Zeppelin raids, Gothas and 'Giants'

Britain's First Blitz - 1914 -1918

Ian Castle looks at the World War One air raids on Britain - the First Blitz

40 (3)

Kent

22nd August 1917

 

With only 15 Gothas available Kagohl 3 planned an ambitious strike against targets on both sides of the Thames estuary and at Dover. However, five of the Gothas, including that of squadron commander Kleine, turned back early with engine problems leaving just 10 to make the attack. Warning of the incoming bombers was received shortly after 10.00am giving the defence aircraft time to get airborne and allowing the AA guns to make ready before the raiders crossed the coast 35 minutes later.

 

Five bombs landed in Margate. One wrecked an unoccupied house in Windsor Avenue and seriously damaged the neighbouring property, and two that landed in Approach Road smashed windows in about 60 properties in the vicinity. One unexploded bomb smashed through the roof of 42 Cliftonville Avenue and another landed on a potato plot near St. Mildred’s Road. There were no injuries in Margate. Almost immediately after coming inland, however, two Gothas were brought down, one by a defence aircraft and the other by AA fire. With dwindling numbers Kagohl 3 abandoned the attack on the Thames Estuary and turned for Dover, while more defence aircraft closed in and the guns continued to fire. One bomb fell on a field at Bromstone Farm, about half a mile outside Broadstairs while a falling AA shell injured a man in the town as the aircraft approached Ramsgate.

 

One bomb killed six men and a child sheltering in a store cut out of the chalk on Military Road by the harbour. Two schools serving as hospitals for the Canadian Army came under attack, with bombs causing damage in the grounds of Townley Castle and making a direct hit on Chatham House. There the bomb passed through the building before exploding in the basement where it killed a butcher. Other bombs narrowly missed St. Lawrence College (also serving as a Canadian Red Cross hospital), the Ramsgate County School, the Public Library and St. George’s Church where people were sheltering in the crypt. The bomb smashed stain glass windows and caused damage in neighbouring properties. Just a short distance away, in Church Hill, another bomb killed a Canadian soldier sheltering in the doorway of a newspaper office.

At the Town railway station a bomb damaged one of the platforms and a temporary canteen serving wounded soldiers on their way back from the Front, but no one was injured there. In Picton Road a bomb severely damaged six houses and injured three children, while in Prince’s Street near the harbour a bomb demolished three small cottages. Other bombs caused some damage in Boundary Road, Alexandra Road, Percy Road, Hollicondane Road, Duncan Road and St. Mildred’s Road. Of the 34 bombs dropped on Ramsgate seven failed to detonate. Casualties in Ramsgate amounted to nine killed and 22 injured.

 

The remaining eight Gothas went out to sea at Ramsgate and headed south down the coast towards Dover, engaged by AA guns and pursued by pilots of the RNAS. They came inland again at Deal and, approaching Dover from the north, dropped a bomb at Whitfield, which fell harmlessly in a field on Rosemount Farm. At 11.10am the Dover AA guns opened fire and two of the Gothas headed straight out to sea, leaving the other six to unload nine bombs on the town.

 

The first of these bombs exploded in the yard of the Admiral Harvey public house on Bridge Street where it killed 17-year-old Lucy Wall and caused serious damage. Another fell in Priory Hill but failed to explode, followed by one which did explode in the grounds of Dover College, where men of the 32nd Training Reserve battalion were under orders, killing two soldiers and  injuring two. The bomb also injured an officer of the 30th Training Reserve battalion and an officer of the 3rd Battalion East Surrey Regiment (attached to the 32nd TR battalion). The bomb also caused significant damage to the College while another that fell by the College gateway failed to explode. Another bomb that failed to explode passed through 53 Folkestone Road, narrowly missing two of the occupants. At Dover Castle two bombs landed near the Keep where they killed a horse and seriously injured a soldier of the Royal Defence Corps, and two more fell in the harbour near to the RNAS seaplane station. But as the Gothas set course for home a third one was brought down in flames, its demise credited to RNAS pilot Flt sub-Lt E.B. Blake. Of the nine crew of the three Gothas brought down only one man survived. With increasing casualties and improving British defences Hauptman Rudolf Kleine, commander of Kagohl 3, abandoned daytime raids and switched to night-bombing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Casualties:  12 killed,   27 injured

 

Damage: £17,145