About 8 o’clock in the evening of Monday January 31st 1916, the people of Loughborough were startled and amazed by a succession of loud explosions. Warnings had been given by the police when air raiders had been heard on the coast and, on the evening of the 31st, an hour or so before the fateful visit, the police had warned tradesmen and others that a raid was in progress. No apparent notice, however, was taken, Loughborough’s insular position being considered one of safety.
Ten people were killed and twelve were injured. Most of those injured were taken to the Loughborough Hospital, whilst one, a tramp, was removed to the Workhouse Infirmary.
The first bomb fell into the backyard of the Crown and Cushion pub badly injuring the landlady and killing 50 year old Martha Shipman in her home on Orchard Street.The target is believed to have been the Instructional College. The second bomb was to wreak even greater havoc as it landed in The Rushes as a number of people were coming home from work. 25 year old Ethel Alice Higgs was one such victim, the Adkins, a recently married couple, had the misfortune to run the wrong way, directly into the area of the explosion as Anne Adkin came to meet her husband Joseph from work. Annie Adcock, a shopkeeper on the Rushes was the fourth person to die there.
The Zeppelin L20 – as long as two football pitches and commanded by Kapitanleutnant Stabbert now swung round towards the tempting lights of the Empress Works on the other side of the town. The next bomb was to fall with devastating effect on Empress Road.
The three people closest to the blast were the Page family, Mary Ann Page and her two teenage children, Joseph Page (aged 18) and Elsie Page (aged 16). They had come out their house at No. 87 and wandered a little way up the street to see what was going on. All three died on the spot… all three were recorded as having died from a fractured skull ‘and other terrible injuries’. Both Martha Shipman’s husband George and Mary Ann Page’s husband Joe were serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps and both were recalled and were present at the inquests in the town.
Two more people were to die from the Empress Road bomb. Arthur Christian Turnall was at work in the Empress Works when the third bomb dropped. Heavy glass plates were shattered causing lacerations to his left leg and side leading to massive blood loss. Arthur died later in hospital. The fifth person to die was shopkeeper Josiah Gilbert of 77 Empress Road who died on his own premises in the arms of his son.
L20’s last bomb is believed to have landed harmlessly in a nearby orchard but just a stone’s throw from the Great Central Railway Station.