Heinrich Mathy received military honours from the Kaiser for his efforts in penetrating London’s defences, but the L31’s reign was not to last. In a later raid on 1st October 1916 Mathy’s L31 zeppelin was shot down above Potters Bar, Hertfordshire killing Mathy and all 18 of his crew. They were buried in the local churchyard, where the crew of an earlier zeppelin crash had also been buried. In the 1960s their remains were removed to the German Cemetery at Cannock Chase, Staffordshire. Most of the metal from the wreckage of the L31 was used in the war effort. However, in the Potters Bar church of St. Mary the Virgin and All Saints can still be found an altar-cross made from metal taken from the wreck.

 

The South London Press is available on microfilm at Wandsworth Heritage Service

Publications held at Wandsworth Heritage Service:

The Air Raids on London during the 1914-1918 war: The Raids on Lambeth and Wandsworth – John Hook

Zeppelins over Streatham – John W. Brown

Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War – Jerry White

The Twentieth Century: Streatham – Patrick Loobey & John W. Brown

Other sources:

St. Mary’s Church, Potters Bar website

Hellfire Corner – Heinrich Mathy and Zeppelin L31 at Potters Bar

 

30 May – 5 June 1916: Sir Walter St John’s School Magazine

The June edition of the Sir Walter St John’s School Magazine brought several updates about Old Boys who were serving with the Armed Forces, and also some obituaries. Updates included congratulations to Harold Eastman for his promotion to 1st Lieutenant with the 2nd Canadian Contingent – although he was wounded in three places a fortnight after his promotion.  The Roll of Honour had three names on it, those of James Higgins, Reginald Spring and Frederick Keene, along with some additional information about Harvey Haysom, whose death was reported in the previous magazine.

James Higgins had left school in 1910 and gone to work for the Gas Light and Coke Company, joining the 12th London Regiment before the war in April 1914.  He was wounded at Zonnibeke in May 1915 and during his convalescence visited the school in July that year, but died of blood poisoning in October 1915 in Calais.  Reginald Spring was baldy wounded by a piece of shell in France in May 1916, dying the next day and the magazine says he was buried in the British Cemetery at Noyelles.

The lengthiest entry in the roll of honour was for Frederick Keene. He had not actually been with the Armed Forces, although the school felt that he merited inclusion as he had been leader of a troop of Boy Scouts who had volunteered for coastal patrol duty.  Throughout the winter of 1914-15, Keene had camped with them and cycled to and from his daily work through all weathers, which led to his health failing and the illness of which he later died.  His name was included as having given his life for King and Country “as truly as those who have fallen in the trenches or perished at sea!”.

The magazine also features the usual extracts from Old Boys letters, including one from A L Finding, stationed in Egypt “just by the Pyramids”, and referencing being at Gallipoli, another old boy, O D Anderson had also been in Egypt, although was writing having gone from there to Salonika. S T Rogers described having been in a sap which was only 25 yards from the Germans, and occasionally talking to them, including the Germans throwing over a letter from a French prisoner to send to his wife, and two German officers who wanted to know if “any of us had come from Cardiff, as they had been in business there for ten years”.  Others seemed more focused on the weather in France, and the negotiations required for billets and food!

Sir Walter St John’s School Magazine, June 1916, ref: S17/2/6

11-17 April: Holy Trinity School, Ambulances and Shakespeare

Holy Trinity School in Upper Tooting, was last mentioned on the blog with regard to the pupils knitting socks for soldiers in August 1914 – an endeavour which presumably continued but unfortunately isn’t regularly noted in the school log books.  The school was affected by the war in other ways, one of their teachers – D J Davies – was called up to the London Welsh Regiment in October 1914 and did not return to the school until February 1919, by which time he had been awarded a Military Cross.  He took a day off to formally receive it in June 1920.  Another teacher, John Moody left to go to Malta in September 1914 with the territorial army, he was killed on 1 July 1916 (the first day of the Battle of the Somme) and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.  Assistant A C Swain was called up in June 1916, returning to school in March 1919, and another assistant, B C Moore, went for medical examinations but was presumably found unfit to serve, as he remained the school for the rest of the war.

The pupils also continued to contribute to the war effort, including being part of the fundraising across Wandsworth Schools for an ambulance. On 17th April, the ambulance visited the school so that “the boys might see it and its arrangements before going to France”.

Ambulance S12-2-4

 

The Wandsworth Borough News referred to it as a “splendidly equipped ambulance”, having followed the progress of its fundraising in previous weeks. It was to be presented to the “Mayor’s battalion” and visited all the schools across Wandsworth.  The Mayor himself was unable to go with it, being occupied with the Tribunals, but Alderman Cresswell and Miss Edwards, who had organised the fundraising, went round the schools instead.

The ambulance wasn’t the only disruption to the timetable that morning. 2016 marks the four hundredth anniversary of the death of Shakespeare, and you would be forgiven for assuming that the tercentenary in 1916 was over-shadowed by the war and perhaps not marked.  In Holy Trinity School, however, it was marked with Shakespeare songs and recitations, and on the same day as the ambulance visited the last two lessons of the morning were cancelled for standards 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 in favour of a combined practice of the Shakespeare songs for the tercentenary.

