100 Years Ago – Zeppelins Over Cleveland

A look back at Skinningrove during World War I.

During the First World War, Skinningrove Works played a vital part in support of the British war effort. Not only did they produce many thousands of tons of high quality steel for the manufacture of artillery shells but also, as a by-product of coke production, over eleven hundred tons of TNT high explosive for the shell filling factories. Small wonder then that the Works attracted the unwelcome attention of the Zeppelin airships of the Imperial German Navy, particularly as much of the plant had been installed by German companies in the years immediately before the war.

The first air raid took place on the night of September 8th 1915. The attacker was Zeppelin L9 which crossed the coast at Port Mulgrave and dropped an HE bomb at West Loftus, followed by 4 incendiary bombs near Carlin How. She then dropped a further 9 HE and 12 incendiary bombs on Skinningrove Works. One incendiary bomb hit the Benzole House which contained about 45,000 gallons of fuel, but failed to penetrate the concrete roof and an HE bomb fell only 10 feet away. If it had hit the whole works could have been destroyed. The TNT store also had a narrow escape and following the raid was moved to the edge of the cliff so that in the event of an explosion less damage would be caused.

Further raids followed, one of the most devastating being in the early hours of April 6th 1916, almost exactly 100 years ago. The attacker on this occasion was Zeppelin L11. Spotting the light from a furnace at Skinningrove Works where they were tipping slag she dropped 9 HE and 20 incendiary bombs, 6 of which failed to ignite. The bombs destroyed the works’ laboratory but the only other damage was to the village of Carlin How. One high explosive bomb hit the village school wrecking the two front cloakrooms and the Head Teacher’s room and causing other serious damage which rendered it unfit for occupation. Damage was also caused to a number of houses as well as to the roof and windows of the village Co-op.

Thankfully there were no casualties but the school remained closed until May 10th. Slates and glass had also to be obtained so that temporary repairs could be carried out to the Co-op, enabling it to carry on business to the end of the war.

To find out more visit the Iron Steel & Zeppelins exhibition on show now at the Museum.