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, Beds., Kent, Essex, Herts., Northants., Hunts., Suffolk, Norfolk, Lincs., Worcs., Staffs.

19th/20th October 1917 (1)


This raid, which became known as ‘the Silent Raid’, proved to be the last great Zeppelin raid of the war. Eleven of the latest type of Zeppelin set out to attack industrial targets in the north of England, unaware they were flying into a fierce storm from the north-west blowing at up to 50mph.


Kapitänleutnant von Buttlar, commanding L.54, came inland over Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast at 8.45pm after moving hesitatingly along the Norfolk coast for about 35 minutes. Von Buttlar kept below the fierce winds and, heading south-east, dropped nine HE bombs at 9.05pm, which fell between Hadleigh and Raydon in Suffolk, all without causing damage. Crossing into Essex, L.54 dropped a 300kg and two 50kg HE bombs at Wix, where damage at Crossman’s Farm was assessed at £1. A 50kg bomb followed at Little Clacton, which landed in a field and smashed glass in a nursery greenhouse, before she went back out to sea. Keeping low, she was the first Zeppelin to make it back to Germany. An RNAS pilot, Flt. Lt. C.S. Nunn, attempted to attack L.54 over the North Sea but could not catch her.


L.47, commanded by Kapitänleutnant von Freudenreich, came inland at Sutton-on-Sea, Lincolnshire, at 7.45pm and, heading south towards Skegness, dropped a 50kg bomb at Ingoldmells which failed to detonate. Heading south-west, L.47 appears to have struggled against the wind for some time but south of Stamford at 9.05pm she approached Wittering airfield, releasing two 50kg HE bombs. Both overshot, landing in fields south of the airfield. Heading south-east with the wind, von Freudenreich dropped two incendiary bombs fifteen minutes later at Ramsey, failing to inflict any damage, before dropping a 50kg HE bomb at 10.28pm at Raydon, close to RFC’s Hadleigh airfield but it also failed to cause damage. Two minutes later von Freudenreich released ten HE bombs at Great Wenham damaging some farm buildings and a cottage, causing damage estimated at £250.  A final 100kg HE bomb fell near Chattisham without damage. L.47 went out to sea at Walton-on-the Naze at 10.40pm. Von Freudenreich kept low over the North Sea, below the raging storm, and was blown across neutral Holland at only 2,600 feet, coming under Dutch rifle fire with only two engines working. Rapid repairs saw full power restored and she made her way back to Germany.

Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Hollender, commanding L.46, came over the Norfolk coast near Bacton at 10.30pm but, seemingly aware he was off course, abandoned the mission and never ventured more than two or three miles inland. He immediately dropped 10 HE bombs near the coastal village of Walcott. Seven of them dropped between the Lighthouse Inn, past All Saints’ Church, to the smithy, breaking windows at the inn and church with the damage estimated at £13. Moments later three bombs fell at Walcott Hall and farm, smashing windows, damaging roofs, ceilings, farm buildings and killing two horse. Estimates put the damage at £1,000. L.46 dropped another 10 HE bombs between Walcott Hall and St. Mary’s Church at East Ruston, smashing windows at a cottage.  Hollender then steered back to the coast, going out to sea between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft at 10.50pm. L.46, flying at great height, was taken by the wind over neutral Holland but was unseen by the Dutch defences and reached home safely, the last of the raiders to do so on a direct route.


Hauptmann Kuno Manger brought L.41 inland at 7.15pm over Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire. Although attempting to push westwards, her progress was south-west, and at 7.40pm she dropped two 50kg HE bombs at North Carlton, north of Lincoln, killing two sheep. Fighting against the wind, Manger believed he battled his way to Manchester where he claimed his bombs fell at 10.50pm. In fact at that time he was over Netherton, near Dudley, west of Birmingham, and dropped 15 bombs around Rowley Regis. Three 50kg HE and two incendiaries landed at Rough Hill, two incendiaries at Dudhill Farm, an HE and five incendiaries at Eagle Colliery, east of Old Hill, and two incendiaries on The Tump, a nearby hill. One of the HE bombs and two of the incendiaries failed to detonate and the only damage caused was broken glass. The next two bombs, both HE, dropped at Mucklow Hill, north-east of Halesowen: one at Fir Tree Farm failed to detonate and the other exploded in a field known as The Nosegay. Two incendiaries then fell in Cherry Tree Field at The Leasowes, Lapal, followed by another two that fell in a field known as The Hiplongs, next to Marsh Lane, Lapal and one in a field on Westminster Farm at Frankley. Four incendiary bombs that fell at Bartley Green all failed to ignite. Manger now had an illuminated target ahead of him, the Austin Motor Works at Longbridge, which was engaged in war work. Manger aimed five HE bombs at the works, but three failed to explode. The other two caused some damage to the Heating and Boiler House, smashed a glass roof over the Aeroplane Shop and damaged a temporary engine house, injuring a stoker inside. Estimates put the damage at £500 but it did not impede work. Another two HE bombs fell on Impey’s Farm at Longbridge without damage. At 11.00pm L.41 dropped her last bomb in that locality, an HE landing in a field at Cofton Common, east of the Longbridge works, on Cofton Common Farm. Heading for home now, L.41 was carried over Northamptonshire by the wind and at 11.50pm dropped two 100kg HE bombs at Field Burcote, north-west of Towcester, but neither detonated.  The wind carried L.41 across Essex, the Thames estuary, Kent and over to France where, after struggling in the wind for nearly three hours, she finally crossed the Western Front near La Bassée.


For more see Parts 2,3 & 4




Casualties:  36 killed, 55 injured


Damage: £54,346