Practice Shakespeare S12-2-4

Holy Trinity School, Upper Tooting, logbook, ref: S12/2/4

29 February-6 March 1916: Sir Walter St John’s School Magazine – News from Old Boys

The March issue of the Sir Walter St John’s School Magazine was a Special War Number. This stemmed from the boys in the school attempting to get in touch with all the old doys on active service so that they could send them a Christmas greeting and some cigarettes, resulting in a selection of the letters home in response being selected for publication.

The cigarettes were gratefully received, one old boy writing that they “arrived at an opportune moment. I was in the trenches and had run out of tobacco – a greater calamity than an attack”.  Several of the old boys had come across each other in neighbouring battalions, although some had more unusual meetings:

One night, on sentry duty, outside a war-demolished mansion, I discovered a garden filled with choicest fruit. Against the rules, I ventured in and by the light of a match filled by pockets, when I was surprised by a slight rustle.  A German! I thought at once; or perhaps a rat.  To be astonishment, however, it turned out to be one of my old Sir Walter St John’s School friends…

Several described life in the trenches, including the phrase “We sit in mud, sleep in mud, and eat mud”, whilst others were currently billeted behind the lines, or elsewhere round the world:

As I pencil this note I am smoking one of the cigarettes in my billet, within sound of the guns…

 

We have just come out of the trenches for a fortnight’s rest in a small village not more than three miles from the line. Unlike most villages round here it has not suffered in any way from bombardment, but jogs its way along seemly oblivious of the ruins all around.  The women here especially are very active, nearly all the farm work being in their hands… The slightest noise from the lines can be heard distinctly.  We heard a bugle band recently that was playing three or four miles behind the Huns’ lines…

 

Your kind packet was forwarded me from Fort William, where we were stationed for 13 months. I cannot say how long we shall be at Lucknow, but expect before very long to go to the Gulf, where things are pretty lively.

The magazine also contains as full a list as the school could manage of old boys and staff who were on active service. It lists their rank and regiment, and carries an update to the school’s Roll of Honour, listing 4 old boys killed and giving details of what happened to them as far as possible.  Harvey Haysom only has “killed in France”, whilst Herbert Bonnell, G E Kosmann and Harold Wilsher all have more detailed accounts.

SWSJ Roll of Honour SWSJ Roll of Honour - the dead

Elsewhere in the magazine, news of everyday school life continued. Meetings of the Debating Society were reported, as were football, fives and cricket scores.  The Speech Day prize list was published, as were the names of the four best boys in each form following the Christmas exams.  The Christmas collection subscription list and where the funds went was listed, as well as the cigarette purchase, money was donated to Queen Mary’s Hospital or Soldiers and Sailors who have lost limbs and the Wandsworth Schools Motor Ambulance, in addition to other local, non-war-related causes.

Sir Walter St John’s School Magazine, ref: S17/2/6

23-29 November 1915: Putney St Mary’s School

The log book of the boys school at Putney St Mary’s School is divided into several sections, each recording different aspects of school life that the standardised book thought were important. Some of these are in the miscellaneous section and details visits to the school, school holidays and other special occasions. For November 1915, the only two events recorded in this section were a visit from the Nurse to examine all the boys and a visit from Dr Verdon Roe to carry out a medical inspection.

Other sections give more insight into the life of the school – the recorded absences for teachers this week notes that Albert Hyslop and A H Rood were absent for half a day as they were “at recruiting office – attempting to enlist”. This was obviously not a successful attempt, as on 7th December Albert Hyslop was again absent, having “Gone to Manchester to try to enlist”. A H Rood continued at the school throughout the war, but Albert Hyslop’s trip to Manchester was a success – his marked absence and recorded last day as staff on 10th December carry the note “Enlisted + gone to Dublin”. It is possible that A H Rood was ineligible for service due to health reasons, in March 1916 he was absent as having been called up for a medical exam by the military but as he wasn’t subsequently called up to service we could guess that he failed it.Logbook - half page

Logbook - gone to ManchesterHyslop’s absence meant that the Head Teacher was “obliged to take charge” of his class. Another part of the log book records how often the Head Teacher taught, and through December and January he is noted as frequently in charge of a class through the absence of a teacher, as well as being in “constantly in charge” of the whole school. Eventually a new teacher was transferred to the school from Brandlehow School for the duration of the war – Mrs Evelyn Faulkner.

Logbook - Head teacher

Elsewhere in the borough, a meeting was held of Battersea Borough Council. They too were dealing with issues around staff joining the Forces, a new Group system of recruitment was coming in (the Derby Scheme) which meant they had to consider if staff joining up through that should receive the same benefits as those who had joined up earlier. The recommendation was that they should, if they joined up before 4th December. Staff now had to be given permission to join up, and at the meeting three men were granted it – W Marsh, public lighting attendant, A J Spriggs, coal trimmer, and G Wright, groundman, Morden cemetery. The Derby Scheme recruitment will feature more next week, and in weeks to come, as we look at the Military Service tribunal records.

