Although the city of Edinburgh wasn't too badly affected in World War ll, there was a night of serious destruction across the city in World War l. On Sunday 2nd April 1916 at around 11.30pm, a German Zeppelin was spotted crossing the Firth of Forth and heading towards Leith.
The Dock area was first to be bombed before the Zeppelin turned its attention to the general population. Bombs fell in Commercial street, Sandport Street, Church Street and Mill Lane where a Manse was destroyed and Leith hospital had a near miss. Buildings, a railway and a tannery suffered hits at Bonnington.
The Zeppelin then headed for Edinburgh. 23 windows were broken in Longstone and bombs rained down as far away as Liberton. The area around Donaldson's Hospital was badly damaged and Canonmills was hit, with many windows being
broken in a blast.
Lauriston Place was badly affected including George Watson's College and many windows in the nearby Royal Infirmary were broken. Marchmont and Causewayside were both bombed and in the Grassmarket the White Hart Inn suffered damage and windows were blown out there as well as West Bow.
A bomb landed on the Mound but caused no damage, then one fell on the Castle Rock missing the Castle but causing damage to neighbouring streets
including Lothian Road.
Marshall Street in the Southside was the worst affected place with the highest number of casualties when a bomb fell opposite number 16. Nicolson Street and Simon Square also suffered extensive damage. The Zeppelin moved onto St Leonard's Hill causing a further casualty then into Queen's Park but causing little damage.
There is uncertainty over the Zeppelin's path across the city, it seems to have jumped from one area to another in no particular order.
In all 11 people died that night and countless were injured.
Many buildings were damaged or destroyed yet little is now known of this night of terror that affected the residents of Edinburgh not so long ago. The plaque is situated in the Grassmarket. From Edinburghpastandpresent.com
While some attempts had been put in place to protect the public in England, in Edinburgh there wasn't even a blackout, and the city was totally unprepared for what was about to be unleashed. Historian Sandy Mullay, author of the Edinburgh Encyclopedia and the Illustrated History of Edinburgh Suburbs, says: "In England the local authorities would lower the gas pressure - and that would alert the public but there is no record of that happening in Edinburgh."
April 2, 1916, was a bright moonlight night, perfect conditions for navigating a Zeppelin. Jonathan Ferguson, assistant curator of military history at Edinburgh's National War Museum, explains: "They were a very primitive method of ordinance. They were pretty subject to weather conditions, like wind and fog and they navigated using ground features."
Sandy adds: "The individual bombs were dropped by hand. They were about the size of a sack of flour."
Even with the perfect weather conditions, the raid did not go exactly to plan for the two German navy airships heading for the city. Jonathan says: "There were supposed to meet up with two other airships but one turned back because of navigation problems." The other reached Britain, but appears to have got lost and released its bomb load over fields in Blyth in Northumberland.
So it was just two airships which reached the Firth of Forth in the early evening. But two was quite enough to cause carnage.
Their targets were not civilian - they were aiming for the docks at Rosyth and the fleet moored in the Forth.
Sandy believes the airships were repelled by the ships' defences, and it was only then they turned inland to the city itself. They were carrying 27 high explosive and 14 incendiary devices and their ' hunt for new targets was helped by an early hit - a bomb fell on a bonded warehouse at Leith and lit up the whole city. That bomb alone caused 44,000 of damage.
Several bombs fell along the shore at Leith, one hitting St Thomas's Parish Manse in Sheriff Brae and another falling on a railway siding at Bonnington, where a child was killed in its crib. An empty patch of land at Bellevue Terrace was hit, smashing windows in the surrounding streets.
One of the airships then appeared to aim for the Castle. A bomb hit the road by the Mound and another ploughed through the home of Dr John McLaren at 39 Lauriston Place, although no-one there was injured. Then one hit the Castle rock itself, sending splinters of stone tumbling down to smash windows in Castle Terrace. A plaque, high up on the rock, now commemorates the spot.
Not for those standing on Marshall Street when the attack happened. There, a group had taken refuge in the entrance to a tenement when a bomb hit the pavement just outside. Six died and seven were injured. And at a tenement on St Leonard's Hill a child was killed and two people injured.
There were also miraculous escapes - a bomb hit a tenement on Marchmont Crescent and went through the ceilings and floors of three storeys without injuring anyone. And a five-flat tenement on Causewayside was wrecked but again with no human cost.
There were only two attempts to ward off the attacks. Jonathan says: "For the only time in its history the One o'Clock Gun was fired [in action] but they were only blank shots as they are now." And as the Zeppelins moved out towards East Lothian, an Avro 504, piloted by Flight Lieutenant GA Cox, took off from East Fortune airfield. Unfortunately he did not manage to make contact with the Zeppelin. "Then he crash-landed when he returned and was quite badly hurt," says Jonathan.
With that, Edinburgh's first and only air attack of the First World War was over. The repercussions, however, would last much longer. An official German report spoke of a bombardment of "the northern part of Edinburgh and Leith, with docks on the Firth of Forth". The British dismissed this as: "A statement of the usual inaccurate and bombastic type".
However, the authorities were rattled - particularly after furious letters began appearing in the newspapers, including the Edinburgh Evening News, about why the city was so badly prepared. Within days, discussions were beginning about systems to automatically dim the lights and the raid led directly to the setting up of three airfields, Gilmerton, Colinton and Turnhouse.
Read more: http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/night-zeppelins-brought-first-dose-of-air-raid-death-1-1336753#ixzz45sctWzxc