Home History When a WWI German Zeppelin Tried to Bomb Edinburgh Castle — and Missed

When a WWI German Zeppelin Tried to Bomb Edinburgh Castle — and Missed

by Enochadmin

Standing on a mighty volcanic rock overlooking Scotland’s capital metropolis, Edinburgh Fort is difficult to overlook. However that’s precisely what German bombing crews did once they took goal on the well-known landmark throughout a zeppelin air raid over Edinburgh in 1916.

Most individuals affiliate German air raids in opposition to the British Isles with the Second World Conflict. However German bombers began lurking above British skies greater than 20 years earlier throughout World Conflict I — generally in planes, but in addition in airships referred to as zeppelins.

Zeppelin Assaults on the UK

The German navy below Kaiser Wilhelm II was notably anxious to make use of airship know-how to humiliate and inflict terror on Nice Britain. The World Conflict I bombing campaigns have been no much less brutal than these to comply with in World Conflict II, with many zeppelins dumping large bomb hundreds in broad areas as they drifted throughout the sky. East London suffered notably from these raids — one tragic instance being a school at Poplar through which 18 youngsters have been killed, most of whom have been 5-year-olds. A further 37 youngsters have been wounded.

The month of April 1916 was notably busy for the zeppelin raiders. Along with Essex and Kent in England, the Germans additionally determined to focus on Scotland. As is evidenced by the bombast of German reviews afterward, a raid in opposition to Edinburgh was meant not solely to wreak materials injury but in addition to be a propaganda coup.

Underneath cowl of darkness, two zeppelins headed to Edinburgh, the place they hoped not solely to rain terror on the inhabitants however to land blows in opposition to town’s distinguished fortress.

The mighty outdated Scottish fortress — as in medieval occasions — proved uncooperative.  

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The Mysteries of Edinburgh Fort

Edinburgh Fort, one among Europe’s oldest repeatedly fortified websites and the focus of quite a few wars, holds the excellence of being most besieged fortress in Britain. Sited on the steep, craggy cliffs of a volcanic plug referred to as Fort Rock, it reworked right into a stronghold bristling with towers and cannons all through varied fierce struggles over the centuries.

The fortress, one among “preeminent symbols of the Scottish nation,” has a colourful historical past. It has not solely proved tough to assail with sheer navy power however occasionally baffles people with its mysteries — the crown jewels of Scotland have been misplaced inside it for over 100 years, and merely passing by the gates is alleged to bewilder college college students into failing their remaining exams. A power of Jacobites who hoped to scale the ramparts in 1715 was left at a loss when its ladder turned out to be too brief; the would-be besiegers have been stranded and subsequently arrested.

Edinburgh Fort, a nationwide image of Scotland, has not solely proved tough for invaders to beat with navy may however typically bewilders folks with its mysteries. (Mansell / LIFE Photograph Assortment)

The fortress had a equally mystifying impact on German invaders who drifted over it on the night time of April 2, 1916. The German navy had improved its know-how, permitting its airships to sneak up the shoreline at night time with out being thwarted by cloudy Scottish climate.

“A brand new technique to find out the situation of the airship at night time or in foggy climate had been launched,” wrote Alfred Stenzel in a chronicle of German naval techniques in 1921. “Two radio message stations on land communicated the course of the incoming radio messages from the airship. By taking a bearing on the magnetic traces, the purpose of intersection turned out to be the situation of the airship, whose crew was now knowledgeable of it [their location] by one of many stations. The ‘directorial stations’ of the English have been arrange in an analogous manner with regard to naval radio messages.”

No Stone Unturned

Two German airships reached Edinburgh earlier than midnight and flew over town for about 40 minutes, dropping an estimated 24 bombs in lower than an hour. 13 folks have been killed and 24 injured in Edinburgh and Leith. The Scots, nonetheless, had turn into conscious of the enemy’s strategy and blacked out all lights within the metropolis, which can have prevented further lack of life.

However whether or not it was the darkness, or maybe some magic within the outdated stones of the fortress, that prevented the Germans from scoring even a single direct hit on the fortress is an open query. Though one of many zeppelins “appeared to aim for Edinburgh Castle” and rained bombs over it, shattering home windows on Fort Terrace, not one of the missiles hit dwelling.

A couple of bombs struck Fort Rock, however failed to the touch the partitions. One other bomb bounced up the highway towards the primary fortress gate however did not strike it. A bomb that struck a tenement within the shadow of the fortress tore by the ceiling and 4 flooring of the constructing — but no one inside was damage. The bomb was recovered from the basement and have become an heirloom of the MacLaren household.

The fortress’s well-known One O’Clock Gun, used to assist ships maintain the time, was allegedly fired in the course of the raid in its first and solely wartime motion. Though it was firing blanks, the sound of the massive gun firing may have spooked the zeppelin crews.   

Conflicting Studies

“Scotland had its first expertise with a Zeppelin raid …. No constructing of public significance was struck, however a lot injury was carried out within the residential quarter,” in accordance with a report printed in The Pantagraph of Bloomington, Illinois, on April 4, 1916.

Regardless of a propaganda-flavored German report back to the Oberste Heeresleitung (Supreme Military Command) boasting of “excellent outcomes” from the April raids, together with airship assaults on “dock amenities on the Firth of Forth” and “fierce and violent fires, large explosions with intensive collapsing results” total, the raid had did not strike navy websites, together with bridges and a close-by naval base.

German airship L14, proven right here, participated within the April 1916 raid over Edinburgh, Scotland. Just like the Jacobites in 1715, the Germans have been in the end confounded of their try and strike Edinburgh Fort. (Bundesarchiv)

Moreover, whereas the German report claimed that “all airships returned and landed undamaged,” two zeppelins have been truly introduced down by English gun crews in the course of the April forays, with one shot down on the mouth of the Thames River.

An imperial Austro-Hungarian account of the raid into Scotland printed in 1916 claimed that the German crews had dropped a complete of 54 bombs, together with 36 explosive bombs and 17 fireplace bombs. So far, the official quantity recognized in Scotland is 24 bombs. It has additionally been urged that the variety of whole civilian casualties could have been increased than reported by British authorities on the time.

Extremely Lucky

Nevertheless, the info stay that the raid on Scotland was unsuccessful in its goals to sow widespread terror and mass destruction. Regardless of the tragic hurt brought on to civilians and residential areas, each Edinburgh and Leith have been “extremely lucky when it comes to civilian casualties and the variety of buildings destroyed,” according to The Scotsman.

The raid additionally did not strike militarily or culturally important targets — together with the fortress. Just like the Jacobites in 1715, the Germans have been in the end vexed by Edinburgh Fort and unable to overcome it.

Regardless of the benefits of airpower and fashionable explosives, the zeppelin bomber crew handed into historical past as simply one other one among a protracted line of invading powers that proved unable to carry the mighty Scottish stronghold to its knees.

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