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)

Scotland, Yorks.,


2nd/3rd May 1916 (Part 1)


Planned as a big Navy Zeppelin raid on the Rosyth docks near Edinburgh, the weather disrupted the attack. In addition the Army sent out one Zeppelin intending to bomb Manchester. Neither target was reached.


It seems the Army’s LZ.98 (Oberleutbant Ernst Lehmann) appeared off the Lincolnshire coast around 7.00pm. In worsening weather and keeping out to sea she flew southwards from Spurn Head as far Mablethorpe, then turned back. Returning to a position off Spurn Head, but never coming inland, Linnarz set course for home at about 8.15pm.  


Two of the Navy’s Zeppelins did actually reach Scotland but without any serious effect. L.14 (Kapitänleutnant Böcker) had reached Edinburgh in April but did not manage to repeat the feat. She struck the coast north of Berwick at about 8.25pm and hoped to follow it up the Firth of Forth, but strong winds carried her north. She struck the coast again at Lunan Bay, north of Arbroath. Turning south she reached Arbroath at about 10.50pm where she circled for some time in low rain clouds. Then, just to the west of the village of Arbirlot, Böcker dropped three high-explosive (HE) bombs at about 11.40pm, which fell in a grass field on Bonhard Farm.  A horse took fright and injured itself jumping a fence. Three miles further south, L.14 dropped two more HE bombs. These fell in a potato field at Penlathy Farm near Muirdrum, breaking a single pane of glass. L.14 went back out to sea over Carnoustie and headed back to Germany.



Casualties:  9 killed,   30-40 injured


Damage: £12,030

The other Zeppelin to reach Scotland, L.20 (Kapitänleutnant Franz Stabbert), made an unexpected tour of the Highlands. She came inland over Lunan Bay at about 9.55pm and followed a north-west course, but bad weather and blanket mist made it impossible to determine where she was, until the skies cleared at about 12.30am - over Loch Ness! With the general lack of visible landmarks over the Highlands, Stabbert decided to turn back. From a position about 30 miles west of Aberdeen, Stabbert saw a light below. Believing this might be a coalmine pithead he released six HE bombs at about 1.45am (one failed to explode). The bombs, in fact, fell in the grounds of Craig Castle, between Rhynie and Lumsden. One fell within 40 feet of the castle; no injuries occurred but the roof and windows were damaged. L.20 then followed a north-east course for about 10 miles towards Insch, where it released four HE bombs that landed in a field at Knockenbaird, and an incendiary which came down in a field at Scotston. No significant damage occurred. Stabbert then dropped three final HE bombs just north of Old Rayne where they landed harmlessly in a field at Freefield House. He then continued to the coast, which he crossed south of Peterhead at about 2.40am. But now L.20 had a problem. Having flown further north than any other Zeppelin before or after, and facing strong winds across his course, Stabbert realised he did not have enough fuel to get back to Germany. He eventually made a crash landing in Norway on the morning of 3 May. Some of the crew jumped overboard before they crossed the coastline and, rescued by fishing boats, were men returned to Germany as shipwrecked mariners. Stabbert and the rest, who came down with L.20 in a fjord, were interned. The Norwegian authorities destroyed the wreckage of L.20.  



Perhaps the most unspectacular raid carried out by the six Navy Zeppelins that appeared over England was carried out by L.11 (Korvettenkapitän Victor Schütze). While still about ten miles east of St. Abb’s Head, a headland north of Berwick, the armed trawler Semiramis and armed yacht Portia engaged her at about 8.40pm firing 13 rounds. They failed to damage L.11 but she turned away and only reappeared at about 10.20pm, coming inland just north of Holy Island. She dropped two incendiary bombs, one fell near Goswick and the other on the sands between Holy Island and the coast. The weather in the area was bad with low rain clouds and mist and L.11 may have been unsure of her position after the encounter with the two ships. She followed the coast on a southerly course until she reached Amble then went back out to sea.


For more details of the raid see Part 2