Northampton honours mother and daughters who died in Zeppelin air raid 100 years ago

L-R: Chair of St James residents association, Graham Croucher, the mayor of Northampton, councillor Gareth Eales and Eliza Gammons' great-great grandson, Wayne Casey stand next to the newly unveiled street sign.
L-R: Chair of St James residents association, Graham Croucher, the mayor of Northampton, councillor Gareth Eales and Eliza Gammons' great-great grandson, Wayne Casey stand next to the newly unveiled street sign.

A square in St James has officially been named, ‘Gammons Place’ in memory of Eliza and her twin daughters, Gladys and Lily Gammons, who died when an incendiary bomb was dropped on their home 100 years ago.

To mark the centenary of the Zeppelin air raid on Thursday (October 19) the mayor of Northampton, Northampton Borough Council, St James CEVA Primary School - where the twins attended school - and St James residents association joined together to commemorate the occasion with a public memorial, featuring war time songs.

Gammons Place - known unofficially as the square between It’s a Gift and Nationwide - has been named after the deceased family and has also been fitted with a commemorative plaque and tree to mark the those who lost their lives in World War One.

Wayne Casey, Eliza’s great-great grandson said: “I think history is tremendously important. If you haven’t got a sense of history then you have lost your sense of memory as a community.

“I think the importance of this event today was that it adds to the sense of corporate memory and it makes us more of a community.

“I never expected that the Gammons family name would be put on the map. So this is wonderful. I’m very touched.”

On October 19, 1917, 22 bombs were dropped on Northampton from a German Zeppelin airship during an air raid, which caused the first war casualties in the county since the civil war.

While 52-year-old Eliza Gammons bricklayer husband was working away from home, she and her two daughters, Lily and Gladys, aged 13, were sleeping in the middle bedroom in their house in Parkwood Street, St James.

In the front bedroom was Private Albert Bazeley of the Army Veterinary Corps, who was on service leave with his wife, Elizabeth (Eliza Gammons daughter) and his two sons.

The Chronicle & Echo interviewed Albert Bazeley back in 1983. He said: “It was my second night home on leave. The bomb came through the roof and landed on the bed in my mother-in-law’s room, killing her instantly and injuring her two daughters, who were with her.

“I was in the front room with my wife and sons.

“I rushed into the other room but it was ablaze - I got the twins out and put them by the front room window. Their mother was already dead. The stairs were unusable because of the fire so I threw my children aged six and three out of the window into blankets neighbours were holding. The twins followed.

“My wife Elizabeth and I jumped after them. I burnt myself on my arms but I still made sure my army kit was safe otherwise I wouldn’t have anything to wear.”

The twins were rushed to Northampton General Hospital and died shortly after from severe burns.

Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

They were then buried with their mother, Eliza, in Dallington cemetery.

Mayor of Northampton, councillor Gareth Eales: “Although not as well-known as the blitz, German air raids had a devastating effect on communities throughout the UK during the first World War.

“St James lost three innocent lives that night, a mother and her young daughters, and it’s important that we make sure the memory of that event stays with us 100 years later.”

Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.