History of zeppelin raids in WWI: Postcard imagining of a raid.

How Photographers Tried to Capture the Terror of Night Zeppelin Raids During WWI

How Photographers Tried to Capture the Terror of Night Zeppelin Raids During WWI

The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Jan. 5 2015 12:11 PM

How Photographers Tried to Capture the Terror of Night Zeppelin Raids During WWI

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This “record” of a 1915 zeppelin raid on London is a fabrication, put together by an enterprising photographer looking to sell commemorative postcards to a British public understandably preoccupied by the airships’ attacks. Cameras of the time would have had difficulty capturing a zeppelin in the night sky, especially since the ships had to fly at high altitude to escape anti-aircraft fire.

The first German zeppelin raid on Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn, in January 1915, was followed by a series of such raids. Laura Massey of Alembic Rare Books writes that this photograph was probably composed by A.C. Cooper, a London photographer who reprinted and resold the same image after several zeppelin attacks, redating it accordingly.

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Cooper’s composite photograph shows one of the defenses the British mounted against the airships: searchlights that combed the night sky, looking for incoming ships and enabling targeting for gunners on the ground. While few anti-aircraft shells ever exploded, writes Military History Monthly, “once enemy raiders were spotted, they were liable, on a clear night, be held in a pyramid of light-rays and targeted by numerous 3-inch quick-firing anti-aircraft guns.” British home-defense aircraft then attacked, eventually successfully bringing some of the hydrogen-filled ships down using explosive and incendiary bullets. 

ZeppelinPhoto

Courtesy of Alembic Books.