LONG before the planes of the Blitz terrorised residents of east London, it was airships that brought fear from above during World War One. DANIEL BINNS finds out more.

The German airforce began using airships for bombing raids on England in 1915. The technology was initially seen as superior to planes due to the crafts' endurance under fire, range and greater bomb-holding capacity.

But while the airships were successful from a propaganda perspective, they swiftly proved to be rather inefficient militarily, especially once the British later developed incendiary ammunition which targeted the crafts' flammability to devastating effect.

One prominent example of the airships' failure militarily was the deadly bombing of Waltham Forest in August 1915.

A total of four Zeppelins – a type of airship – took part in the raids, but they all failed to hit their intended targets. Two fled back to Germany after developing mechanical problems, while another bombed Ashford in Kent in the mistaken belief it was Woolwich.

The fourth mistook the reservoirs of the Lea Valley for the River Thames, and so dropped its payload on the borough.

Bombs soon rained down on Hoe Street, the Bakers Arms and Lloyd Park in Walthamstow, along with Leyton High Road and Grove Green Road, among other streets.

Ten people were killed and 48 injured, with the damage estimated at £30,750.

But there was a revenge of sorts when a German airship was spectacularly shot down in the skies above Walthamstow and Chingford the following September.

The 'SL11' aircraft had earlier bombed Finsbury and Victoria Park before being intercepted by pilot William Leefe Robinson.

Nine British aircraft had earlier tried and failed to shoot down the mammoth craft, but after several attempts Robinson aimed at the thinner, rudder end, successfully igniting the ship into a ball of fire.

Large crowds in Walthamstow watched as the monster swirl of flames and wreckage drifted slowly down to earth, eventually ending up in Cuffley, Hertfordshire.

“For thousands of people it was without doubt one of the most memorable events of the entire war,” according to Bill Bayliss, an amateur historian from Chingford who has researched the impact of airships on the borough.

He told the Guardian: “I get a lot of interest about the subject because many older people in the borough or their parents remembered seeing it very clearly. It must've had a huge impact to see something like that.”

By the end of the war airship technology had been emphatically usurped by planes and the use of such crafts in military bombings soon became consigned to the history books.