In the early hours of Sunday 25th September 1916, a German airship bombed Nottingham city centre. The Zeppelin then passed over Mapperley where it dropped at least one high explosive bomb. A house on Hickling Road was badly damaged.
A descendent of the Wilson family at Hickling Road states:
My grandmother lived at 1 Albert Villas. They were asleep in the front bedroom when a bomb from a Zeppelin was dropped. It caused extensive damage to the front of the house but my grandmother and her child escaped unharmed. They were rehoused to Radford. The number of the house bears no resemblance to the present day numbering, as in 1916 it was rather sparsely built on. The house in question is now number 33. My grandfather was away in France with the South Staffordshire Regiment. I have a photo of my grandmother and father outside the house prior to the bombing.
The Zeppelin raid on Nottingham was kept quiet for a couple of years, in the interests of national security. The Evening Post was not allowed to report on the attack until after the war in January 1919.
Once the dust of the First World War had begun to settle, the full horror of the raid was set before the public. In a brief but destructive 15 minute raid, three people were killed and eight injured. Buildings from Mansfield Road to the Meadows were destroyed. When the toll was properly assessed, the blame was directed at the Midland Railway Company. Staff there had failed to turn out the lights when the air raid warning was sounded.
‘Murdered by person or persons unknown’
An inquest ruled that the three victims ‘had been murdered by person or persons unknown, through the explosion of bombs dropped from an airship’, but added that ‘the town was exposed to the risk of attack by airships entirely by the action of the railway companies.’
On that fateful night, the unmistakable deep drone of a Zeppelin was heard approaching the city. The airship had been hidden by a mist in the Trent Valley. It approached at a height of 14000 feet. The siren sent the city into near-panic and lights were immediately extinguished. For some reason, the railway companies didn’t follow suit. The Zeppelin made a beeline for them, dropping a clutch of bombs in a line from Eastcroft, the Meadows, Nottingham Midland Station, Carrington Street, Greyfriar Gate, Wheeler Gate, Lister Gate (Caledonian Hotel) and on to Victoria Station where windows were shattered.
The Canaan Street Primitive Methodist Church was set on fire by an incendiary bomb and Haddon’s factory in Carrington Street was wrecked.
The real tragedy began in Broad Marsh, where labourer Harold Renshaw was in bed with his wife when a bomb crashed through their ceiling, setting fire to his clothing. Mr Renshaw was so badly burned, he died soon afterwards in hospital. His wife, lying beside him, was uninjured.
Several bombs hit Newthorpe Street. Alfred Rogers a 44 year old tailor’s cutter and his wife Rosanna were in bed. A stick of bombs fell on their house and surrounding buildings. Mr Rogers was killed where he lay. His wife’s body was found in the street, having been thrown several yards by the blast. Another eight people were dug out of the wreckage of three homes.
The captain of Zeppelin L17 was Kapitanleutnant Kraushaar. He claimed to have dropped a total of nineteen bombs, the first at North Muskham as it flew up the Trent Valley. The first bomb over Nottingham landed on the corner of Cross Street and Dunstan Street in Netherfield, demolishing six houses. The next one landed at Sneinton, severing the telephone lines to the anti-aircraft guns.
Two bombs dropped ‘on a railway goods depot’ which is now the London Road low level station. There are also references to a bomb at Mapperley Brickworks, in addition to the one that landed on Hickling Road.
This would make eighteen, one less than Kraushaar claimed to have dropped.
What happened to the nineteenth bomb?
This mystery may now be solved. Newspapers reported that ‘Harold Renshaw was in bed with his wife when a bomb crashed through their ceiling, setting fire to his clothing. Mr Renshaw was so badly burned, he died soon afterwards in hospital. His wife, lying beside him, was uninjured.’
Another report stated that ‘one of the dead is a soldier, who was in bed with his wife. An incendiary bomb came through the roof and fell on his chest. He was killed outright and his wife escaped uninjured’. The 1911 census records only one Harold Renshaw in the city at that time, listed as 62079 Private Harold William Renshaw of the Sherwood Foresters Regiment.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commision shows that his wife was named Ethel Millicent Parier (formerly Renshaw) of 8 Rose Street off Woodborough Road, Nottingham (now Rose Close). He was buried in Church (Rock) Cemetery on Mansfield Road. Unfortunately, we have not established whether he was living with his wife in St Anns when he was killed, or whether she moved there after his death. This could mean a third bomb fell in the Mapperley area.
Thanks to Tony Bowman for sharing this story. More information is available in the following websites