25th/26th September 1916
Less than two days after the loss of two of their Zeppelins, the navy launched another raid on Britain. Two of the ‘super-Zeppelins’, L.30 and L.31, had orders for London, but after the recent losses they were advised to exercise caution and as there was no cloud cover both selected other targets. L.30 claimed to have bombed Ramsgate and Margate but in fact never came inland, while Heinrich Mathy, commanding L.31, headed down the English Channel intending to strike the naval docks at Portsmouth. Directly over Portsmouth harbour at 11.50pm, searchlights located L.31 and AA guns opened a heavy fire. Mathy claims to have released bombs over Portsmouth but as none were traced on land, it seems likely they all fell in the sea. Flying back over Sussex he reached the coast at Bexhill at 1.45am, passing Dover at 2.25am before setting course back to Germany.
Four other Zeppelins targeted the Midlands and industrial North.
Hauptmann Kuno Manger brought L.14 inland at Atwick on the Yorkshire coast at about 10.05pm and steered towards York. Forty minutes later he dropped a single HE bomb at Heworth Without, north-east of the city centre, smashing windows in houses and at Elmfield College on Malton Road. L.14 skirted the eastern edge of York, heading south, dropping seven more HE bombs and two incendiaries. The incendiaries set fire to timber stacked at a brickyard while most of the HE bombs landed in fields. One, however, exploded close to Holy Trinity Church, Heworth, smashing all the windows on the west end of the church and wrecked a doctor’s house opposite on East Parade, but those inside escaped injury. Nearby though, a woman died of shock. A searchlight located L.14 at about 11.00pm as she released two HE and five incendiaries over Fulford, south of the city, where they brought down some telephone wires in a field. Coming under fire from the AA gun at Acomb, Manger turned away, flying northwards. At Pilmoor, he dropped an incendiary before changing course towards Ripon. At about 11.40pm he dropped an HE near the village of Newby with Mulwith, followed by four more on Ripon Rifles Ranges at Wormald Green. One landed within 30 yards of the Ripon-Harrogate road in a field on Monkton Mains farm; another smashed the glass in a workshop on the range. Continuing southwards, L.14 dropped four HE bombs harmlessly at Dunkeswick where the RFC maintained a night landing ground. Within five minutes 13 incendiary bombs dropped in fields at Harewood, one causing slight damage to a cottage. A few miles to the east a mobile searchlight at Collingham, near Wetherby, caught L.14 and a 13-pdr AA gun fired nine rounds. Manger aimed three HE bombs at the light and severed the telephone line between the gun and the searchlight. He then returned to the coast, going out to sea at Scarborough at about 1.30am.
L.16, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Erich Sommerfeldt, crossed the Yorkshire coast near Barmston on Bridlington Bay, at about 10.05pm. Sommerfeldt spent almost two hours over Yorkshire but only dropped three bombs. Initially heading west, L.16 appeared to be making for York, but at Huggate at 10.27pm, Sommerfeldt changed direction to the north-west. At 10.50pm, after dropping an incendiary harmlessly on Velmire Farm at Whitwell-on-the-Hill, L.16 turned back to the east. Ten minutes later an incendiary dropped in an open field at the village of Langtoft. The third incendiary landed in a field at Burton Fleming (formerly North Burton) at 11.30pm. Although now less than five miles from the coast, it was another 25 minutes before Sommerfeldt went out to sea near Speeton on Filey Bay.
Oberleutnant-zur-See Kurt Frankenburg brought L.21 inland at Sutton-on-Sea on the Lincolnshire coast at 9.45pm, and headed west, skirting to the north of Sheffield at about 11.15pm, before flying over the Peak District and Pennines. About 40 minutes later observers picked L.21 up again at Todmorden in Lancashire. She passed Bacup five minutes later before dropping two incendiaries near Newchurch and two HE bombs in fields at Rawtenstall without damage. Continuing towards Helmshore, L.21 dropped an HE and incendiary bomb either side of Green’s Lane at the golf course, then released a salvo of six or seven bombs at Ewood Bridge, around the sewage works and Irwell Vale railway sidings, causing minor damage but no injuries. On a southerly course, Frankenburg reached Holcombe, where two HE bombs fell on a sloping field behind the village school, knocking down a field wall and causing some damage to the school. It also claimed a victim – a thrush. The unfortunate bird was stuffed and put in a glass case as some sort of macabre memento. Another bomb in a field between the school and Moor Road destroyed a chicken run, while one that exploded in the roadway between the inn and the post office caused damage to both buildings as well as to a cow shed and a barn. Blasts from these bombs smashed windows at the church and stopped the church clock. L.21 moved towards Ramsbottom, dropping three HE bombs, one ‘in the drive of Mr Woodcock’s house’ and two in fields between Holcombe and Ramsbottom. The next HE bomb exploded in a field by Dundee Lane on the western edge of Ramsbottom, as L.21 continued its circling movement, dropping another in Regent Street where it caused serious damage to a mineral water works. Approaching Holcombe Brook, Frankenburg dropped an incendiary, which caused no damage, but another, released over Greenmount, set fire to a cottage near the church in Holcombe Road, narrowly missing two children in bed. Neighbours quickly extinguished the flames and no one was injured.
The ongoing account of L.21's raid and that of L.22 continues in Part 2
Casualties: 43 killed, 31 injured