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)

Suffolk & Kent

20th February 1916


Seaplanes of Seeflieger Abteilung No.1 were in action over English coastal towns again on Sunday 20 February 1916. The wireless station at Caister on the Norfolk coast picked up radio transmissions at 10.30am but before their significance could be established, bombs began falling on Lowestoft. The approaching aircraft were a Friedrichshafen FF 33e and a Hansa-Brandenburg NW. The first aircraft appeared at 10.55am and circled over the southern side of the town for about five minutes, dropping bombs and heading back out to sea. The second raider appeared at 11.10am with one report stating it remained over the town for six minutes while another claimed eiight minutes.


The raiders dropped 19 small high-explosive bombs of which one failed to detonate and two fell in the sea. The bombs caused no serious damage according to official reports, but a newspaper mentioned considerable damage to ‘two dwellings and the outbuildings of a restaurant’. One bomb exploded close to the Primitive Methodist Chapel, blowing out the windows while the congregation were inside. A newspaper reported, ‘The congregation was greatly alarmed, but left without disorder or panic, the service being abandoned.’ Three bombs also fell ‘harmlessly’ close to the gasworks. The bomb that failed to detonate crashed through the roof of a workman’s cottage and landed in the bedroom, the occupants having a lucky escape. Some slight military damage occurred at the headquarters of the 5th Provisional Brigade. A bomb struck a greenhouse and broke the telephone line; a staff captain and a clerk received minor glass cuts.


Five RNAS aircraft took off from Yarmouth to oppose the raid but with the first only getting airborne at 11.05am they were too late to engage the two raiders. A 6-pdr and a 12-pdr gun opened fired from Lowestoft, as did HMS Halcyon from the harbour, firing a single round from a 4.7-inch gun, all without effect.




Casualties: 1 killed,  2 injured


Damage: £1,168

Another Friedrichshafen FF 33e had already aimed bombs at shipping about five miles south of the Kentish Knock light vessel, damaging the steamer Glenfoyle, when it appeared over Walmer at around 11.20am.


According to a newspaper report many of the citizens of Walmer were out enjoying a Sunday stroll when the aircraft appeared. A cry of ‘Look out; It’s a German! Get under cover!’ was heard, then six HE bombs were released, aimed at the Royal Marine Barracks. Three of the bombs missed, falling in the sea, but one struck the target. A Marine, who was outside the barracks at the time, received slight cuts to his leg from glass splinters. Another bomb exploded in Dover Road breaking numerous windows but the remaining bomb had tragic results. Two friends, George Castle and Cecil Pedler, were walking along a road by the sea known as The Beach when the first bombs landed in the sea. Moments later another ‘fell with a blinding flash at their feet’, killing Castle, 16, and  injuring Pedler, aged 17.


A large number of aircraft took off from Dover, Eastchurch and Grain but most only managed to get airborne after the raider had turned for home.

Hansa Brandenburg NW(a)

Hansa-Brandenburg NW