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)


1st Apr/2nd Apr 1916  


Two Zeppelins, L.11 and L.17, set out to attack London on 1st April but strong winds made that impossible; they were re-assigned to attack the Midlands or North.


L.17, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Herbert Ehrlich, approached the coast near Flamborough Head at about 9.00pm before it was completely dark, so remained out over the sea. About an hour later, however, the propeller shaft of one of the rear engines broke. While the crew attempted to make repairs, Ehrlich released all his bombs into the sea to help her gain height. L.17 then returned safely to base.  


The other raider, L.11, commanded by Korvettenkapitän Victor Schütze, crossed the coast at Seaham, south of Sunderland, at 11.05pm and dropped two high-explosive (HE) bombs as she passed Eppleton Colliery near Hetton-le-Hole. The bombs landed on the colliery’s refuse heaps. Another two HE bombs dropped on Hetton Downs breaking windows in three houses and smashing some wooden outhouses. From there L.11 turned north, passing over Houghton-le-Spring before dropping two HE bombs on the village of Philadelphia at 11.15pm, smashing windows in 35 houses but without causing personal injury. When she reached the River Wear, L.11 turned to the east and reached Sunderland at 11.20pm, dropping 14 HE and seven incendiary bombs on a north-east course across the city. These bombs killed 22 and injured 128 people. Bombs fell in Pickard Street, Milburn Street and Fern Street before L.11 crossed the Wear and bombed the Monkwearmouth district of the city; bombs falling on Monkwearmouth station, North Bridge Street (five killed), The Causeway, Victor Street (four killed) and Bulmer’s Shipyard where a serious fire broke out.  The Workmen’s Hall in Broad Street (now Roker Avenue) was almost demolished. The Thomas Street School suffered badly too as did St Benet’s Church in Whitburn Street. Eight business premises were demolished, two seriously damaged, 15 houses were demolished and another 66 partly demolished. In addition another 158 houses and 64 shops suffered lesser damage. A bomb in North Bridge Street also destroyed a parked tram.








Casualties: 22 killed,  130 injured


Damage: £25,568

A 6-inch anti-aircraft gun positioned at Fulwell Quarry fired one round at L.11 before the searchlights lost her. Schütze then took L.11 out over the sea and turned southwards before coming inland again as she approached the mouth of the Tees at about 12.05am. Nearing Middlesbrough she dropped a single HE bomb, which landed close to the river at Port Clarence. It narrowly missed the Transporter Bridge and landed on a pile of steel billets. Two HE bombs then dropped in the Tees before L.11 released two more HE bombs near the Cargo Fleet steelworks. They landed in a field by the railway line and close to the Crown Hotel, damaging the hotel, a school, two shops and 115 houses, while two men sustained slight injuries.


L.11 maintained its course over Eston, then took a line towards Saltburn on the coast then over Brotton to Skinningrove. Her last two bombs, both HE, landed in a field about 250 yards from the Skinningrove Iron Works slag tips. The RNAS sent up four aircraft to intercept the raider, and the RFC had three aircraft in the air, but none saw L.11.