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)

Lincs., Northants., Norfolk, and Herts.

1st/2nd October 1916

(Part 1)


On 1st October eleven navy Zeppelins set out for England but four turned back early.


Heinrich Mathy, commanding L.31, arrived over the Suffolk coast at Corton, north of Lowestoft at about 8.00pm and followed a south-west course towards his intended target: London. Having passed Chelmsford, at 9.45pm the searchlight at Kelvedon Hatch held L.31 causing Mathy to turn northwards and follow a course that would take him around the northern outskirts of London. At 11.10pm L.31 was over Hertford where Mathy shut off his engines, hoping to drift silently with the wind over London’s outer gun defences, but 20 minutes later he had only reached Ware so restarted the engines. He headed south but at 11.40pm the AA guns at Newmans and Temple House near Waltham Abbey opened a heavy fire to which Mathy replied by dropping 30 HE and 26 incendiaries over Cheshunt. The first 11 bombs landed in gardens along Turners Hill, the second batch of seven fell just north of the junction of College Road and Aldbury Walk, with 20 dropping along the line of Aldbury Walk. Of the final batch, 11 landed on the Recreation Ground (wrecking the pavilion and injuring a pony that had to be slaughtered) and six on large greenhouses at the Walnut Tree Nursery, between there and Cheshunt Hall. Flying glass injured a woman and the bombs seriously damaged four houses, caused slight damage to 343 more, and smashed acres of glass in large horticultural greenhouses. To escape the Waltham Abbey defences Mathy headed west, following a zig-zag course, dropping one more HE bomb at Great Wood near Potters Bar, which smashed some cottage windows and broke ceilings. At the same time four pilots of No.39 Squadron, attracted by the gunfire, were closing in. The first to reach L.31, 2nd Lieut. Wulstan Tempest flying a BE2c, found her at 12,700 feet. Three bursts from his Lewis gun were enough to seal the fate of Heinrich Mathy and the crew of L.31. Flames quickly took hold and the burning raider crashed to the ground at Potters Bar, just a few miles from Cuffley where the first airship had been shot down just a month earlier. There were no survivors; Germany had lost four airships and four experienced crews in just a month since the introduction of explosive and incendiary ammunition.








L.24, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Robert Koch, crossed the Norfolk coast at 10.15pm near Weybourne, west of Sherringham. Koch took a course towards Cambridge, evidently intent on attacking London, but at midnight as he reached Waterbeach, just north of Cambridge, he saw the flames of L.31 illuminating the sky. Koch flew westwards for 25 minutes then resumed his original south-west course until he reached Shefford, Hertfordshire, at 1.05am. From there Koch saw lights to the south-east and steered towards them. The lights were flares burning at a night landing airfield at the village of Willian, east of Hitchin. At 1.14am L.24 arrived over Willian and dropped ten HE bombs of which nine detonated on the landing field and one fell in a boundary hedge. The bombs killed Private Hawkes of No.56 Company, Royal Defence Corps, who was in charge of the flares. Koch continued dropping bombs (another 18 HE and 26 incendiary) along a line about two and a half miles long in open country, ending near Tilekiln Farm, just south of the village of Weston. Koch reported that he dropped his bombs across Stoke Newington and Hackney in London. L.24 now turned for home, eventually crossing the coast at Kessingland, south of Lowestoft, at 2.35am.



For more details of the raid see part 2








Casualties: 1 killed,  1 injured


Damage: £17,687


The wreckage of L.31 under guard at the

Oakmere Estate, Potter's Bar