Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Leighton Buzzard Woman Describes Southend Zeppelin Raid

Zeppelin recruitment poster [Wikimedia]

Thursday 13th May 1915: A Leighton woman has written home describing her experience at the Red Cross Hospital in Southend during the Zeppelin raid which hit the town early on Monday morning.[1]
“Daylight was just beginning to peep through the curtains; an orderly in soft shoes and white coat walked round the corridors, the nurses stole quietly round the wards, peeping at the sleeping patients, or putting on dressings. Two chatted quietly over the fire in the central hall, when someone came and said she thought she heard an aeroplane. They went to a side door, and on opening it were met by a rushing noise that was so loud that somebody said: ‘It is only a train.’  ‘Gee, whizz!’  Something flashed through the air just over their heads; then came a terrific explosion that shook the house violently. ‘Bombs! Are we hit? How near is it?’ ‘Out with the lights; to the wards,’ and ‘Are the patients all right?’  ‘Yes, and wide awake.’  ‘Don’t be frightened nurse, that’s fallen half-a-mile away.’  ‘Has it though; where is that fire?’  ‘So they are here at last; sounds like Jack Johnsons doesn’t it mate?’  were some of the remarks these wounded Tommies made, while the warning hooter still sounded its dismal note, and the noise of explosions continued, though not quite so near.”
“Then suspense … ‘We had better move the patients from the top wards to the basement,’ said the matron to the night sister. ‘Get rugs, hot water bottles and ten nurses.’ So everybody was busy for a while. Special police constables, Secretaries, R.A.M.C. men, and a doctor came flocking in. ‘All right here? We thought you had been hit. A bomb has fallen each side of you.’ … The telephone bell rings: ‘Any room for a casualty? We’re bringing a soldier injured in a fire.’ ‘Bring him along,’ was the reply. ‘We haven’t a single vacant bed, but we will put one up somewhere.’ So the day came … work went on with its usual routine … the tired night nurses anxiously wondering whether their own people were safe, went home through the crowded streets, where the people flocked to see the havoc wrought so suddenly in their peaceful seaside town.”
 Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer and Linslade Gazette, 18th May 1915

[1] Over 80 bombs were dropped on Southend by Zeppelin LZ38 resulting in many casualties and considerable damage to property, but only one death. [Source: Southend Timeline]

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