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., Norfolk, Northants.,

Lancs., Warwicks.

12/13 April 1918 (part 1)


This raid on the night of 12/13 April 1918 proved to be the last time Zeppelins appeared over Britain. Five new Zeppelins of the ‘v-class — L.60 to L.64 — took part. Thick cloud and rain over the North Sea hampered the mission targeting the industrial Midlands, and a layer of cloud over England meant the raiders struggled with navigation from the great heights they flew at. For the first time the home defence aircraft took to the air as the RAF.


Three airships penetrated only a short distance inland with L.60 claiming an attack on Leeds. In fact, L.60, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Hans Kurt Flemming, came inland over Lincolnshire just to the south of the River Humber and passed Grimsby without seeing it. A number of AA guns engaged, firing at the sound of her engines. Her first bombs dropped at East Halton, near Killingholme, at about 9.26pm: four 100kg HE, eight 50kg HE and one incendiary. Three of the 100kg bombs and the incendiary failed to detonate. There were no injuries although the bombs killed two sheep and damaged a railway signal box. From there L.60 headed west, dropping two HE bombs at Thornton Abbey, followed by 19 more bombs, a mixture of HE and incendiary bombs, that fell in fields around the villages of Thornton Curtis, Burnham, Saxby All Saints and Horkstow, breaking a few windows and bringing down some telegraph wires. Heading north now, at 10.08pm L.60 crossed the Humber west of Hull, passing around that city and heading back towards the sea, attracting more AA gunfire as she went. She left the coast near Tunstall at 10.35pm.


Kapitänleutnant Michael von Freudenreich, commanding L.63, came inland south of Skegness on the Lincolnshire coast at about 10.05pm. From Wrangle, L.63 headed west, passing south of Coningsby at 10.25pm. Four minutes later the AA gun at Brauncewell, just east of the airfield at Cranwell where flares were burning, opened fire. L.63 released a 100kg HE bomb which exploded harmlessly in a field at Blankney Park. Now heading north, von Freudenreich dropped 18 bombs (2 x 300kg, 15 x 50kg and one incendiary) at 10.35pm, a mile east of Metheringham. These bombs, amounting to over a ton in weight, merely smashed a few windows. L.63 then turned to the south and disappeared to trackers for 30 minutes until she appeared again near Spalding heading east. At 11.10pm she dropped an incendiary at Fleet and five more at Little Sutton, none of which caused any damage, before heading north out over The Wash. She travelled up and down the coast for a while before she finally went out to sea at 1.10am from near Cromer. Von Freudenreich believed he had made an attack on Grimsby.


Hauptmann Kuno Manger, commanding L.62, actually reached the target area of the industrial Midlands. But even so, his raid proved largely ineffective. Coming inland over the Norfolk coast at Overstrand at about 9.30pm, Manger followed a south-west course, reaching Downham Market at 10.15pm. Perhaps attracted by a searchlight, Manger now steered north-west and dropped two 100kg bombs. The bombs fell about half a mile west of Middle Drove Station on Tilney All Saints Fen, and about a mile from the searchlight. The only damage was a few broken windows in nearby cottages. Continuing on a north-west course, L.62 approached No.51 Squadron’s airfield at Tydd St. Mary at about 18,000 feet and dropped three 100kg bombs. They fell in a field about a 1,000 yards east of the target. After dropping the bombs at Tydd St Mary, Manger turned on to a south-west course and, once west of Peterborough, he dropped a 50kg bomb aimed at a searchlight. It exploded in a field about a mile east of Nassington, smashing a shop window.


Continuing on his course, Manger approached Coventry from the north-east at 11.42pm, at which time guns defending the city at Radford and Wyken opened fire. Passing around the south-east side of Coventry, at 11.45pm Manger offloaded four HE and nine incendiary bombs. At Whitley Abbey Park a 300kg bomb fell in a field and smashed a few windows, the rest exploded at Baginton: two HE and the nine incendiaries landed around the sewage works and in neighbouring fields, killing a bullock, a heifer and a lamb, and one HE detonated in Baginton Lane without causing damage. Passing north of Kenilworth, L.62 now approached Solihull on the south-west side of Birmingham. At around 11.53pm two bombs fell in fields at Packwood, one on Windmill Farm and the other at Fetherston House. The second bomb smashed windows in a school half a mile away. Two more HE bombs fell in fields north of Hockley Heath on Box Tree Farm, smashing windows in a cottage nearby. These were followed by two HE bombs at Monkspath, one at Mount Cottage Farm, the other about half a mile to the west, at Mount Lane. The bombs smashed a few windows. L.62 was now heading directly towards Birmingham, but at 11.57pm three AA guns opened fire, two of them with incendiary shells. This seems to have caused Manger concern because he immediately released two 300kg bombs and then turned away from the city. One fell in Shirley where it smashed the plate glass windows of six shops and windows in 24 homes. The second fell on Gospel Farm at Hall Green. The blast damaged roofs on building at the farm, smashed the glass in the French windows at Broom Hall, broke windows in homes near the church and caused slight damage to buildings at the golf club. Manger now turned back towards the coast. L.62 came under fire from the AA guns at Coventry again and aeroplanes attempted to close with her but failed. Other guns fired at the sound of her engines as she continued her journey. She finally went out to sea at Gorleston on the Norfolk coast at 3.34am.


For more details about this raid see Part 2






Casualties:   7 killed, 20 injured


Damage: £11,673