Sisters Naomi Murrell (left) and Louisa Kemp outside the remains of their home at 34 Leslie Park Road, Croydon. Imperial War Museum image: Bomb damage at 33 Leslie Park Road, Croydon, sustained during the Zeppelin raid on the night of 13 – 14 October 1915. © IWM (HO 26)
On 13 October 1915 five German airships left their bases on the northern coast of Germany bound for London. As they flew across southern England the spectacle of the enormous craft picked out by searchlights against the dark sky was watched with astonishment by thousands of people.
Zeppelin L14 had set off from Nordholz, under the command of 36 year old Kapitanleutenant Alois Böcker. In the blackout conditions his crew struggled to navigate accurately as they flew across the Kent coast. They bombed an army base, Otterpool Camp near Hythe, thinking it was Woolwich Dockyard. Fifteen Canadian soldiers from the 5th Brigade of the Canadian Second Division Artillery were killed and eleven wounded. Heading inland for London and seeing the railway lines and roads of Croydon, the crew of L14 possibly thought they had reached their target. Turning back to cross the town from west to east they began to drop their bombs shortly after 11pm.
A mother and daughter were thrown from their house into Edridge Road and a baby was left trapped in the wreckage, although he was subsequently rescued unharmed by the fire brigade. Then three young boys, Brien (10 years old), Gordon (14) and Roy Currie (15) were killed when their home at 12 Beech House Road was hit.
More bombs fell on Oval Road killing two people and damaging a school, and there were further deaths in Morland Road and St. James Road. A mother was killed along with her son and daughter in their home at Stretton Road, South Norwood, before the Zeppelin began its journey back to Nordholz. In total nine people died in Croydon that night, and fifteen were seriously injured.
Böcker went on to fly other missions over England. In September 1916 he was forced to make a crash landing in Essex, where he and his crew were taken prisoner.