In the summer of 1914, during the night of August 24th to 25th, Antwerp was shaken awake by loud explosions. A zeppelin flew over the city, dropping random bombs on the sleeping civilians. Ten people lost their lives, and more than 40 were injured.

This bombing incident is quite remarkable, and to understand why, a bit of background is necessary. The Germans had invaded Belgium on August 4, 1914. The fortified cities of Liège and Dinant had fallen, and on August 18, the king ordered the entire field army to retreat into the fortress of Antwerp. Antwerp was the national refuge and by far the most heavily defended city in the country.

At the time of the zeppelin bombing, the entire army was inside Antwerp. However, Antwerp was not actually a target for the Germans. They were on their way to France and left Antwerp behind. They only left a small observation corps to prevent attacks from the rear of the main army.

This is what makes the bombing so remarkable. Firstly, it was the first aerial bombing of civilians in history, with no military targets hit. Secondly, it wasn't part of a larger military action. There were no further attempts to conquer Antwerp, at least not at that moment.

It was a true act of terror, without a military objective, simply to instill fear and terror.

A little over a month later, a real siege of Antwerp would take place. But that's a story for another time...