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)


Casualties: 0 killed, 0 injured


Damage: £0

On the night of 11th September, a single Army Zeppelin – LZ.77 commanded by Hauptmann Alfred Horn – approached the Essex coast at about 11.10pm, just north of the mouth of the River Crouch. Horn had attempted to raid London four nights previously but ended up bombing rural areas in Suffolk. This time he fared no better.


As she crossed the coast, LZ.77 attracted rifle fire from coastguard lookout posts at Tillingham and Holliwell Point. At 11.15pm, she passed south of Southminster from where the 1-pdr pom-pom fired eight rounds at her without effect.


Horn then steered a course westward as though striking at London. He passed south of Maldon at 11.20pm, Ingatestone at 11.35pm and a couple of miles south of Chipping Ongar at 11.40pm. From there LZ.77 passed south of North Weald Bassett and, as he approached Epping, it appears something attracted Horn’s attention, because he turned north towards Thornwood, then back towards North Weald Bassett, from where he returned to Thornwood, less than a mile from Epping.  


Over Wintry Park, LZ.77 stopped her engines and dropped four flares to illuminate the foggy fields below. Bathed in the light, Horn saw the tents of 2/3rd (South Midland) Field Artillery Brigade laid out below him. The brigade had its entire ammunition supply in the camp. Having identified a target, Horn took LZ.77 around again and at 11.50pm dropped eight high explosive bombs and 52 incendiaries. Four of the HE bombs landed within the camp but fortunately all eight failed to explode. An official report concludes that this was, ‘no doubt due to their safety appliances not having been withdrawn.’ There were no casualties in the camp. LZ.77 then departed, passing over Suffolk and Norfolk before reaching the North Sea coast around 2.00am.


Although the raid caused no damage, the confusing reports that reached London of first two, then four and finally six Zeppelins approaching the coast, put the capital’s defences on the alert at 11.37pm. Troops stood to and the Special Constables mustered, while extinguishing the lights at Woolwich Arsenal stopped important work for over two hours. In addition, an order prevented the movement of trains in or out of London to prevent their lights guiding any raiders in. Only at 2.50am did the order come through for the troops and Specials to stand down.


The foggy conditions restricted an aerial response. Only two aircraft were up, one from RNAS Chelmsford only took off at 1.25am long after LZ.77 had departed. The other, a RFC aircraft from Writtle, near Chelmsford, saw nothing.



Commissioned on 24th August 1915, LZ.77 was the Army's latest Zeppelin when it took part in the raids of 7th/8th and 11th/12th September

11th/12th September 1915


LZ77A Epping RFA camp bombs (2)

Some of the bombs dropped on the artillery camp. The spherical bomb is an HE bomb of the APK type favoured by the military airships.The others are incendiary bombs.

(Courtesy of the David Marks Collection)