Camberwell Zeppelin raid (19 October 1917)

The first memorial plaque

The first memorial plaque

The last Zeppelin raid on London in the First World War took place on the night of 19-20 October 1917. The intended target was Sheffield but heavy winds blew Navy Zeppelin L45 off course. After bombing Hendon and Piccadilly Circus, it passed over Elephant and Castle and dropped a 300kg (660lb) bomb on Calmington Road at the junction of Albany Road, Camberwell. Three four-storey houses at 101 and 103 Albany Road and 1 Calmington Road were demolished and a further twelve seriously damaged including a fishmonger and a doctor’s surgery. Despite taking shelter in the cellars, ten people were killed and a further 23 or 24 injured. The victims included four members of the Glass family: mother Emma (53) and children Alice (21), Stephen (20), on leave from the Navy, and Emily (8). L45 continued south-eastwards, crossing Queens Road at the junction with Pomeroy Street, and dropping its final bomb on Glenview Road, Hither Green, destroying three houses and killing fifteen more people. This was the last bomb dropped on London by a Zeppelin.

The Borough of Camberwell, which at that date included Peckham and Dulwich, commemorated the event with a memorial stone built into the wall of the building that replaced the one destroyed. After the Second World War Calmington Road itself disappeared under the new Burgess Park and the plaque was moved to the Southwark Council offices in Chumleigh Gardens. I last saw it there on an open day in July 2003, propped up against an inside wall.

On 11 February this year Southwark News featured an article stating that the memorial had gone missing and Stephen Bourne called upon Southwark Council to replace it. Cllr Peter John, Leader of Southwark Council said: ‘We are still planning for a rededication of an appropriate memorial, to replace the one moved from Calmington Road, as close as possible to the original location and in time to commemorate the centenary of the bombing in October 2017.’ It would honour the ‘twelve’ victims and also three local policemen who risked their lives entering the burning buildings to rescue survivors.

Zeppelin plaque in Chumleigh Gardens today

Zeppelin plaque in Chumleigh Gardens today

A few weeks later on 3 March the newspaper reported that Stephen Bourne had found the memorial standing in a flowerbed in Chumleigh Gardens and implied that the campaign was therefore concluded. However, this is not the original plaque. The original was apparently damaged a few years ago during an event in Chumleigh Gardens and a replacement was subsequently created. The text on the new plaque states simply: ‘In memory of the twenty two citizens of Camberwell who were killed by German Zeppelin air raiders in the Great War 1914-1918’. As you can see from the photograph, the original text specifically mentions the Calmington Road raid.

There is a further monument in Camberwell Old Cemetery, unveiled on 2 November 1918, which lists 21 names of Camberwell Borough civilians killed in the First World War. The additional five from the Zeppelin raid are: brothers Edwin (3) and Reginald Balls (5), Ivy Makemson Brame (19), Jessie Martin (22) Stephen Skelton (15) and Alfred Ledsham Fowler (25). Stephen Glass and Alfred Fowler were shipmates, home on leave from the patrol boat HMS P14.

If you know where and when other bombs fell on Camberwell, Dulwich or Peckham during WW1, please do contact our editorial team.

Christine Camplin

Sources
London 1914-1917: The Zeppelin Menace, Ian Castle, (Osprey Publishing, 2008)
Southwark News, 11 February 2016 (http://bit.ly/PSN144p13)
Southwark News, 3 March 2016 (http://bit.ly/PSNp13a)

Reprinted from Peckham Society News, Issue 144 (Spring 2016)