The Raids on Lambeth and Wandsworth, that the L31 zeppelin, commanded by Heinrich Mathy, was flying ‘unusually high and fast’ at an estimated 12,000 feet, crossing London from south to north and then making its escape.
It is thought that Mathy directed the L31 zeppelin towards London by following the railway line from Eastbourne to London. After Mathy’s flares had dazzled the gunners at Croydon, the airship made its way towards Streatham Common station, dropping bombs on Mr. Tomlin’s vegetable garden at 30 Ellison Road along the way. Some of the railway tracks were then hit, followed by houses on Estreham Road opposite the station.
A shop on Greyhound Lane had its windows blown in by an incendiary bomb which left a small crater in the pavement outside. Special Constables rushed to the scene and with the help of local residents began rescuing trapped and injured occupants of the bomb damaged buildings.
The Red Cross treated nine casualties who were taken to Streatham Common station, where an emergency first aid post had been set up.
The zeppelin inflicted further damage along Gleneagle Road and Leigham Court Road, but according to at least one source ‘the worst incident of the raid occurred outside Streatham Hill Station.’ Streatham Hill Modern School stood on the junction of Streatham Hill and Sternhold Avenue, next to the station.
A bomb exploded in the school’s garden, the blast from which killed four men outright who were on board a tramcar standing outside the station at the time. Another passenger died later from his wounds.
The booking office and waiting rooms at Streatham Hill Station were damaged, as well as surrounding properties. Later, as morning dawned it was discovered that there was an unexploded bomb on the roof of Sainsbury’s opposite the station, which had to be removed to safety.
Further explosions erupted further along Streatham Hill, in Pendennis Road, Tierney Road and Telford Avenue, as the zeppelin progressed towards Brixton and on towards Central London.
John W. Brown reports in his book Zeppelins Over Streatham: ‘During a period of less than 15 minutes, Heinrich Mathy had dropped a total of 32 bombs on Streatham, comprising 10 explosive and 22 incendiary devices. He had killed seven people and had seriously injured a further 27 in what was the worst night of destruction Streatham had ever known.’Heinrich Mathy received military honours from the Kaiser for his efforts in penetrating London’s defences, but the L31’s reign was not to last.
Kapitanleutnant Heinrich Mathy / Imperial War Museums Collection / © IWM (Q 58566)
Streatham Hill c.1910 / Wandsworth Heritage Service Postcards collection
Bomb damage to a girls’ school near Streatham Hill station following the Zeppelin raid on the night of 23 – 24 September 1916 / Imperial War Museums Coll