Putney St Mary’s school log-book, ref: S11/3/3

Battersea Borough Council minutes, ref: MBB/1/15

19-25 October 1915: Battersea Grammar School

October saw the publication of the Michaelmas Term edition of the Battersea Grammar School magazine. The magazine contains the usual mix of school and Old Boy news, demonstrating that some aspects of life carried on unchanged by the war, whilst others were more affected.

The Headmaster’s notes make clear some of the things which had changed:

…a large proportion of our Sixth Form boys, instead of spending about two years longer with us, have either joined the army, or taken up work in which their scientific and other knowledge could be turned to immediate use. We congratulate them on their patriotism, and are thankful that, notwithstanding this depletion, the total number of boys in the School has been well-maintained.

He also refers to a former Captain of the school who had recently obtained a commission in the Second 5th Yorkshires and to a large number of others who had joined the army – there were plans to publish a list in the next edition. A former master – A C Martin – had also gained a commission in the Royal Field Artillery.

The House Notes section of the magazine shows areas which were less affected – mainly the reports of sporting achievement. Bolingbroke house felt that they’d had a good cricket season, despite their Juniors losing all their matches, as the Senior team beat both St John’s and Trinity. St John’s did not feel they’d done so well in the cricket, although did note that they had been Champion House at the athletic sports this year and that they had put forward the largest number of entries in the Swimming Sports. It had obviously been a good year for Spencer – they did not lose a match in either cricket or football all year, and came top in the Swimming Sports as well. Trinity house had unexpectedly lost both their Captain and Vice-Captain at the time of the magazine, presumably some of those who had joined up rather than stay on at school, as the report refers to their late Captain, W G Game, having got his commission in the Yorkshire Regiment following training in the London University Officers Training Corps. The losses made it difficult for them to record how cricket and football had gone, but they could report on reasonable success in Swimming, coming second in the team race.

W Game makes a further appearance later in the magazine, writing about his experiences of an OTC training camp with the London University OTC. It’s a fairly light-hearted account, including reference to making “the acquaintance of a few interesting NCO’s who, among other things, will introduce you to a new feature of military life, viz, its phraseology” and an account of the perils of kit inspection and the difficulties of getting buttons to shine as they should. His is not the only account of life in the Forces, two other old Boys had also written back to the school to update them on their experiences. Captain Henry Inman had spent some years with the Civil Service on leaving school, then returned to the UK and immediately joined up, his letters refer to his experiences in the Dardanelles – although by the time the magazine was published he had been invalided home, possibly suffering from shell-shock. There were also extracts from letters written by Robert H Maddocks, in France with the 15th London Regiment, including notes on using a table found in a ruined house and finishing “our rum, into which I put some café au lait”.

 

Battersea Grammar School magazines, ref: S21/2/12/5

15-21 June 1915: Deaths of Council Staff and a Putney Teacher Joins Up

The meeting of Wandsworth Borough Council on the evening of 16th June had to deal with what course of action to take in the event of staff being killed whilst on active service.  Three deaths had been officially reported to them so far, these were listed as Private William George Daborn (2nd class clerk, Rating Department), Sergeant F Beard (store-keeper, Tooting Depot) and E Smith AB (road sweeper).  Sergeant Frederick Beard was with the 24th County of London Regiment, Private Daborn with the 23rd County of London Regiment and E Smith was an Able Seaman.  With a name like Smith it’s obviously difficult to find more information about him, but he may well have been this man as the date of his death fits.  The Council decided that on the notification of each death they would pass a resolution of Condolence to the families and appreciation of the service of the men.  It was also decided that dependants of employees killed whilst on active service would continue to receive allowances from the Council for 26 weeks.

Advice received from the Local Government Board and discussed at the meeting was that the Council should avoid appointing new members of staff whilst the war was ongoing.  Instead they should try to re-employ retired staff, or those who weren’t eligible to join the Army.  The meeting noted that Wandsworth Council was already doing this, and further recommended that heads of departments should be given the authority to fill vacancies by hiring women.  Concerns over how to fill vacancies presumably tied in to the fact that the Council was very much encouraging local recruitment, the battalion correspondence file contains a list – produced on 21st June – of staff in the Borough Engineer’s department who were apparently eligible for military service.  One hundred members of staff were listed, with approximate age and how they were employed, with notes including whether or not they had already been rejected for military service or not – see the images below.

 List of WBC staffList of WBC staff detail

Elsewhere in the borough, an entry in the school log book for Putney St Mary’s school on 15th June records that Frank Jefcoate, a student teacher who had been absent at teacher training college, would not be returning to school as he had recently gained a commission.  Jefcoate later transferred to the Royal Air Force and was killed in a flying accident in Egypt in February 1919 (the log book also records this), having been mentioned in Dispatches and awarded an MBE.