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 (4)


Coming inland over Withernsea on Yorkshire coast at 8.20pm, Kapitänleutnant Waldemar Kölle attempted to steer L.45 towards Sheffield but the gales forced him south-west until at 10.50pm he reached Northampton where the crew noticed some faint lights. Three HE bombs landed to the north of the town, between Dallington and Kingsthorpe, by the main railway line. The concussion from these bombs smashed windows in 24 houses and damaged two ceilings. Kölle then switched to incendiary bombs, dropping three that fell either side of Spencer Bridge Road but failed to inflict any damage. The next batch of three incendiaries fell in the St. James district as L.45 approached the main railway station. One fell harmlessly in Victoria Park, one in the garden at 17 Park Road, which the occupier quickly extinguished, but the third smashed through the roof of 46 Parkwood Street and set the house burning. The bomb killed Eliza Gammons, aged 51, and despite the best efforts of her son-in-law to save her 13-year-old twins, Lily and Gladys, they both died from terrible burns.  Kölle released another batch of three incendiaries, one landed in the town corporation’s West Bridge Works without causing damage and two fell in meadows close to the main railway line to London. Reverting to HE bombs, six fell near the Hunsbury Hill railway tunnel but only smashed a few farm windows.  Carried on a south-east course by the wind, L.45 dropped another HE bomb in a field at Preston Deanery, followed by one more that fell near Piddington on a fence skirting the Salcey Forest.



Continuing to be taken by the wind the crew of L.45 were not aware of their location and were shocked when they realised they were approaching London. Taking advantage of the opportunity they dropped two HE bombs at Hendon, north-west of the city, where one caused slight damage to buildings at Hendon aerodrome and the other caused slight damage to a cottage in Colindeep Lane. The next two HE bombs fell on the railway near Cricklewood Station. One detonated in the railway marshalling yard where it damaged a section of track, five trucks and smashed many windows. The other, just to the south of the station, exploded by the tracks facing Westbere Road, smashing the windows in a school and those of about 100 other buildings in neighbouring roads. As L.45 hurtled along, Kölle released a 100kg HE bomb. By chance it landed at Piccadilly Circus where the blast killed seven people and injured another 18. The next bomb, weighing 300kgs, dropped on two houses in Albany Road, Camberwell. Rescuers recovered 10 bodies and 24 others were injured. The final bomb, also 300kg, fell about four miles further on and obliterated three houses in Glenview Road (now Nightingale Grove). The bomb killed 15 including seven children from one family. The wind then carried L.45 over the coast near Hastings at 1.00am. Blasted across France by the wind, Kölle was unable to make headway to the east and eventually, when about 70 miles from the Mediterranean coast, he decided to make an emergency landing which he did near Sisteron and surrendered.


Of the eleven Zeppelins that had taken part in the raid, only six returned to Germany able to fight another day. One complete crew was dead, as were four men from another crew, and three crews were now prisoners of war. The raid proved to be a disaster for the Naval Airship Division.


For more see Parts 1, 2, & 3



Casualties & damage: See Part 1

Zepp L 45

Zeppelin L.45