Watching events in Ukraine unfold on TV has left us all moved, writes Valdez. The killing of civilians in the course of war has been going on since time immemorial. Philosophers and politicians have decried it and sought to discourage and outlaw it.
The Haig Convention of 1907 aimed to protect civilians from the worst excesses of war. Sadly it was ambiguous about the role of aircraft, which were seen as support for ground troops not as bombers of civilians.
In 1914 Germany made the decision to make modern war ‘Total War’. In bombing the civil population, the Germans hoped to creat panic and lower civilian morale thus shortening WW1.
The Germans bombed European cities with their sausage like Zeppelins early in the war. By 1915 they had switched their attention to Britain, attacking the seaside towns of King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth.
Then it was London’s turn to live in fear of moonless nights when the Zeppelins’ silently delivered their destructive cargo.
Deptford was hit on the third raid and bombed on the night of September 7-8 1915, killing 16 people and again on the night of the August 24-25 August 1916, when another person was killed.
To counter the growing threat of the Zeppelins, the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), which was primarily engaged on the Western Front, was forced to deploy badly needed aircraft to the home front.The RFC soon got the measure of the Zeppelins and their losses became unsustainable. But the destruction of the Zeppelins did not end the bombing of mainland Britain though.
In 1917 Germany introduced its new Bi Wing long range bomber plane, the Gotha. This undertook day and night raids while the few remaining Zeppelins carried out night only raids.
With raids on London day and night it was not unsurprising that between May 1917 and May 1918 over 300,000 people regularly took shelter in the London Underground.
On the second daylight raid on July 7 1917 a Lewisham man was killed whilst recuperating from injuries sustained on the Western Front.
On the night of October 19-20, the last Zeppelin raid killed 14 people including seven children from the same family in Hither Green.
By May 1918 having lost over 70 Gothas the campaign was effectively called off. Not before Lewisham was hit again as part of the last and largest Gotha air raid of the war on London.
This time it was Sydenham on the night of May 19-20 1918, when 18 people were killed including five members of the same family.
Total war and the bombing of civilian populations continue to take a heavy toll after WW1.
Italy invaded Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1935 using bombers to both destroy the local army and terrify the civil population. In 1937 Italy and Germany bombed civilians in the Spanish Civil War.
WW2 would bring yet more terror to civil populations and south-east London would again be on the frontline.