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)

24th December 1914

 

Friedrichshafen FF 29

Kent

The first attempt to bomb Britain from the air took place on 21 December 1914. On that day a German floatplane, a Friedrichshafen FF 29, no. 203 of the navy’s Seefliegerabteilung 1 (SFA 1), piloted by Oberleutnant-zur-See Stephen Prondzynski with Fähnrich-zur-See von Frankenberg approached Dover without warning at about 1.00pm. It seems few actually realised Dover was under attack when two bombs fell into the sea. A few days later the newspapers announced, “It is now stated that two heavy reports which were heard at Dover…, and attributed to the firing of guns, were caused by the dropping of bombs from a German aeroplane. The missiles fell into the water to the west of the Admiralty Pier.”

 

Three days later, on Christmas Eve, another Friedrichshafen FF 29 – no. 204 – of SFA 1, attacked Dover again. Taking advantage of cloud cover, and flying at about 5,000 ft, the aircraft arrived unnoticed over Dover, coming from the direction of Deal and appearing through a gap in the clouds. A newspaper report described how “Dover was startled this morning at about a quarter to eleven by the loud report of a bomb

exploding. The whole town was at once in a great state of excitement.”

 

An eyewitness described hearing a “whizzing sound,” and then, looking up, “saw an object falling, with smoke following in its trail.” The single bomb, the first dropped on England from the air, landed in Thomas Terson’s garden just off Taswell Street, at the back of St. James’s Rectory, gouging a crater nine feet long, five feet wide and five feet deep; it landed just over 300 metres from the walls of Dover Castle. Windows up to 200 metres away were shattered, and one piece of shrapnel landed at a similar distance on the veranda of a house in Victoria Park. Broken window glass showered the cook working at the rectory but she emerged unscathed, as did the gardener, John Banks, blown from a tree while cutting evergreen branches for Christmas decorations.

 

Two defence pilots searched for the raider but its height advantage and the cloud cover made their task impossible.

Casualties: 0

 

Damage: £40

ff29 Dover bomb plaque

Plaque marking the first bomb dropped on Britain - corner of Taswell Street and Taswell Close, Dover