Friday, 21 April 2017

Zeppelins over Well Hall

I have become fascinated by the story of the Allen family who lived just two doors down from us on Well Hall Road and died in a Zeppelin raid on August 25th, 1916.*

Until recently I knew nothing about them or that that their home was destroyed by that air raid.

But Tricia Leslie had uncovered a picture of the war damaged house and Daniel Murphy then tracked it down to what is now 290 Well Hall Road.

And from there Tricia went on to reveal something of the family and the night the bomb fell on Well Hall.

The Allen’s were from Surrey but by 1916 had already spent time in South Africa and New Zealand.

This I know because Tricia had uncovered their census entry for 1911 which showed them living in Surrey but also that their daughter Gladys had been born in Cape Town in 1904, and four years later they were bound on the SS Corinthic for Wellington which left London on February 5 1908.

I guess the journey would have been fairly comfortable given that the SS Corinthic was just six years old.  It was one of those work a day ships which carried freight and passengers and had been built for the route to New Zealand.

Now such globetrotting was not so uncommon and given that Mr Allen was an engineer he would have been part of that generation that went out across the world building and maintaining the machines of empire.

But by 1916 the family was back in Britain and Mr Allen was working at the Arsenal and living in of those brand new homes on the Well Hall estate.

Of course for them that was pretty much the end of the story.

According to newspaper reports of the raid and the subsequent coroner’s inquests the Zepplin that dropped the bomb had taken a random and leisurely route dropping its payload across the south east.

By the standards of the air raids of the Second World War this was a small affair, with just eight people being killed.

But that is not to diminish the loss of life or the damage done and the coroner’s comments reveal the extent to which this was a new type of warfare.

Summing up he said “the interesting point in these cases was as to the safest place.  In each case the bomb appeared to have exploded in the upper part of the house and it seemed that the ground floor and basements were more or less safe, except from falling debris.”**

A fact which was not lost on those in 1940 faced with no air raid shelters.

* Zeppelins over Well Hall,

**District Times September 1916

Research by Tricia Leslie

Picture; the bombed house today courtesy of Daniel Murphy


  1. Hello!
    I am also researching the Allen family as part of a project for the Greenwich Heritage Museum. Like Tricia I have found the family in the 1911 census but am having difficulty in finding any other definite records as frederick Allen is a not uincommon name. Within the next few days I am visiting the graveyard in Eltham where they are buried with a clear memorial stone although it sadly does not name the wife and dauighter. I would be interested in exchanging further infomration.

  2. Would be happy to help Tricia has my email and phone nus