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, Surrey, Essex, 

Suffolk, Lincs., Notts., E. Yorks.

23rd/24th September 1916

(Part 1)


Undeterred by the army’s loss of an airship on 3 September, Strasser ordered a raid by 12 navy Zeppelins on 23 September, the older vessels targeting the Midlands and the new ‘r-class’ Zeppelins heading for London. Two turned back early, and another, L 30, appears not to have come inland despite later claiming an attack on London.


The first to cross the coast, L21, commanded by Oberleutnant-zur-See Kurt Frankenburg, did so at 21.40pm over Suffolk. He appeared to be searching for Stowmarket where there were explosive works. At 10.35pm an HE bomb fell in fields at Coddenham, followed three minutes later by a sighting incendiary bomb over Needham Market, about three miles south-east of Stowmarket. With searchlights now trained on L.21, two 3-inch guns protecting the works fired off 25 rounds without success. L.21 responded by dropping 34 bombs. The first two, HE, dropped near Badley Bridge after which L.21 flew northwards. Another 16 HE and 10 incendiary bombs landed in the parish of Creeting St. Peter, near Creeting Hall and Pound Road. These bombs badly damaged a farm building and killed six pigs. Others landed in fields at Brazier’s Hall. The final salvo of five HE and an incendiary struck Crown Hill at around 10.43pm in the parish of Stowupland. No bombs landed nearer than 1600 yards from the explosive works. L.21 then headed back to the coast and went out to sea north of Southwold at 11.20pm.


L.14 and L.17 came in together over the Lincolnshire coast at about 10.00pm. L.17, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Hermann Kraushaar, advanced towards Lincoln with L.14, and an HE bomb dropped at the hamlet of Waddingworth has been attributed to her. The two separated near Lincoln at about 10.45pm, with L.17 heading the furthest inland that night. About an hour later L.17 reached Newark where an incendiary fell in the River Trent at North Muskham, but lights visible 16 miles away now attracted the commander who set course towards what was Nottingham. At 12.34am L.17 reached Colwick on the outskirts of the city and released two HE and four incendiaries on a large railway marshalling yard. A low mist hampered the searchlights as L.17 dropped six more HE bombs between Colwick and Sneinton. Lights still burning at a large railway depot and at the Midland Station provided L.17 with a perfect guide.  Now over the city, Kraushaar released eight HE and 11 incendiary bombs; the first two causing minor damage but the third had a devastating impact. It landed on 32 Newthorpe Street destroying it and the neighbouring houses, killing Alfred Rogers and his wife Rosanna, burying eight people in the rubble and knocking down a man in the street. The latter all survived their injuries.







Other bombs injured two men at the Midland Railway goods yard and caused damage

around the station. The next two bombs caused serious damage to the Canaan Street Primitive Methodist Chapel, then an incendiary that struck No. 3 Chancery Place claimed the life of 21-year-old Harold Renshaw who suffered horrendous burns in the resultant fire. Further bombs fell in at the junction of Greyfriars Gate and Lister Gate, and at Castle Gate but no more lives were lost. L.17 continued on to Victoria Station on the Great Central Railway, dropping bombs as she went, with the last bomb on the city falling on the station’s Platform 7. At 12.49am L.17 steered away, having claimed the lives of three and injured 16 in the city, dropping a single bomb at Mapperley, which damaged a house and smashed many window panes, before following a course back over Lincolnshire and flying out to sea near Spurn Head, where the 3-pdr AA gun opened fire at her at about 2.00am.


L.14, commanded by Hauptman Kuno Manger, appeared off the coast of Norfolk near Cromer at about 8.55pm and followed it westwards until she crossed The Wash and came inland just north of Skegness at about 10.00pm, striking a course towards Lincoln with L.17. At about 10.45pm the two separated with L.14 approaching Lincoln. A searchlight at Washingborough caught L.14 in its beam allowing the 12-pdr gun at Canwick to fire 19 rounds at her. Perhaps presuming this activity denoted he was already over Lincoln, Manger released his entire bomb load, which fell on the neighbouring villages of Heighington, Washingborough and Greetwell. At Heighington, 17 incendiary bombs landed without causing damage, followed by 12 HE bombs at Washingborough where they destroyed a chicken house, uprooted an orchard and damaged some outbuildings. The effect of the 15 HE bombs recorded at Greetwell was a dead sheep and damage to railway telegraph wires. L.14 returned to the coast, going out to sea just south of Mablethorpe a little after 11.30pm. Although no one was killed in the raid, the following day large crowds came out from Lincoln to Washingborough to see the damage, many crossing over the River Witham on the old ferry. At 4.30pm the overcrowded ferry capsized, drowning 17-year-old Ernest Robinson and young George Melson, aged seven.


Kapitänleutnant Franz Eichler brought L.13 in over Lincolnshire. north of Skegness, at about 10.30pm. She headed south-west to Wainfleet then continued towards Boston. She hovered near Boston for some time then struck off westwards towards Sleaford.  At 11.50pm L.13 was just south of Sleaford when mobile anti-aircraft guns at Rauceby opened fire and five minutes later a BE2c from RNAS Cranwell took off, but L.13 was gone before the pilot could gain the required altitude. In reaction to the guns, Eicher dropped five incendiary bombs. One landed at the village of Silk Willoughby and four around Holdingham, but none caused any damage. Eichler released 13 HE bombs over Rauceby from where the guns were firing but the only damage was to a house and some farm buildings. Passing to the north of Sleaford, L.13 released seven incendiary bomb over Leasingham, where they caused no damage, before Eichler took an easterly course back to the coast, going out to sea at 12.15am near Wainfleet. He then followed the coast up to Spurn Head, dropping a number of bombs in the sea before turning for Germany.


For more details on this raid see Parts 2 & 3






Casualties: 40 killed,  130 injured


Damage: £135,068