Zeppelin Attack at Bold

Attack planned for the Midlands veered off course to the North West.

On 12th April 1918 a group of five Zeppelin airships flew over the east coast with orders to attack England. One of these, L61, flew much deeper inland, possibly heading for Liverpool. The commander of this airship, Kapitanleutenant Herbert Erlich, left Wilhelmshafen (North German coast) heading towards Cheshire. He was driven off course by high winds and anti-aircraft fire, but still managed to release a number of bombs. The first bomb, at 11.17pm, on the A57 Warrington to Prescot Road at Bold damaging a milestone and road. The second bomb in a farmer’s field in Bold, causing a huge crater.[1] The remainder of the bombs were dropped over Wigan. In total 19 bombs were dropped, five people were killed and 19 injured.

On his return to base in Germany Kapitanleutenant Erlich reported that he had bombed Sheffield. [2]

A report in the Liverpool Echo on 15th April 1918 quotes from a German communique: “In the night of April 12 Captain Strasser with one of our marine airship squadrons attacked important storage, manufacturing and shipment places of war industry in Central England. Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Hull and Grimsby were bombed. Despite the extraordinarily strong gunfire encountered and pursuit by airmen, all the airships returned safely.”

The damaged milestone is now in Victoria Park, Widnes, with a plaque. The inscription reads:

This was the fifth milestone standing beside the A.57 Prescot to Warrington Rd. At Bold on the 12 April 1918. When five German Naval Zeppelins made the last effective airship raid on England. Zeppelin L61 from Wittmundhaven, commanded by Captain Leutenant Ehrlich with a crew of 19, crossed our coast at Withernsea and flew almost to Crewe before turning north and crossing the Mersey at 18,000 feet above Malton. At 11.17 p.m. the first of its bombs fell damaging the milestone, the road surface, a water main and doing some minor damage to adjacent property. There were no casualties here. A second bomb dropped three minutes later made a crater seven feet deep and fifteen feet across in a field at Abbots Hall Farm, Bold. The Zeppelin went on to bomb Inoe and Wigan, before returning safely to base. The night was dark and overcast, added to which the effectiveness of the official black out prevented accurate navigation, so that the airship commander reported in his log that he had bombed Sheffield. The light from the blast furnaces of the Wigan Coal and Iron Company, which had received no air-raid warning, attracted L61. Seven people were killed and twelve injured at Wigan and a further four injured at Aspull. The milestone was kept for many years at Victoria Park at Widnes as a reminder of the second of the only two Zeppelin raids on Lancashire. [3]

[1]  Sutton Beauty & Heritage, ‘Sutton at War Part 1’ [accessed 21/11/2014]

[2] IWM, Press Information ‘The North at War’ [accessed 21/11/2014]

[3] Public Monuments & Sculpture Association ‘National Recording Project’ [accessed 21/11/2014]

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