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By David Rose
While spending a few days in Edinburgh earlier this week, I snapped this photo of a memorial to an air raid by a German Zeppelin airship during the First World War.
It is in an area of the city called the Grassmarket, opposite the hotel where we where staying. I couldn’t help thinking that it would be fitting if a similar memorial could be placed in St Catherine’s Village to mark the raid that happened here.
There are some similarities to the raid in Edinburgh and the one on St Catherine’s.
It was the German Navy airship L13 that dropped 12 bombs across St Catherine’s on the night of Wednesday, October 13, 1915.
It’s sister airship, the L14, dropped its bombs on Edinburgh on Aril 2, 1916.
The story of the St Catherine’s / Guildford raid has been told by myself, Martin Giles, Mike Bennett and Roger Nicholas with two presentations at St Catherine’s Village Hall. It also featured in May’s local history exhibition.
Perhaps now is the time to think about a permanent memorial. It won’t be long before it’s the 100th anniversary of the raid.
The L13 was commanded by Kapitanlieutant Heinrich Mathy. He maintained in his log that he believed he was bombing the waterworks at Hampton on the River Thames.
It’s believed that he lost his bearings and, instead of following the course of the River Thamas, followed the Wey instead. After an anti-aircraft gun at Chilworth gunpowder works fired on his airship, he dropped his payload on St Catherine’s.
There was no loss of live, but a good deal of structural damage was done. St Catherine’s ‘night of terror’ remained long in the memory of those who witnessed it.
Although it must have been a terrifying experience for many, there is a funny story about the night of the Zeppelin raid.
Evidently there was a whist drive at social club within the Dennis Bros factory in Guildford that evening. One well known local figure back then was known to ‘hibernate’ during the day, but went out most evenings.
He was claiming a pension as being a disabled person, and to give his condition some credence he walked with a pair of crutches.
When the Zeppelin flew overhead it created complete panic at the Dennis factory and most people left rather hurriedly.
The next morning a cleaner found a pair of crutches that had been abandoned. Say no more!
I got the impression that David was suggesting a commemoration of the event, rather than marking the site of one particular bomb. I think it’s an excellent idea; personally I have been fascinated by the story & think it’s worth making it better known.
I’m sure we can think of more than one thing at a time!
It is an interesting idea but as there were several bombs dropped in St. Catherine’s – two in what is now my property for instance – how would you choose which one to commemorate? I can’t help thinking that if we want to put something up it would be more appropriate to concentrate on getting the long awaited St. Catherine’s Village sign erected.