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)

London, Kent, Essex

19/20 May 1918 (part 2)


(Continuing the attack on London)


Twelve bombs fell between 11.55pm and midnight. Three of these exploded in Kilburn where a 300kg bomb that destroyed the Carlton Tavern in Carlton Vale, killing a man and a child and injuring two women, caused most damage. Two bombs that fell In Chislehurst merely smashed a few windows. Of six bombs that fell around the Old Kent Road, two exploded in Avondale Square. At No. 87 the blast killed two, injured seven and wrecked the house while seriously damaging three others. The other bomb demolished No. 9, causing widespread but not serious damage, and injured eight people. Other bombs in this area killed a woman and child in St. James Road, injured a woman in Rotherhithe New Road and nine people in Verney Road, while causing damage to houses, stables and three factories. The Gotha that dropped these bombs released another which landed in Shard’s Road, Peckham. It killed a man, injured seven people and damaged three houses. Heading home across Kent, this Gotha came under attack from Frederick Sowrey, who shot down Zeppelin L.32 in September 1916, and then later was attacked by a Bristol Fighter of No. 141 Squadron crewed by lieutenants Turner and Barwise. Their attack hit home and the Gotha crashed between Frinsted and Harrietsham in Kent.


Records show four bombs falling in the ten minutes after midnight. A 100kg bomb exploded on the railway near Wanstead Station, damaging the track and 50 houses while also injuring a man, but a 50kg bomb that detonated in a garden in Dean Street, Forest Gate caused no damage. In Islington though, two bombs had a deadly and destructive impact. In Packington Street one killed seven, injured three and damaged 33 houses, while a bomb falling in St. Peter Street affected 134 homes.


Eleven bombs exploded between 12.12 and 12.15am, four of these around Hither Green. Most damage occurred in Leahurst and Longhurst roads. At 9 Longhurst Road the blast injured nine people and damaged 35 houses, while the bomb that struck 187 Leahurst Road killed two, injured six and caused damage to 19 shops and 63 houses. Elsewhere a bomb landing on the foreshore of the Thames near Regent’s Dock caused extensive damage to a barge, while three landing in Kentish Town met with mixed results. One hit the railway by Grafton Road and, although it failed to detonate, it still damaged the tracks. A 100kg bomb struck 5 Gospel Oak Grove inflicting injuries on two people and damaging 43 houses, and in Kentish Town Road another caused widespread damage to shops and houses.


Over Stratford at about 12.15am, a Gotha crewed by Paul Sapkowiak, Hans Thiedke, and Wilhelm Schulte dropped three bombs, a 300kg and two 50kg. The larger bomb demolished two houses in Maryland Square, damaged 50 others, killed two people and injured seven others. The other two fell in Leytonstone Road damaging houses and business premises. But time was running out for the Gotha crew. It was intercepted over Hainault by a Bristol Fighter of No.39 Squadron flown by Lt. Arkell with AM Stagg as observer/gunner, which swooped on the returning raider and shot it down on open ground near East Ham.


The same Gotha that bombed Kentish Town was also responsible for three bombs dropped at about 12.20am. One, in the Outer Circle of Regent’s Park, injured a soldier while smashing windows in 40 houses, and another, in Park Crescent, caused injuries to ten soldiers and a woman, also damaging nearby buildings and smashing windows. The third bomb, in Bolsover Street, wrecked part of a women’s hostel, caused considerable damage to 50 houses and inflicted injuries to three women and an army officer.


The final bombs dropped on London, attributed to one of the huge ‘Giant’ bombers, fell between 12.20 and 12.40am. At King’s Road, Barking, one damaged 20 houses, at Saxon Road, East Ham, another caused slight damage to 20 more, and a Grange Road, West Ham, a school bore the brunt. In Plaistow a bomb at the junction of Balaam Street and Whitwell Road damaged the West Ham Public Baths and 100 houses, while at 12 Ladysmith Road, Canning Town, the blast from a bomb killed a child and injured three people. In Bow, a bomb exploded in a garden at 21 Saxon Road, the blast damaging 20 houses. Passing over the City now, a bomb fell amongst warehouses in Redcross Street, then in Hackney, at 42 Morning Lane, 11 people suffered injury when a bomb demolished a stable and damaged 131 homes. At Glebe Road, Kingsland, two men suffered injury from a bomb blast, which inflicted damage on 100 properties, including the Metropolitan Hospital. The final bomb landed at 32 Bookham Street in Hoxton where, fortunately, it failed to detonate.


Besides the Gothas shot down by pilots of the RAF, the AA guns also brought down two of the raiders over the sea. It had been an impressive response to this, the largest air raid of the war — and the last occasion in WW1 when bombs fell on British soil.  


For more details about this raid see Part 1






For casualties and damage see Part 1