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)


19th/20th May 1916


This night raid by seven floatplanes took the Kent coastal defences completely by surprise and in the darkness the authorities struggled to unravel exactly what had happened. They estimated only five aircraft took part in the attack. And while they accounted for 59 bombs (ten of which are recorded as falling in the sea), German records claim 90 were dropped. It is likely therefore that in the darkness many more than the ten listed fell in the sea and were not recorded.


Three Friedrichshafen FF33s, three Hansa-Brandenburg NWs and a Gotha Ursinus appeared over the Kent coast just after 2.00am.


It appears the first attack took place on the St. Peter’s area of Broadstairs where about 12 bombs fell, many around the Victoria Avenue area. A few minutes later an aircraft appeared near Sandwich and, turning north, dropped at least nine bombs in the sea off the Small Downs Coastguard Station. It then came inland behind Ramsgate dropping three more near St. Peter’s. One landed close to Rumfields Water Works, one at farm at Bromstone and one at a cottage in Dumpton. The raider then went out to sea over Dumpton Gap. Damage accrued by these 15 bombs amounted to 15 broken windows.


Another aircraft came inland near Kingsdown and headed towards Walmer. It then turned back and followed a south-west course to the village of Ringwould where it released ten bombs all of which landed harmlessly in fields. Then, right on the coast to the north of Deal - at Sandhills, Sholden - nine bombs landed on a short south-west running line starting close to the Chequers Inn. But all fell in fields without causing damage.

The most damaging attack that night, probably made by two aircraft, struck Dover. It appears the first bomb landed in Barton Road on the nursery gardens of G & A Clark Ltd, followed quickly by a bomb on the steps of 8 Maison Dieu Place and another in the roadway in Effingham Crescent. Four bombs landed in the ground of Dover College off Effingham Crescent, giving the boys ‘a very alarming experience’ but no serious damage occurred. More minor damage took place when a bomb struck the iron railings outside 12 Saxon Street, before the next fell on the gravel approach to Christ Church on Folkestone Road. The main damage caused by all these bombs was broken windows. A bomb fragment from an explosion in the roadway of Military Hill injured Mrs Bridges Bloxham in her bedroom, and another bomb landed on a grass bank above Christ Church schools. Damaged gravestones in Cowgate cemetery were the result of the next bomb and later an unexploded bomb was dug out in Albany Place adjacent to the cemetery. In the ditch of the Drop Redoubt a bomb exploded harmlessly but seconds later another, which struck some stables in Shaft Barracks, resulted in the death of Private Henry Frederick Sole, 3rd Battalion, East Surrey Regiment. Approaching Dover Harbour a bomb from the same aircraft struck the Ordnance Inn at 120 Snargate Street, ‘smashing down the top of the front of the building and unroofing it’. One account adds that several tons of masonry fell into the street but fortunately no one was passing by at the time. The occupants escaped injury as they were in rooms at the back of the house. The next bomb landed on Commercial Quay with a splinter from it severely wounding deckhand James Harvey onboard HM Drifter E.E.S. moored close by. Observers saw a final bomb falling in the Outer Harbour. The official report states that 16 bombs (one of which fell in the sea) fell on Dover although there are 18 described here.  


With no advance warning of the raid, defence aircraft only took off as the raid ended and they failed to sight the retreating raiders.

Casualties: 1 killed,  2 injured


Damage: £960