Centenary: A family story behind Bury’s killer Zeppelin raid

Charlotte Adams, wearing a scarf, with her 12  surviving children in 1929. Ernest is back row, right
Charlotte Adams, wearing a scarf, with her 12 surviving children in 1929. Ernest is back row, right
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For Reg Adams the second Zeppelin raid on Bury St Edmunds is part of his family history.

But for his father Ernest, March 31, 1916 was the night he saw his own father and twin brother killed and narrowly missed death himself. Ernest was only 15.

Reg Adams

Reg Adams

Reg, of Newmarket Road, Bury, has looked into the stories of the raid, because his father Ernest told him what happened to him.

The Bury Free Press reports at the time do not name the town or the victims, for security reasons, and only say 28 people were killed across the eastern counties.

In fact, seven died in Bury, including mother Annie Dureall and her baby. After the war the log of Zeppelin L16 was found to say ‘made for Bury St Edmunds at midnight’, so the town was deliberately hit by what the BFP called ‘German baby-killers’.

Reg’s grandfather Henry, whose large family lived in Raingate Street, worked for the council and his municipal horse was kept at Green King’s brewery stables.

The only known picture of Henry Adams. ANL-140917-171750009

The only known picture of Henry Adams. ANL-140917-171750009

Reg was told that as soon as they heard the Zeppelin, Henry said ‘Come on lads, let’s go look after the horse’. Henry went off with Ernest and his twin George and another son.

Reg said: “They were going to comfort the horse because they could hear this thing above. He felt he had to go and look after his job and the horse.”

As they neared the Star of Prussia pub, on the corner of Prussia Lane and Southgate Street, they heard the three bombs whistling down.

“Father said he dived against the wall when he heard the bomb coming, and that was what saved him,” Reg said. “He was always nippy on his feet.

The Bury Free Press report on the March 1916 Zeppelin raid ANL-140917-153255001

The Bury Free Press report on the March 1916 Zeppelin raid ANL-140917-153255001

“Father ran up the road after the thing went off and picked up his father’s bowler hat and there was a big hole in it.”

The blast killed Henry and George. The other son was injured, but Reg does not know which of his uncles that was.

Ernest believed the Zeppelin was after Robert Boby’s engineering works on what is now Waitrose’s site, which was involved in munitions work.

A theory in 1917 was that someone came out of the pub with a light, which the Germans aimed at.

One Zeppelin involved in the eastern raids was brought down by gunfire in Kent.

But that night was not the last sadness the war brought Reg’s grandmother Charlotte. A little over a year later, on April 9, 1917, another son, Sidney, 21, was killed with the 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment near Arras in France.

However, a family photo from 1929 shows Charlotte with her 12 surviving children. Reg knows of only one picture of his grandfather, showing him by a threshing machine.