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 2)


L.22, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Martin Dietrich, was off the coast at Kilnsea around 10.25pm and dropped three HE bombs at sea. Dietrich then approached Spurn Head, dropping two more HE bombs near the searchlight there when it illuminated L.22. When the AA gun opened fire he tried to target that with three more HE bombs. They did no damage, but one bomb landed within 100 yards of the gun. Dietrich then took L.22 across Humber estuary, dropping another three HE bombs in the sea, followed by another three off the coast at Donna Nook where he came inland into Lincolnshire. Moments later, at 10.40pm, followinga westerly course over the next five minutes, L.22 dropped two incendiary bombs over North Somercotes, five at Grainthorpe and one at Fulstow. Dietrich now changed course, initially he steered south-west, dropping two incendiaries at Utterby, before turning north and approaching Waltham at 11.00pm. From there Grimsby lay straight ahead, but L.22 went north-west towards Laceby instead before following the road westwards to Caistor, dropping another incendiary there at 11.20pm. Dietrich now turned back and crossed over the coast at Donna Nook again at 11.35pm. None of the bombs dropped by L.22 caused any damage.


L.23, the last Zeppelin to appear over Lincolnshire, came in over the coast near Mablethorpe at 11.00pm by Kapitänleutnant Wilhelm Ganzel, having dropped a number of bombs at sea six minutes earlier. Once inland, Ganzel appears to have moved without any clear purpose within a triangle formed by Gainsborough, Lincoln and Grimsby. He dropped his first bomb, an incendiary, at Glentham at 11.45pm but 40 minutes passed before he dropped two more incendiaries at Kingerby near Market Rasen. At that point Ganzel appears to find a purpose and followed a direct north-east course headed towards Grimsby.  But at 12.35am, before he reached the town, AA guns at Scartho Top and Cleefields burst into action. Between them the guns fired only seven rounds but it was enough to turn Ganzel away from Grimsby. Instead he released 19 HE and 11 incendiary bombs over Scartho, a village on the southern outskirts. It appears the first bomb landed 80 yards south-west of the junction of Waltham Road and Carr Lane (now Springfield Road), while another dropped in St. Giles’s Churchyard and one at the junction of Louth Road and Pinfold Lane, the others are harder to trace. Damage was recorded to the church roof and numbers of windows were smashed but beyond that the village escaped lightly. Five minutes later L.23 crossed back over the coast and returned to Germany.






Of the three Zeppelins that targeted London, it was the last to come inland, L.31 commanded by Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Mathy, that was the lucky one that night. It was Mathy's Zeppelin alone that returned safely to Germany.


Mathy crossed the Kent coast near Rye at 11.00pm from where he steered a very direct course to south London. At 12.25am, over Kenley, L.31 released four HE bombs that fell evenly spaced along a line about 130 yards long. Three small villas on Hall Road were damaged and the fourth landed in the road at the junction of Hall Road and Downs Court Road. Two people were injured. The Croydon searchlight then caught L.31 but Mathy dropped two parachute flares, momentarily blinding the crew and causing them to lose her. A couple of minutes later she was illuminated again and the Croydon AA gun fired off two rounds before another parachute flare meant the searchlight crew lost her again. Two HE and two incendiary bombs fell on two farms at Mitcham, but at about 12.35am Mathy approached Streatham, located on the southern approaches to London and commenced his main attack, which ran from there, through Brixton to Kennington.  


In Streatham, on a line running from Streatham Common Station to Tierney Road, a distance of 1.8 miles, Mathy released 10 HE and around 20 incendiary bombs, killing 7 and injuring 28. One HE bomb, in Estreham Road, demolished four houses and severely damaged a fifth, killing a 74-year-old woman and injuring nine adults and five children. Another HE bomb, in the road at Streatham Hill, killed the driver, conductor and four passengers on board a tram. Bombs also damaged two railway stations, seriously damaged nine other houses and ten shops, while also causing lesser damage to 165 houses and shops. Over Brixton, Mathy dropped six HE bombs and either 13 or 17 incendiary bombs, claiming the lives of another seven people and injuring 16. Of the Brixton bombs, one landing in Bay Tree Road demolished a house, killing the housekeeper and a 3-year-old child, and partially demolished the houses on either side. The exact same result followed from a bomb that fell in Beechdale Road where Albert Ward, aged 50, and his 21-year-old daughter Grace both perished. An HE bomb that fell in Brixton Road near the junction with Loughborough Road claimed three more lives. In all about 45 houses and shops suffered serious damage and about 40 houses and shops damage to a lesser extent, while many had windows smashed. Having dropped one final HE bomb in Kennington Park, Mathy flew over the Thames and across central London without dropping more bombs, only returning to his destructive mission when he reached the Lea Bridge Road in Leyton. There, at 12.46am, Mathy released 10 HE bombs as L.31 followed the road along its north-easterly line; those bombs caused serious damage to 11 buildings and lesser damage to many more while claiming the lives of four men, a woman and a child, and also injured 27. Among those killed were George (52) and Virginia (50) Sexton and 25-year-old bus driver, William Henry Webb. From there Mathy set a course across Essex and Suffolk, reaching the Norfolk coast near Great Yarmouth at about 2.15am. But an hour early, as L.31 passed Bishops Stortford, a great flaring light lit up the sky some 20 miles away to the south-east. There was no question what it was - it was a burning Zeppelin.


 For more details on this raid see Parts 1 & 3