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)


22nd October 1916



At 1.37pm on Sunday 22 October, when many people were out in the streets of Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey, a single aircraft piloted by Leutnant Walter Ilges appeared over the town. It was flying northwards at a great height, so few people saw it as it dropped four HE bombs. The hazy sky and the height of the aircraft prevented any anti-aircraft guns opening fire. Only one of the bombs fell on land. This struck the Dockyard railway station in the Blue Town district of north-west Sheerness, making a small crater 18 inches in diameter and six inches deep. The blast broke four telegraph wires, smashed two windows in a signal box, four railway carriages and a horse box of a train in the sidings, which suffered a further 18 broken windows. No one was hurt. The other three bombs all fell in the harbour: two dropped between the end of the pier and the land, with the other landing between the pier head and a battleship. Within two or three minutes of making its appearance the raider was gone, making off to the north-east. Ten minutes later, single aircraft took off from both RNAS Manston and RNAS Dover but neither caught a glimpse of the elusive raider. Another six aircraft from Manston and Dover belatedly joined the search.





Just after 10.00am on Monday 23 October, a German aeroplane approached Margate on the north-east Kent coast. No one noticed it until bombs began to drop in the Cliftonville district. A newspaper reported: ‘Nothing could be heard of aircraft engines, but high in the sky a small speck was eventually discerned.’ The first HE bomb dropped in the sea, followed by one on the shore near Walpole Rocks. The third bomb exploded on the grass in an open area at the north end of Fifth Avenue. The explosion smashed the glass in a shelter on the promenade, but a shocked lady sitting there was unhurt. Fragments of the bomb, however, struck a man as he walked along the promenade, injuring his left hand. The final HE bomb struck the roof of the St. George’s Hotel on Eastern Esplanade. It demolished a chimney stack, shattered the glass in three skylights and penetrated down to the ground floor, damaging the staircase and walls as it passed through the building. On the top floor it smashed glass in the bedroom doors and gouged holes in the walls in several places. A chambermaid working on the top floor received injuries to both feet and had to be taken to hospital.


The raider made off to the south-east where it was engaged by an AA gun at Sackett’s Hill between Margate and Ramsgate.. Although the gun crew found it hard to spot the aircraft in the bright sunlight, they still fired off 16 rounds in its general direction. The aircraft circled briefly as though trying to locate the gun before resuming a south-east course, going out to sea near Ramsgate.


An aircraft from RNAS Manston was airborne within a couple of minutes of the first appearance of the raider. Another eight aircraft took off from Dover and Manston by 10.20am, and three more, from Eastchurch and Westgate, a little later. The first aircraft from Manston saw the raider but was unable to close the gap. No one else even made a sighting.









Casualties: 0 killed,  0 injured


Damage: £20

23rd October 1916



Casualties: 0 killed,  2 injured


Damage: £229