New exhibition delves into ‘baby killer’ German Zeppelin raids on South Yorkshire

A postcard of a Zeppelin raid.
A postcard of a Zeppelin raid.

A new exhibition is set to reveal South Yorkshire’s pivotal role in battling German zeppelins - known as ‘baby killers’ - during the First World War.

The exhibition, called ‘Riding High: Doncaster Airfields and thew Zeppelin Raid on Sheffield’ will delve into how the area trained the world’s first fighter pilots and pioneered cutting-edge technology in a terrifying international arms race against the deadly enemy airships.

It will trace the near-forgotten 100-year-old origins of modern air-warfare through personal letters and photographs from the time and original remnants from serving aircraft will be displayed.

It is being launched at South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum in Doncaster on Tuesday, September 20, and is part of the wider Doncaster 1914-18 scheme - a four-year project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.

Jude Holland, Doncaster 1914-18 project manager, said: “In the run-up to the war, aeroplanes were a novelty – little more than pleasure-craft - and people would never have dreamed of flying to war.

“Zeppelins changed that: they were a horrifying innovation that sent a shockwave of fear across Britain, and were dubbed ‘baby killers’. For the first time, the skies became a battleground and the frontline could become your backyard, as Sheffield discovered first-hand on September 25 1916 during a midnight raid that killed 28 local people. The country was catapulted into a deadly battle for the skies, with South Yorkshire right at the heart of it all.”

The exhibition will discover how the area became a regional hub in the battle for the skies, training hundreds of pilots, assembling aircraft and acting as a base for the Royal Flying Corps, later to become the Royal Air Force.

South Yorkshire Aircraft museum volunteer Ian Kingsnorth said: “Over 8000 air-related casualties are recorded between 1916 and 1918, so training grounds, like Doncaster, had to produce thousands of pilots during the course of the war.”