16th March 1917
An unidentified seaplane of SFA 1 set out to attack shipping in The Downs off the east Kent coast but a thick layer of cloud hindered the crew’s navigation. At around 5.30am the aircraft broke through clouds at a height of about 1,300 feet, whereupon the crew discovered they were over land and approaching Westgate on the north Kent coast.
Carrying 21 small HE bombs, each weighing 5kgs, the crew dropped the first two on fields at Dent-du-Lion Farm, between Garlinge and Westgate, followed by a third that fell at Mutrix Farm. The RNAS had established a station at Westgate on land owned by Mutrix Farm and the next bomb landed about 150 yards to the east of the airfield. Having been heading north, the raider now swung round to the west and the next bomb landed west of Mutrix Farm, on land between the road and railway line, with another striking the railway embankment. Those first seven bombs broke a few windows in nearby cottages and smashed glass in a greenhouse. The seaplane then turned south and rapidly dropped 10 bombs which all fell within 100 yards of each other in a field about 700 yards south-east of Westgate Station. Swinging around to the north-west now, the seaplane’s next bomb landed on a lawn at Streete Court, a boys boarding school, followed by one on a greenhouse at a large house about 250 yards north of St. Saviour’s Church. The last bomb on land struck the ground about 20 yards from a bandstand and shelter on the sea front, shattering more glass, with the final two bombs falling in the sea within 300 yards of the shoreline.
The official British account incorrectly states that the raider was a captured Handley Page 0/100 flown by a German crew, following reports from local observers. The local police, however, did point out that these reports were not corroborated.
In response the RNAS sent up three aircraft between 5.35 and 5.45am but the low cloud prevented them seeing anything. The RFC also sent up three aircraft just before 6.00am, one for Rochford (37 Squadron), one for Dover (50 Squadron) and one from Bekesbourne (50 Squadron), but all experienced the same problems with the low cloud.
Casualties: 0 killed, 0 injured