Personnel (a mixture of military and Civil Service) from Aircrew Career Management desperate for a day away from the normal office routine of continuous phone calls, instant messenger and emails, decided a Force Development Staff Ride would be an ideal opportunity to achieve that. After much deliberation it was agreed that London was the most favourable location to meet with everyone’s travel agendas.

Investigation through the very helpful staff in the Station Professional Development Flight pointed us in the direction of Exercise ZEPPELIN WALK. This involves following the route of an infamous bombing raid, on 8 Sep 1915, through the streets of central London, which seemed very apt during the centenary of remembrance for WWI. Therefore, after completing the necessary paperwork to gain the required approval, a date was set for late Nov 18.

The objective was to EXPLORE, TRANSLATE and UNDERSTAND the first Zeppelin Raid on London in order to gain a first-hand perspective of the strategic effect of the raid and identify any secondary effects that occurred once the initial kinetic phase had been completed. Furthermore, to investigate the leadership qualities of the Zeppelin’s captain, Kptlt Heinrich Mathy and the political pressure of the time to bomb London. Moreover, translate how the aforementioned was relevant for today’s RAF and its future roles.

So, last Nov our intrepid explores from Career Management made their way into the country’s capital to meet near Holborn station in no other than… a Costa! Suitably refreshed, we made our way to Red Lion Square to commence our mission of historical fact finding and greater military understanding.

Trying to place ourselves slightly over 100 years previously, we learnt that Kptlt Heinrich Mathy was the commander of Zeppelin L13 on the raid of 8-9 Sept 1915 and has become known as the most daring and audacious of all the Zeppelin raiders. Additionally, we were made aware that, as the campaign progressed, German aircrew came to realise that they were extremely vulnerable in their hydrogen filled craft, especially as they carried no parachutes! Ultimately, the Zeppelin raids saw a step change in warfare: the ability to kill from range and not see the effects on victims, whilst not necessarily exposing military personnel to mortal danger. In need of further refreshments, we stepped into the nearby Dolphin Tavern which also happened to be bombed during the raid. The main attraction in there is an old clock on the bar’s wall that stopped at the time one of the German bombs hit the public house.

On leaving that establishment, we made our way cautiously along the course of the bombing raid until we came across another resting place, Ye Olde Mitre Tavern, Hatton Gardens. Here we disused the secondary effects of the German strategic bombing raids and how the British defences reacted.

Again, following the line of the attack we came to West Smithfield which happened to coincide with lunch! However, it was an ideal opportunity to analyse what moral courage and leadership attributes of the Zeppelin commander.

Next, was a slightly longer stroll to Postman’s Park to evaluate how the Zeppelin raids saw a step change in warfare – the ability to kill from range and not see the effects on victims. We finally finished our mission at Finsbury Circus where we analysed what the Germans hoped to achieve with their strategic bombing offensive and the moral effects on the UK’s civilian population.

All-in-all this was a superb day that benefitted the Career Management team in many ways. Indeed, it did enforce an opportunity to depart the office environment for a day but bolstering our military understanding whilst combining an enjoyable 2.5 mile walk through the seldom visited back streets of London. Definitely worth the small amount of effort to allow this day to occur!

Sqn Ldr Scott Greig