Even before the First World War began, people were afraid of being bombed by Zeppelins. Peace conferences had banned the dropping of bombs from balloons and airships but Germany did not agree to these conditions. This led to an ‘airship panic’ in Britain, as people realised they could be targets in a future war.
German authorities were prepared to use Zeppelins even if it resulted in civilian deaths. As war was declared in 1914, German military commanders quickly called for the bombing of Britain. Commander of the German Naval Zeppelin Fleet, Korvettenkapitan Peter Strasser, said, ‘if what we do is frightful, then may frightfulness be Germany’s salvation’.
Many places in Britain were bombed before Sheffield, but it was only a matter of time. Sheffield’s Don Valley was a valuable target because of the many factories manufacturing war materials. Companies such as Cammell Laird, Vickers Ltd. and John Brown and Co. Ltd. were busy producing naval guns and armour plate for the Royal Navy. These targets were surrounded by many residential areas.