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, Essex, Suffolk

28th September 1917

 

Over Suffolk the AA gun at Golf House, Felixstowe, opened fire at unseen enemy aircraft at 8.43pm, quickly joined by those at Rose Farm, Shotley and at Dovercourt and Trimley. It seems likely that only one Gotha was involved and, deflected by the AA guns, it followed the course of the River Deben inland as far as Martlesham. At 8.55pm the raider dropped 11 HE bombs, all 12kg, on the RFC airfield at Martlesham Heath but only damaged some telegraph wires to the value of £1. 10s. As the bomber headed back to the coast it dropped four HE bombs near Bucklesham: two burst in the air and one failed to detonate properly when it struck the ground. None caused any damage.

 

The AA guns opposing the raiders who came inland fired off 973 rounds, while those defending the Kent coast, who may have turned others away, fired 443. There were claims made for three raiders shot down and Germany admitted three Gothas were missing but no debris was located. In addition six Gothas crashed when landing. Despite the thick cloud cover, the RFC got 20 aircraft airborne but they were unable to locate the raiders.

 

 

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Casualties:  0 killed,    0 injured

 

Damage: £129

Planned as the largest raid to date with 25 Gothas and, for the first time, two of the huge Riesenflugzeug (literally, Giant aircraft) from Riesenflugzeugabteilung 501 (Rfa 501). Advised to turn back if they encountered thick cloud, it appears likely that only three of the Gothas and the two ‘Giants’ reached the British coast, although it seems one ‘Giant’ did not come inland. The thick cloud and unusual engine noise generated by the huge ‘Giants’, particularly the six-engined R.12, caused wild reports as to the number of aircraft over south-east England that night – official reports believing there were between 16 and 20.  One Gotha claimed to have bombed London but no bombs fell in the capital that night.

 

The first HE bomb landed on the north Kent coast at 7.52pm, dropping without damage on the foreshore at Swalecliffe. Passing over the Isle of Sheppey and Chatham the bomber dropped the next two bombs, both incendiary, near Rochester: one at Frindsbury on a disused kiln at a cement works and the other on marshy land close to Rochester gas works. Increasing AA fire prevented any raiders heading further towards London and over the next 30 minutes at least 15 more bombs dropped in this part of Kent. Two HE bombs fell in fields at Cuxton - one at Reed Hill and one on Ranscombe Farm. Another landed in a field on Batt’s Farm at Cobham while at Luddesdown three HE and an incendiary dropped within a quarter mile radius of St. Peter & St. Paul’s Church. Near Meopham an incendiary landed near the railway line, and at least five HE fell on farmland between Birling and Snodland - with two failing to explode. At Gillingham two HE bombs exploded in fields on Barnsole Road. These last two bombs caused the only recorded damage, smashing windows to the value of £120 in Barnsole Road, Carlton Avenue, Albany Road, Louisville Avenue and LIvingstone Road.

 

In Essex, although they could not see the target, AA gunners at Billericay opened fire at the sound of engines at 8.35pm, soon joined by those guns at Burstead and Ingatestone. The two Gothas immediately abandoned any attempt on London and commenced dropping 18 HE bombs. The first landed in a field on Cressey’s Farm just south-east of Hutton with more landing around Great Burstead: five at Tye Common, five on Marriage’s Farm, one at Kennel Dale, two on Blunts Farm and two at Bullstead Farm. The final two bombs fell at Laindon on the Central Park Estate. In Essex only seven houses sustained any damage, experiencing smashed windows and some slight damage to roofs and ceilings estimated at just £8.