Wednesday 13 June 1917 – We Lost 560
The first daylight bombing attack on London by a fixed-wing aircraft took place on 13 June, 1917. Fourteen Gothas led flew over Essex and began dropping their bombs. It was a clear day and the bombs were dropped just before noon. Numerous bombs fell in rapid succession in various districts in the East End. In the East End alone; 162 people were killed, 154 seriously injured and 269 slightly injured.
The gravest of incidents that day, was the damage done to a Council school in Poplar. In the Upper North Street School at the time were a girl’s class on the top floor, a boy’s class on the middle floor and an infant class of about 50 students on the ground floor. The bomb fell through the roof into the girl’s class; it then proceeded to fall through the boy’s classroom before finally exploding in the infant class.
Eighteen students were killed overall. Sixteen of these were aged from 4 to 6 years old. The two teachers of the infant class acted like heroines as they got everyone out of the building before helping others who were rescuing bodies from the rubble. Panicked mothers searched for their children, desperately hoping they were not one of those caught in the blast. As quickly as possible, the bodies of the children who were killed were removed to the mortuary, and the injured were cared for by nurses and surgeons and taken to the hospitals.
About a week later, one of the biggest funerals in London was held for these infants. Fifteen children were buried in a mass grave at the East London Cemetery, while the other three children had private graves. Brothers and sisters of the children looked on with mournful faces, some having also been in the school at the time of the bombing.
A memorial in Poplar Recreation Ground, unveiled in June 1919, bears the names of the 18 Upper North Street School pupils that were killed on the first daylight air-raid on London.
The merchant man SS Kelvinbank (Herbert John Colley age 41) is sunk by a torpedo fired by U-69 100 miles north of Cape Wrath killing 16 including her master.
Today’s losses include:
- A man whose son will be killed at Tobruk in September 1941
- The son of a member of the clerlgy
- Brothers killed together
- Multiple families that will lose two and three sons in the Great War
Today’s highlighted casualties include:
- Captain Cecil Horace Case Keevil (West Yorkshire Regiment attached Royal Flying Corps) is accidentally killed at home at age 36. His son will be killed at Tobruk in September 1941.
- Captain Walter David Ruddock (Auckland Regiment) is killed at age 28. His brother was killed in May 1915 and they are sons of Archdeacon David Ruddock of Hawkes Bay New Zealand.
- Sergeant John William Hallworth (South Lancashire Regiment) is killed at age 35. His two brothers will be killed next year.
- Acting Lance Sergeant George Francis Baum (Leicestershire Regiment) is killed in action at age 22. His brother will die of wounds in April 1918.
- Privates Allan and Ernest John Julius Holz are killed serving in the Wellington Regiment and are buried in adjacent graves in Motor Car Corner Cemetery, Ploegsteert.