25th May 1917 (part 1)
On 25 May 1917 a new threat to Britain from the air emerged when the German Army launched its Gotha bombers against London for the first time. Thick low cloud over the capital, however, forced the aircraft of Kampfgeschwader 3 der Oberste Heeresleitung (Kagohl 3 - Battle Squadron 3 of the Army High Command) to turn away and attack targets in Kent instead.
The 21 Gothas passed west of Rochester and dropped the first bombs at 5.42pm when four 50kg bombs fell in fields around Luddesdown and Harvel. South of Maidstone another 50kg bomb dropped in a field on Eagles Farm at Linton, after which Kagohl 3 picked up the main railway line to the port of Folkestone at Marden where four 12.5kg HE bombs fell in fields at Dairy Farm. Further bombs dropped as Kagohl 3 followed the railway line. Six 50kg bombs landed around Smarden, smashing eight panes of window glass, and 10 of the smaller bombs landed without effect at Dering Farm, nearby at Bibbenden Green. At Pluckley an HE bomb landed in a meadow on Turner Farm and at Bethersden two bombs fell, one exploded in the air over Barnshurst Farm breaking 12 panes of glass and the other landed in a field on Snoad Farm without causing damage. Directly ahead lay Ashford.
The Gothas dropped six bombs on Ashford. Two fell near Bond Road, one at Beaver Green, one at Rugby Gardens and two over Providence Street, one of which exploded in the air and killed Gladys Sparkes (18). The bomb also injured two men, a woman and a child. Other bombs were responsible for breaking windows over a wide area and damaged a few ceilings. From Ashford the Gotha formation spilt into two. The more northerly group dropped five bombs in open ground between Shadoxhurst (south of Ashford) and Kingsnorth and another five at Mersham, which fell in a field at Elm Farm killing two sheep. Meanwhile the southern group approached the Royal Military Canal, dropping two HE bombs at Ruckinge where one landed in a field on Hogtub Green Farm and the other in a neighbouring wood. Three HE bombs followed at Bilsington, one landing in a field at Bridge Farm, another at Dines Farm and the third in Country Field Wood. A fourth missile, claimed to be an unexploded bomb in some reports, fell into an empty grave in the village churchyard. The police, however, identified it as an aerial dart. The formations closed up again over Lympne where 22
bombs, mostly the smaller 12.5kg, were aimed at the aerodrome, home to No. 8 Aircraft Acceptance Park of the RFC. Most of the bombs fell in the centre of the aerodrome, but two exploded near a hanger (damage was negligible), one in a quarry east of the aerodrome towards Oat Hill and one prematurely burst 400 feet above the ground over Folks’ Wood. A little further on a bomb that dropped 100 yards from the eastern end of the railway tunnel near Sandling failed to explode. From there the Gothas approached Hythe.
About 20 bombs dropped in and around Hythe at 6.15pm. Unexploded bombs penetrated through houses in Cobden Road (two) and Marine Parade. One exploded in the air above the Metropole Steam Laundry, south-west of the town, and even though shell fragments penetrated the roof, none of the women working there was injured. Not far away two more bombs exploded in the air, over the gas works and the coastguard station, but without damage. A number of bombs fell harmlessly on the beach but another that exploded in the air over Ormonde Road killed Amy Parker (43) as she was making her way to her home. Other bombs fell on two golf courses. In the centre of town a bomb exploded outside St. Leonard’s Church where it mortally wounded the verger, Daniel Lythe, who was speaking to the vicar and his wife at the church entrance at the time; the vicar’s wife received a slight injury. Other bombs landed nearby in North Street, Hillside Street and Castle Road.
(See Part 2 for details of the rest of raid)
Casualties: 95 killed, 195 injured
Gotha bombers of Kagohl 3 preparing to raid England