A plaque commemorating the 1916 Zeppelin raids was unveiled today at Railway Electrical Services Head Office (St Bartholomew’s Church).
The plaque marks the 100 year anniversary of the raids which included the raid on Bennerley, Ilkeston and Stanton Ironworks. 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.
Having already bombed Loughborough around 8pm that same evening, the L20 headed towards Ilkeston, perhaps attracted by the glow from the furnaces at Bennerley, Gallows Inn and Stanton. 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, killing a cow in the process.
At around 8:30pm the L20 began its raid on Stanton, dropping a total of 15 bombs which damaged the main office block on Lows Lane, various workshops and the parish room at the rear of St.Bartholomews Church. Only half an hour before the church was struck, Mrs Cox, the wife of the vicar of Hallam Fields and 30 young girls were having their supper at the parsonage just a few hundred yards from the church. Mrs Cox had planned to have the girls for supper in the said parish room but for some reason changed her mind at the last minute, a decision which no doubt saved the lives of herself and the girls!
At the same time as the raid was taking place, Walter Wilson, a furnace labourer at the nearby New Works furnaces was making his was along Hallam Fields Road, intending to catch the tram home to his house on Station Road, Ilkeston. Hearing the bombs drop he ran across the road and took shelter against the church wall, just as the parish room was struck. He was hit in the back by a piece of shrapnel and died at Ilkeston Hospital the following day. Walter Wilson’s name was included on the Cenotaph on Ilkeston Market Place due to him being killed by enemy action.
James Hall of Stapleford, another employee of the Stanton Ironworks Co. was killed outright near the Old Works. He is buried in Stapleford Cemetery.
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.