A little-remembered event took place 100 years ago. In the Autumn of 1914 a daring raid was carried out on Friedrichshafen, the home of the Zeppelin airships.
Fighting on the Western Front had become bogged down (literally in some places) in a stalemate. Britain was worried that it was vulnerable to raids by Zeppelin airships.
So three Royal Navy pilots, Squadron Commander Edward Briggs, Flight Commander John Babington, and Flight Lieutenant Sydney Snipe took off from an airfield in France in their Avro 504s each carrying four 20lb bombs to attack the Zeppelin factory.
NB in the early days of air warfare the units were named after cavalry units hence the title of Squadron Commander and bombs were often delivered by being dropped manually from the cockpit.
Ten bomb were dropped but despite early reports to the contrary no airships were destroyed. The First Lord of the Amiralty, Winston Churchill, praised the raid as a “fine feat of arms“.
The Squadron Commander was forced to crash land after his fuel tank was punctured and was only saved from a lynching by factory workers by the intervention of an army officer who apparently threatened to shoot anyone who laid a hand on him. (In WW1 there was a code of honour between combatants to treat officers as gentlemen).
The raid was probably counter-productice. Until then Kaiser Wilhelm had forbidden any aerial attacks on Britain as he didn’t want to be held responsible for damaging historic monuments in London. He probably didn’t want to upset his relatives either. The rulers of the world’s then three greatest nations: King George V of Great Britain, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and Kaiser Wilhelm II were first cousins. Queen Victoria was their grandmother).
German airships began their bombing raids the following January.
I’ve visited the area on a couple of occasions staying in Konstanz which is a beautiful little city across the lake (Bodensee to the Germans) from Friedrichshafen and near the borders with both Switzerland and Austria.
On my last trip I took a trip across the lake with a colleague in a high-speed catamaran to visit the Zeppelin museum in Friedrichshafen. It’s well worth a visit as it include the newsreel footage about the Hindeburg disaster which pretty much ended the use of these giant hydrogen-filled airships.
During WW2 Konstanz allegedly adopted a sneaky strategy to avoid being bombed by the allies. They never turned off their lights at night believing that allied bombers would assume they must be flying over nearby neutral Switzerland and not bomb them. I don’t know if this story is true or not but if it is it was clever albeit risky.