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 (3)


Kapitänleutnant Franz Stabbert brought L.44 inland over the Norfolk coast at 6.45pm near Blakeney and headed south. Thirty minutes later he dropped a 100kg HE bomb in a field at West Bradenham. Crossing into Essex, L.44 dropped four incendiaries at 8.08pm over Rivenhall: two at Park Gates Farm, one at Rivenhall Hall Farm and one in a field about half a mile north-east of St. Mary and All Saints’ Church. There was no damage. L.44 left Essex at 8.25pm, crossed the Thames estuary and 15 minutes later appeared over Reculver in Kent, where she dropped two HE bombs in the sea, followed by three on land, damaging the kitchen ceiling at the King Ethelbert Inn. Another dropped about a mile to the south in the marshes at Chislet, landing about 270 yards from the railway, followed by two more at Sarre, one in a field at Sarre Court Farm and the other in a neighbouring field damaging crops. L.44 went out to sea over Deal at 8.52pm. Swept across France behind Allied lines, L.44 almost made it, but French AA guns caught her just 10 miles from the Front Line and she crashed in flames at Chenevières. There were no survivors.


Kapitänleutnant Hans-Karl Gayer, commanding L.49, came inland at 8.00pm over Holkham on the north Norfolk coast. Fifteen minutes later he dropped three HE bombs near East Dereham on Old Hall Farm where they broke windows in the farm house and cottages. Nine HE bombs followed in the Yaxham area, six landing south-east of Clint Green smashing windows in two houses and three near Brakefield Green damaging three houses. At Thuxton two HE bombs landed east of Rookery Farm, damaging farm buildings and smashing windows, and a single bomb east of Hall Farm at Coston failed to cause any damage. An incendiary that fell at Runhall, half a mile north-west of the church, failed to ignite and in fields half a mile north-east of the railway station at Hardingham, L.49 dropped eight incendiary bombs that burnt out harmlessly. Three HE and three incendiary bombs fell near Kimberley, between Bayfield Hall and Danemoor Green, demolishing cattle sheds, killing three horses, injuring another and smashing windows. Another batch of eight incendiaries fell near Wicklewood, one fell in a river a  quarter of a mile south of Kimberley railway station and seven close to the Workhouse but no damage was caused. Three incendiaries dropped at Suton, south-west of Wymondham, burnt out without damage. L.49’s last bomb, an incendiary, landed in a field at Forncett St Peter. Struggling with engine problems and navigation, L.49 crossed south-east England with the wind carrying her across France. Having seen L.44 shot down, with only two engines working and attacked by a squadron of French aircraft, Gayer decided to crash land to avoid being shot down. Once on the ground the crew were prevented from burning L.49, leaving the Allies the intact prize of one the latest Zeppelin designs.

Kapitänleutnant Roderich Schwonder brought L.50 inland over Cley-next-the-Sea at 7.45pm and made progress to the south-west. At 8.20pm he began dropping bombs on villages between Downham Market and Swaffham. Five HE bombs fell in fields around Barton Bendish, one in a plantation at Beechamwell and 11 HE bombs landed around Oxborough. One failed to explode but the others fell around Oxborough Hall, smashing windows at the Hall, the Catholic Chapel and St John’s Church. An incendiary landed south of Mundford without effect, as did one on the heath at West Tofts, and another at West Wretham failed to ignite. Six HE and two incendiary bombs then fell around Croxton where they failed to cause any damage.  L.50’s last two bombs, both HE, landed just north of Thetford, not far from the waterworks but also failed to inflict any damage. The wind then carried L.50 towards the south-east and she went out to sea over Hollesley Bay at 8.50pm. Schwonder seems to have had serious navigation issues and wandered alarmingly over France, at one point being 150 miles west of the Western Front. He saw both L.44 shot down and L.49 on the ground, and with two engines out of action he decided to crash land and at least deny his ship to the enemy. He actually hit a wood, which ripped off two of the gondolas causing most of the crew to leap overboard. Thus lightened L.50 soared back up with four men still on board. The uncontrollable airship eventually disappeared over the Mediterranean. No trace of her or the four men was ever found.  


For more see Parts 1, 2 & 4

Casualties & damage: See Part 1