In the early years of the First World War, Britain came under air attack for the first time in history. While balloons, nicknamed “Gas Bags”, were commonplace in the skies at the outbreak of war, it was the infamous, much larger and more rigid Zeppelin airships that first carried out air attacks over Britain, introducing a new terror weapon to the vocabulary of the British people.
Thanks to a grant of £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, we are delighted to open a new exhibition entitled, “Gas Bags To Super Zeppelins” which charts the early pre war and First World War development of aerial warfare.
The new exhibition was opened on Tuesday March the 15th by Dr Fiona Spiers, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for Yorkshire and The Humber and is now open to the public.
The Museum’s Eastchurch Kitten WWI bi-plane, designed as a ‘Zeppelin killer’, will be running up to illustrate early fighter technology, along with the SE.5a WWI fighter. The Yorkshire Air Museum received the grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) through its First World War: then and now programme, in generous support of the new exhibition.
In addition to showcasing early Zeppelin raids, the exhibition also illustrates, through diary entries and rare early sound and film recordings from The Museum archive, the shock effect that this new type of terror warfare had on the population of Britain at that time. We also show how the British defences struggled to combat these early air raids.
The exhibition details how wartime accelerates technology to try to stem the Zeppelin threat by, almost desperate, developments of aircraft like the Eastchurch Kitten , designed to take off from the decks of ships on a one-way mission to try intercept enemy airships as they crossed the North Sea. The story continues as the technology-race leads to the development of better defence tactics, better ammunition and better aircraft which eventually spelled the end of the Zeppelin & Shutte Lanz airship raids, only to be superceded by faster and more efficient enemy bomber aircraft. And so the arms-race continued.
Tracing the early development of the first airships, the exhibition tracks the remarkable lighter-than-air aeronautics from the balloons of the Montgolfier Brothers of 1783 and onward through to the 20th century.
Post World War One, we look at the development of “Super Zeppelins” and their British equivalents, which were the largest of them all, culminating with the tragic and horrifying disasters as a result of the use of highly flammable hydrogen gas.
Commenting on the award and the new exhibition, Museum Director Ian Reed said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. The airship raids, which started, following the outbreak of war, in 1914 over Belgium and France, had the biggest impact on society than at any time before or since.”
“British families had not experienced invasion for almost 1000 years. On 19 January 1915, the German Zeppelins delivered the first air attacks on Britain of the First World War. Without warning, British people were suddenly on the Front Line and defenceless. Thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to bring to life existing records of people’s memories and experiences to tell the story of the ‘Wonder Ship’ of the First World War and also brought previously untold stories relevant to the Region. Our exhibition ‘Gas Bags to Super Zeppelins’ explores the social impact of the threat, the attacks and their repercussions as well as the desperate race to find a technological solution to defend our homes from aerial attack during the First World War.”