Dozens were killed and buildings were destroyed as bombs rained down on the Black Country during the First World War 100 years ago. And this weekend, civic leaders, historians and the local community will hold a series of events to commemorate all those who lost their lives in the Zeppelin bomb raids on Tipton, Wednesbury, Bilston and Walsall.
The Black Country was targeted by mistake – when a German airship pilot mistook Wednesbury for Merseyside – and the devastation caused sent shockwaves through communities for generations to come.
A fleet of Zeppelins started making their way to attack Liverpool on January 31 1916 – but two of the pilots got lost in heavy fog.
Bombs first hit Union Street in Tipton, with devices falling all around. In Union Street, two houses were demolished and others damaged and the gas main was set alight.
In Wednesbury, bombs were dropped in the King Street area, near a large factory.
Across the Black Country, 35 people – including men, women and children – were killed, most of them from Tipton and Wednesbury.
To commemorate the anniversary, Tipton Library is hosting Zeppelin day from 10.30am-12.30pm on Saturday (30 January), including book launches, history stalls, refreshments and a talk (which is already fully booked) by historian Derek Nicholls.
At 12 noon West Bromwich West MP Adrian Bailey will unveil a new memorial in the library, sponsored by Tipton Civic Society, featuring the names of the 14 Tipton victims.
Then on Sunday (31 January) at 3pm, members of the Tipton Civic Society, along with Adrian Bailey, will unveil a blue plaque – which was commissioned by Tipton Civic Society and sponsored by electrical and gas supplier H C Pullinger and Son in Union Street. Phil Pullinger has kindly given permission for the plaque to be fixed to his showroom in Union Street, which took the full brunt of the bombs.
Later on Sunday in Wednesbury, Sandwell Mayor Councillor Barbara Price, Adrian Bailey MP and councillors will join others for a service at the Wednesbury Zeppelin Raids Memorial in Wood Green Cemetery at 4pm. The Mayor will unveil a new plaque and dedicate a peace garden funded by the Friends of Woods Green Cemetery.
The group will then go onto St Bartholomew’s Church in Church Hill, where local historian Ian Bott will give a talk at 5pm, followed by a memorial service where all 35 victims of the bombings will be remembered and 35 candles will be lit. Wednesbury poet Brendan Hawthorne will read out a poem he’s written especially for the occasion.
Chair of Tipton Civic Society Keith Hodgkins said: “The Zeppelin raid has always been in the consciousness of Tipton people but the victims have never been recognised in a formal way. Now we’ve put this right with the roll of names at Tipton Library and the plaque in Union Street. We hope descendants of people who were killed, injured or witnessed the raids will come along and share their knowledge too.”
Chair of the Friends of Wood Green Cemetery Councillor Peter Hughes said: “All are welcome to come along and take part in the Wednesbury commemorations – and we especially welcome any descendants or relatives of the families affected 100 years ago.”
Councillor Syeda Khatun, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for leisure and the voluntary sector, said: “The civic societies, friends’ groups, local historians and the local community have put a lot into these commemorations and it is only right that innocent people who lost their lives in this terrible event are remembered.”
A plaque remembering the Tipton victims will also be unveiled at Tipton Cemetery on Friday 5 February at 10.30am. The Mayor will be attending the unveiling of the plaque, which has been donated by historian Derek Nicholls and supported by the Friends of Tipton Cemetery. Most of the Tipton victims were buried in unmarked graves in the cemetery, so the new plaque will ensure they are properly remembered.