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)

London, Kent, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Herts., Beds., Cambs., Lincs., Notts., E. Yorks.

2nd/3rd September 1916

(part 2)


Navy Zeppelin L.16 (Kapitänleutnant Erich Sommerfeldt) crossed the Norfolk coast at Salthouse at 10.40pm and, heading southwards, dropped her first bomb, an incendiary at Kimberley, west of Norwich, at 11.28pm. Three HE bombs followed at Little Livermere, north of Bury St. Edmunds, at 11.45pm after which L.16 followed a course to the north-west of London.  At 1.30am, when over the Midland Railway line at Harpenden, Sommerfeldt dropped an HE bomb (breaking three windows in two cottages) and five near Redbourn without damage. At 1.50am L.16 was at South Mimms, heading towards Hatfield, but when the AA guns opened on SL.11, nearby at 2.00am, L.16 turned south to Potters Bar where she arrived at 2.15 as SL.11, just six or seven miles away, struggled to free herself from the searchlights and AA guns. At this point Sommerfeldt steered away, attracted by a searchlight at the village of Essendon. At 2.20am he circled over the village dropping 16 HE and nine incendiary bombs. The bombs killed two sisters, Frances (26) and Eleanor (12) Bamford and injured a man and child, and seriously damaged the church and rectory, wrecked three cottages and damaged others. Moments after the bombs dropped, the crew saw SL.11 burst into flames and made off towards the north-east. Sommerfeldt dropped an incendiary over Aston, near Stevenage, and a final bomb at about 3.30am, an incendiary at West Stow near Bury St. Edmunds before he went out to sea near Great Yarmouth at about 4.20am.  


Oberleutnant-zur-See Werner Peterson, commanding L.32, came inland at Sheringham on the Norfolk coast at around 10.00pm and took a south-west course. At 11.10pm Peterson dropped three HE bombs at both Ovington and Saham Toney, the only damage being broken windows at Joseph Bullen’s farm at Ovington. At 11.45pm L.32 dropped an incendiary at Two Mile Bottom, north of Thetford, then continued on a south-west course to Tring in Hertfordshire where she arrived as the flames from the burning SL.11 flared in the distance, presuading Peterson to turn back east. At 2.45am he passed near Redbourn and nine minutes later began dropping his bombs near Hertford. Five HE and 11 incendiaries fell on Hertford Heath killing two horses, followed by 16 HE and eight incendiaries at Great Amwell, which killed a pony and broke windows in three houses. L.32’s final two HE bombs landed near Ware causing no damage as Peterson steered a north-east course and went out to sea near Corton, north of Lowestoft, at about 4.15am.


Zeppelin L.21, commanded by Oberleutnant-zur-See Kurt Frankenburg, came inland near Mundesley on the Norfolk coast at 10.20pm. After following an at times hesitant south-west course, L.21 reached Hitchin in Hertfordshire at 2.25am, as Lieutenant Robinson destroyed SL.11. Frankenburg turned away from London, heading back northwards and began dropping his bombs at Dunton, east of Biggleswade at about 2.40am. Two incendiaries landed but failed to cause damage, followed by another at Hatley Park near Gamlingay. Twenty minutes later L.21 dropped an HE bomb at Sutton, west of Ely, on North Fen, followed by an HE and an incendiary at Horselode Fen at Chatteris, which damaged some wheat sheaves and mangelwurzels.




She dropped an HE and incendiary at Tilney St. Lawrence at 3.35am without effect, and now approaching King’s Lynn she dropped two HE bombs at West Lynn and two incendiaries at North Lynn, all of which landed harmlessly. At 3.42am an incendiary landed at Wolferton, followed three minutes later by seven HE and two incendiaries near Dersingham, then four HE and three incendiaries struck Snettisham, followed at 3.50am by six HE and four incendiary bombs at Sedgeford with a final incendiary at Thornham at 4.00am before L.21 passed out over the coast. Only the bombs near Dersingham had any effect, injuring three people at Doddshill, one of whom one later died, and seriously damaging six houses and eight others to a lesser extent.


L.14, commanded by Hauptmann Kuno Manger, came inland near Wells-next-the-Sea at about 9.50pm before flying a tortuous course over Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex. She dropped a number of bombs as she went, although none caused any damage: an incendiary at Wells, an HE at Ringstead, an incendiary on Terrington Marsh, two HE bombs at Gayton, east of King’s Lynn, an HE at Wormegay Fen, and three HE on The Warren at Shouldham. At 12.20am Manger dropped an incendiary at Upwood in Cambridgeshire before reaching a position between Thaxted and Great Dunmow in Essex at about 2.25am as SL.11 burst into flames about 25 miles away. Manger took L.14 away from London on a north-east course, dropping 18 bombs over the next 30 miles. Single HE bombs fell at Little Bardfield and at Finchingfield at 2.30am, two HE bombs at Lavenham at 2.45am, followed quickly by a single HE bomb at Thorpe Morieux and another at Brettenham, then two incendiaries near Drinkstone at 2.50am. None of these caused damage. Manger released his last bombs either side of Stowmarket. Four HE and one incendiary fell in fields at Buxhall damaging a crop of barley, followed by five HE bombs near Haughley that damaged fields of clover and wheat. He went out to sea near Bacton at 4.05am.


Kapitänleutnant Guido Wolff, commanding an airship over Britain for the first time, brought SL.8 inland over the Norfolk coast near Holkham at 11.05pm. Ten minutes later two incendiaries landed harmlessly at Burnham Thorpe before Wolff headed south, reaching Swaffham at around 12.20am. Wolff, uncertain of his position, dropped an incendiary at Littleport, south of Downham Market, followed by another six incendiaries on Oxlode Fen, between Little Downham and Pymoor, without damage. SL.8 then meandered around the Fens between Ely and Huntingdon for the next 90 minutes. At Haddenham, although about 45 miles from the destruction of SL.11, it is possible that Wolff saw the flare of the burning airship and turned away as SL.8 was not observed again until 2.55am at East Winch, east of King’s Lynn. Wolff began dropping bombs again at Congham at around 3.00am, where three HE and three incendiaries broke windows and damaged roof tiles at two cottages, followed by an incendiary at Harpley Dams. At 3.05am three HE bombs fell at East Rudham, then an incendiary landed at Hellhoughton, three HE at Syderstone and two more at South Creake, which broke windows in four cottages. At 3.15am Wolff dropped an HE bomb at Great Walsingham without damage, followed by two at Wighton with similar result. SL.8 went out over Cley-next-the-Sea at 3.20am, dropping an HE bomb as it did so, which broke windows in Mrs Webb’s house, followed by eight dumped in the sea.  



For more details on this raid see Parts 1 & 3