Defending Sheffield

BE2C Night Fighter armed with machine guns for anti-zeppelin defence

Title: BE2C Night Fighter armed with machine guns for anti-zeppelin defence
Description: South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum by-nc

Much preparation had been undertaken in the event of a Zeppelin raid. On the ground, anti-aircraft guns and searchlights were positioned around the city.

In contrast with London, a very heavily imposed blackout was established in Sheffield. Only 45 out of a total of 12,000 street lights were in use and even those were extinguished at 7.30pm. After that the only light was provided by passing tram headlights!

Electric buzzers were in place to warn of incoming raids, with people advised to seek cover in their cellars or open spaces. Imagine the problems of trying to ‘blackout’ the industrial Don Valley area where the working of glowing hot steel was essential to maintain production for the war.

The Royal Naval Air Service had previously defended Britain’s airspace, but was fully occupied by the German submarine threat to shipping. The Army’s Royal Flying Corps formed new Home Defence Squadrons and spread them across Britain. One of these, 33 Squadron, was given responsibility to protect Yorkshire from Zeppelin threat.

What is a Squadron?

The basic fighting unit of the Royal Air Force, and its predecessors in the Army’s RFC and RNAS, is the squadron. This is roughly the equivalent of an Army regiment. The shape and composition of a squadron varies according to its role. Most flying squadrons are commanded by a wing commander who oversees around 200 personnel and between 12 and 16 aircraft.