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)

The Midlands

For casualties and damage see Part 1

The fourth Zeppelin, L.16 (Werner Perterson), came inland near Hunstanton, Norfolk, at about 6.10pm. She suffered engine problems during her crossing and did not attempt to follow orders. Instead she headed south towards Swaffham, dropping two HE bombs at 6.20pm: one failed to explode and the other caused no damage. It appears she continued southwards and dropped three HE and 15 incendiary bombs near Mildenhall, which fell on West Row Fen. All but three of the incendiaries failed to ignite. L.16 then circled around, passing Soham, before dropping 22 HE bombs at 7.35pm, which landed on Isleham Fen. Seven of the bombs failed to explode, the others destroyed a chicken house killing 16 chickens. L.16 then headed east, passed Pulham at 8.30pm and headed out to sea just north of Lowestoft at 9.05pm.

 

 

Zeppelin L.14 (Alois Böcker) appeared over the coast at 6.15pm, five minutes after L.16. She passed near Sandringham at about 6.35pm and Wisbech at about 7.00pm where she dropped a single incendiary bomb. She then followed a north-west course in the direction of Grantham, dropping an HE bomb on Knipton at about 8.00pm, without damage. Following a westward course now, L.14 got as far as Shrewsbury at 10.05pm, the furthest west of any of the raiders that night, where Böcker encountered thick cloud. Unable to locate a target he turned back to the east where, attracted by light from a furnace at Ashby Woulds, he ordered the release of an HE bomb and an incendiary at 11.50pm; they landed on a cinder heap without causing damage. L.14 then dropped four HE bombs on Overseal, Derbyshire at about midnight – three fell in a field and one in the canal. A few minutes later three HE bombs fell on Swadlincote where the blast broke some windows. Then, about ten minutes later, L.14 appeared over Derby, dropping 21 HE bombs and four incendiaries. Nine of the HE bombs fell on the Midland Railway works damaging engine sheds and killed William Bancroft, James Hardy and Harry Hithersay, while injuring two others, one of who – Sidney Baines – died four days later. Three HE bombs hit the Metalite Lamp Works in Gresham Street causing considerable damage but no personal injury. Another two HE bombs fell on the Rolls-Royce Works but only smashed glass. Two more dropped harmlessly on vacant land next to the Works. Of the remaining five HE bombs, two fell on the Litchurch Gas Works and three in the yard of Fletcher’s Lace factory in Osmaston Road, all without causing damage. The four incendiary bombs landed in Horton Street, setting fire to one house. In addition to the fatalities at the Railway Works, a retired headmistress, Sarah Constantine, died of heart failure caused by the raid. With all bombs released L.14 headed east eventually going out to sea south-east of Alford, Lincolnshire, at about 2.10am.

31st January/1st February 1916 (Part 2)

 

For more details on the raid see Parts 1 & 3

Kapitänleutnant Odo Loewe brought Zeppelin L.19 inland at about 6.20pm near Sheringham, Norfolk prior to a troubled eleven hours over Britain during which time he experienced serious engine problems on three occasions. She passed south of Stamford at 8.10pm but then circled back before flying on erratically towards Loughborough; possibly the first instance of engine problems. From Loughborough it seems L.19 may have been attracted to Burton by the fires already burning there and headed in that direction, dropping one or two incendiary bombs at about 9.45pm. Loewe then passed to the west of Birmingham which was in darkness, before wandering for some time around the countryside between Stourbridge, Kidderminster and Bromsgrove, perhaps a second instance of engine trouble. Now attracted by the fires caused earlier by L.21, Loewe took a northerly course and dropped  a single HE bomb over Wednesbury, which damaged the roof and machinery at the Monway Works of the Patent Shaft & Axletree Company. From there L.19 flew south east, towards Dudley, dropping five HE bombs on the way, which all fell on the Ocker Hill Colliery near Tipton, but these merely broke windows in the engine house and also those of an adjacent house.  Over Dudley at about 12.15am, L.19 dropped 17 incendiary bombs. One fell in the grain shed at the railway station causing damage estimated at £5 while the rest all fell in fields or the grounds of Dudley Castle. Five minutes later L.19 was back over Tipton where she dropped another 11 HE bombs; these caused considerable damage over the western part of the town, wrecking the Bush Inn amongst other buildings but caused no causalities. Loewe dropped his last three bombs, all HE, on Walsall. One, landing in the Birchills district, damaged St. Andrews church and the vicarage, while another in the Pleck district landed on a stable, killing a horse, four pigs and about a hundred chickens.

 

L.19 then turned for home but took about five hours to reach the coast of Norfolk, during which time it seems likely she experienced her third incidence of engine problems. Sadly for the crew of L.19, her problems didn’t end there. On the afternoon of 1 February, as she struggled back, L.19 neared the coast of neutral Holland from where soldiers opened fire. The resultant loss of hydrogen caused L.19 to get heavier and three of the four troubled engines broke down completely. Then a southerly wind blew her back over the North Sea until she could finally remain airborne no longer. At about 7.30am the following morning a British trawler, the KIng Stephen, spotted the wreckage and crew but, afraid to take the marooned men on board fearing they would overwhelm him and his outnumbered men, the skipper sailed back to port about 95 miles away. By the time he reported what he had seen it was too late, Zeppelin L.19 had sunk with the loss of all her crew.