Wigan poet remembers town's zeppelin raid with new poem

Stephen Corless
Stephen Corless

A Wigan writer has penned a new poem remembering the dramatic World War One zeppelin raid on the town 100 years ago.

Stephen Corless, who has published several books, wrote Zeppelins Over Wigan after reading the tale of the conflict’s frontline coming to the borough in a book by Bolton historian Peter JC Smith.

Damage from a zeppelin bomb in Harper Street

Damage from a zeppelin bomb in Harper Street

Stephen contacted Peter and asked for permission to turn his words into rhyming verses to commemorate the centenary, which was quickly granted.

The work tells of how the German airship L61 crewed by Lieutenant-Kapitan Hermann Ehrlich was ordered to drop bombs on the North West of England.

The captain in charge saw the coal and iron furnaces in the borough and, perhaps thinking they were the industrial city of Sheffield, unleashed a devastating salvo of explosives which killed five people and shocked Wigan, where there was no hint a bombing raid was about to happen.

Stephen says he is unsure what he will do with his new creation, but has suggested he will put it on Facebook on Thursday, the exact date a century ago the bombing took place.

Stephen, from Pemberton, said: “I was actually told about the raid on Wigan on holiday by a chap I met, and I liked the story so much I thought it would make a great poem.

“There were some really unlucky stories in there. One lady would have lived but she heard the noise, raised her head off the pillow and a splinter killed her.

“I’m very pleased I’ve been able to have a say in the World War One centenary remembrance. It was such a huge waste of life, with the stories of the Accrington Pals and all the people from around Wigan. They were just sent off to be slaughtered, it’s very sobering.

“This one is going into my collection of poems and songs but I’d like to do something with it. I might put it on Facebook on the actual day but if any schools or community groups are looking at the war I’d be very happy for them to have it.”

Like Peter’s book which the poem is based on, Stephen has crammed the stanzas with personal details of individual Wiganers caught up in the bombing raid, giving a more vivid picture of what it may have been like to live through those terrifying hours.

Bombs were dropped in locations including Harper Street and Clarington Grove, where a huge crater opened up, and Platt Lane.

The 12-minute attack on the borough also included allotments and open spaces being bombed near the Crown Hotel and damage to the iconic cast iron gaslight in Scholes near Birkett Bank.