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)

Norfolk, Suffolk, Kent

2nd/3rd August 1916


The German navy had high hopes for the raid on the night 2/3 August when six Zeppelins appeared over England. Four came in over Norfolk while the other two approached from further south, but their achievments did not match their initial optimism.  


L.21 (Hauptman August Stelling) came inland at Wells-next-the-Sea at 11.55pm and followed a generally southward course until, attracted by flares at the RFC airfield of No. 51 squadron at Thetford, she dropped five high-explosive (HE) bombs at 12.45am. Ten minutes earlier a single aircraft had taken off, returned to base with engine trouble just five minutes after the bombs had dropped. Stelling then followed an easterly course across Norfolk before dropping two HE and two incendiary bombs near the airfield at Covehithe without damage. L.21 then headed out to sea at 1.35am where Stelling released another eight bombs, probably to allow him to gain height for the return journey.


L.13 (Kapitänleutnant Eduard Prölss) reached the coast at Bacton where mobile anti-aircraft guns engaged her. Following the coast Prölss came inland at Happisburgh at 11.52pm. Initially he headed south, dropping his first bomb, an incendiary, at Panxworth, a few minutes after midnight. Further incendiaries fell at Mundham (three), damaging windows at Grange Farm, Ditchingham (three) and Earsham (four). At Ditchingham, Prölss also released three HE bombs, shattering 70 window panes at Ditchingham Hall.  At Earsham L.13 turned to the west, releasing three HE bombs over Shelton at 12.45am, which broke a number of windows at Shelton Hall, and ten minutes later six HE and an incendiary fell around Tacolneston. Two incendiaries followed at Fundenhall then, at 1.10am, Prölss dropped three HE bombs at Silfield, which damaged two cottages and two farmhouses, smashing 20 windows and dislodging roof tiles, followed by an incendiary at Wymondham. From there L.13 circled around villages south of Norwich for 10 minutes before passing west of that city and steering towards the coast where she exited between Bacton and Mundesley at 2.10am.


L.16 (Kapitänleutnant Erich Sommerfeldt) came inland over Hemsby at 12.25am. She flew an erratic course to the south-west and west, as though searching for something but clearly never found it. Her first bombs, three incendiaries, fell at Long Stratton at 1.10am, shortly after which Sommerfeldt turned back to the north-east, appearing over Ashby St. Mary at 1.35am where he released four HE and three incendiary bombs. These broke nearly all the windows in Ashby Lodge as well as those in two nearby cottages. L.16 then returned to the coast and flew out over Great Yarmouth at 2.10am.






L.17 (Kapitänleutnant Herbert Ehrlich) arrived over the coast near Caister at 12.20am. Following a south-west course, he appeared over Pulham Market shortly before 1.00am where three HE bombs exploded harmlessly. Having turned westward, at 1.03am Ehrlich dropped an incendiary at Mellis, close to the Great Eastern railway line, after which he retraced his route then dropped three HE bombs at Billingford. These fell in fields killing six horses and injured two others. Moments later two HE and three incendiaries landed at Brockdish causing minor damage to a farmhouse. Heading north, L.17 released five HE bombs at 1.30am over Hardwick, followed seven minutes later by two HE bombs at Long Stratton. They caused no damage. An incendiary bomb landed near Forncett station close to a railway signal, after which L.17 turned, flying back past Pulham to Starston where two HE bombs fell just before 1.45am, killing three horses and injuring another. An HE bomb at Redenall followed then L.17 dropped six incendiaries at Denton at 1.50am before her final three bombs, incendiaries, landed at Broome. She went out to sea near Southwold at about 2.15am.


L.11 (Korvettenkapitän Viktor Schütze) approached the coast near Hollesley, Suffolk before coming over Bawdsey Manor at the mouth of the Debden at 1.10am and following that river inland.  Schütze dropped two HE bombs in the river close to the crossing of the Bawdsey ferry and an incendiary on Bawdsey. But at Waldringfield, L.11 turned back, dropping a flare over Kirton marshes. A searchlight positioned 400 yards from Kirton then opened to which Schütze replied at 1.20am by dropping four HE bombs. They caused serious damage to six cottages, injuring a boy, and broke windows in 12 other cottages. It seems possible that Schütze initially mistook the Debden for the Orwell, which exited into the sea by the ports of Harwich and Felixstowe, and turned back when he realised his error. At 1.25am L.11 appeared off Felixstowe, engaged by an RNAS mobile gun at Shingle Street. Then began a game of cat and mouse as L.11 came inland over Felixstowe, retreated when guns opened fire, then repeating the sequence for about half an hour. At 2.00am she was back over the entrance to Harwich harbour, attracting fire from a number of guns at which point L.11 dropped an HE bomb that landed on the parade ground of Landguard Fort, Felixstowe, where it only damaged some tents and broke hut windows. Six other bombs missed the fort and fell into the sea. L.11 made one more return but dropped no more bombs and finally departed at about 2.35am, sent on her way by a few more rounds from the mobile gun at Shingle Street. It seems possible that L.11 sustained minor damage.


L.31 (Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Mathy) made an ineffective raid, spending about two hours over the Straits of Dover. At 24.55am the armed boarding steamer, Duchess of Devonshire, saw L.31 overhead and opened fire. Mathy dropped 20 bombs at the steamer in response but they all missed the target. Five minutes later L.31 came inland at Deal on the Kent coast but at 1.08am went back out to sea between Kingsdown and St. Margaret’s from where a searchlight picked her up and held her as she appeared off the coast at Dover at 1.10am. Others lights opened and nine of the AA guns at Dover opened fire. Mathy did not attempt to come inland, instead he wisely turned away to the east and headed home.








Casualties: 0 killed,  1 injured


Damage: £796