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

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21st February 1915          

Oberleutnant-zur-See Prondzynski, who conducted the raids on 21 and 25 December, returned on the evening of 21 February; this time his observer/gunner was Fähnrich-zur-See Heym. Their aircraft, Friedrichshafen FF 29, no.203, came inland at Brightlingsea at about 7.45pm, proceeding westwards until about 8.30pm when it released two incendiary bombs over Braintree. A group of soldiers saw ‘a flash of light as a flaring light was dropped from the aeroplane’. It fell in a field not far from the railway station and the River Brain, between the London and Notley roads, making a hole about a foot deep and setting fire to a fence. Two soldiers thrust a fence pole through the handle and carried the bomb to the river where they extinguished the flames. Moments later a second incendiary landed in a field at Great Bradfords Farm that burnt itself out harmlessly.


Heading eastwards, the crew dropped a high explosive (HE) bomb which landed at Coggeshall at about 8.35pm, in a meadow adjacent to Abbey View, where shrapnel damaged the carpenter’s shop and smashed windows in the greenhouse. Another piece of shrapnel flew through the cowshed, just missing a cow, before smashing through a window in the house. Although there were no direct casualties, the following day, Mrs Thomas Parker, wife of an agricultural worker, died from shock as a result of the explosion.


A fourth bomb, at Marks Tey - between Coggeshall and Colchester - dropped in a garden causing some minor damage to nearby cottages. Then, at about 8.40pm, the final bomb dropped on Colchester. This HE bomb landed in the back garden of 41 Butt Road, occupied by Quarter-Master-Sergeant Rabjohn, 20th Hussars, and his family, not far from the Artillery Barracks. The bomb wrecked outbuildings and kitchen furniture, while several shrapnel bullets flew into the room where Rabjohn and his wife were eating supper, but they were untouched, as was their infant upstairs who slept through, despite the collapse of part of the ceiling. About 50 other houses suffered minor damage from the blast.


It proved to be Prondzynski’s last raid. Engine problems forced the FF 29 down in the sea where they remained for 30 hours before a British trawler rescued them.

Casualties: 1 killed, 0 injured


Damage: £30


Colchester 2 (2) Colchester 2 (3)

Bomb damage at the back of 41 Butt Road, Colchester