A tragic night in Ilkeston’s history

plaque to mark 100 years since bomb in stanton killing two people
plaque to mark 100 years since bomb in stanton killing two people

On a horrific night 100 years ago two men were killed when a German airship bombed Ilkeston.

That moment in history has been marked with the unveiling of a new plaque close to where the bombs were dropped.

plaque to mark 100 years since bomb in stanton killing two people

plaque to mark 100 years since bomb in stanton killing two people

January 31 marked the anniversary of the 1916 Midlands Zeppelin raid which saw several towns bombed.

At around 8.30pm on Monday January 31, 1916 the German Zeppelin L20 - an airship as big as Lincoln Cathedral- had already bombed Loughborough. Some 30 minutes later it turned its attention to Ilkeston.

Local historians believe it was probably attracted by the glow from the furnaces at the Bennerley Ironworks, near Awsworth.

After dropping several bombs around the Bennerley Viaduct, damaging the signal box, tearing up some railway sleepers and bringing down telephone wires, the L20 turned towards Hallam Fields, dropping a couple of bombs near Trowell.

It began dropping a total of 15 bombs across the ironworks at Stanton.

Stephen Flinders from Ilkeston and District Local History Society, said: “Two men died that night, James Hall and Walter Wilson.

“James Hall, from Stapleford, was killed instantly by a bomb which fell close to the old main office block on Lows Lane.”

Mr Hall has been working on the Old Works site when a fragment of pig iron thrown up by the bomb explosion took the top of his head off. He is buried in Stapleford Cemetery.

Walter Wilson, who lived on Station Road, was struck in the back by a fragment of shrapnel after ducking for cover against the church wall at St.Bartholomews at Hallam Fields. He had just finished his shift at New Works furnaces and was on his way to catch a tram home. He was taken to Ilkeston Hospital but died the next day.

The blast also killed a cow in a nearby field.

Members of the history society unveiled a stone plaque on the wall and close to where Walter was wounded. His great nephew Fred Wilson attenderd and unveiled the plaque.

The plaque was fixed to the wall of the former St Bartholomew’s church, now Railway Electrical Services, where shrapnel damage can still be seen on the side of the building.

The church still stands and is situated at the junction of Hallam Fields Road and Crompton Road, Hallam Fields, Ilkeston.

The German Zeppelin L20 Commanded by Capitan Leuntnant Franz Stabbert was among nine who had left their bases on the north German coast earlier in the day, crossing the English coast in the late afternoon.

It had already bombed Loughborough around 8pm that same evening,

Walter Wilson’s name was included on the Cenotaph on Ilkeston Market Place due to him being killed by enemy action.

The original plaque which was erected near the corner of the church wall was taken down years ago and is at the Erewash Museum in Ilkeston.

A chapeter on the raid is also included in a new book by Derbyshire author Scott Lomax called ‘The Home Front: Derbyshire in the First World War’.