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, Essex, Kent

24th September 1917


After a break of three weeks due to bad weather, the Gothas of Kagohl 3 returned to England on 24 September 1917. During their absence Britain’s AA guns had adopted a new system of barrage fire giving curtains of shell fire extending for 2,500 feet from top to bottom targeted at varying heights. Raiders could find themselves flying into walls of exploding shells.


Sixteen Gothas set out but three turned back early with engine problems. Of the rest, three battled through to London while six contented themselves with bombing the area around Dover and four dropped bombs over south Essex and Kent.


Gothas arrived over Dover around 7.15pm dropping 35 HE bombs and seven incendiaries. In Glenfield Road two houses, Nos. 40 and 42, were demolished, killing Annie Keates and her daughter Evelyn. Nearby in Pioneer Road, a bomb destroyed No. 33 and wrecked those on either side, and in Crabble Hill another bomb wrecked two houses, Nos. 75 and 77, killing Edward Kenward and his daughter Ellen. In Folkestone Road a bomb destroyed the roof of a Wesleyan Chapel and another at Buckland Gas Works smashed a shed roof. Many windows throughout the town were shattered. Five people in Dover died and 11 were injured. Other bombs fell in the area around Dover, at Guston, Martin Mill, Ringwould, Oxney and at West Cliffe near the Cornhill Coastguard Station, but none caused any significant damage.


The four Gothas that roamed over Essex and Kent failed to cause significant damage. Shortly after 8.00pm an incendiary fell at Mockbegger Farm, south of Cliffe, followed by three more across the Thames close to Coalhouse Fort at East Tilbury. About 10 minutes later five explosive bombs dropped harmlessly on the Isle of Sheppey, two near Eastchurch at New Hook Farm and Old Rides Farm, and three near Minster, one at Brambledown Farm and two on fields at Tadwell Farm. At about 8.30pm nine HE and two incendiary bombs dropped at the army camp at Leybourne, about seven miles south west of Chatham, killing two soldiers of the Lincolnshire Yeomanry and destroying a Quartermaster’s Store, a latrine and a bathhouse. Five incendiaries also fell at the neighbouring villages of West and East Malling. At the latter village a bomb damaged the glass roof of the Isolation Hospital.


Back in Essex, after the bombs near East Tilbury, just a few more fell on the county. At about 8.10pm a 50kg bomb exploded near Rook Hall farm, about 500 yards west of No. 37 Squadron’s Goldhanger airfield. Forty five minutes later three bombs fell on the foreshore at Leigh, Southend-on Sea,  where one house received some damage.


The first Gotha to reach London did so at 8.05pm. Four incendiaries fell in Poplar in East London, in Lodore Street, Vesey Street, Perry’s Close and in East India Dock Road. The only damage of note was to the roof of the United Methodist Church in the latter place.  Crossing to the south side of the Thames, an incendiary fell in Lavender Yard at the Surrey Commercial Docks, causing slight damage to a road, and an unexploded bomb came down in Lower Road, Rotherhithe. There was more significant damage in Trundley’s Road, Deptford, where a man suffered injury and houses from 101 to 109 were severely damaged by an HE bomb, and many other buildings had their windows smashed. Another HE bomb landed in a neighbouring street, Crooke Road, partially demolishing one house and damaging several others.  


The next Gotha to reach London came in from the north, dropping incendiaries in Listria Park and Albion Road in Stoke Newington at about 8.35pm, followed by one in a garden in Green Lanes. The next two bombs, also incendiaries, fell in Croftdown Road, Highgate, and on Haverstock Hill, Chalk Farm, with only slight damage. Taking a westward course the next incendiary fell at 41 Portchester Road, Bayswater, damaging the roof, followed by two which landed in the roadway at Queen’s Road (now Queensway). Turning east, the Gotha then headed towards the centre of London. The next bomb proved the deadliest. It landed in Southampton Row, Bloomsbury, outside the Bedford Hotel. A number of people were standing in the doorway when the bomb exploded, killing 13 and injuring 22. The hotel was also damaged and hardly a window remained intact along the street. The next bomb wrecked the back of three houses in Edward Street, Soho, (now Broadwick Street) and damaged others before moments later a bomb struck Burlington House in Piccadilly, home to the Royal Academy of Arts, causing significant damage in the building. The Gotha’s last three bombs quickly followed. One exploded in Green Park close to The Ritz, one close to Westminster Abbey, exploding in Dean’s Yard and the third fell in the Thames, the last two straddling the Houses of Parliament.


The third Gotha to bomb London had already dropped an incendiary in a meadow at Home Farm, Chigwell, before releasing its first bombs on the capital over Islington and Highbury at about 8.40pm. An incendiary in St. Mary’s Road, an unexploded bomb and an incendiary in Canonbury Square, an incendiary in Grosvenor Road, and two in Alwyne Square resulted in only minor damage, but an AA shell that fell in Cloudesley Road injured five people. An HE bomb killed a 13-year-old boy, James Sharpe at 144 King’s Cross Road, and another that fell in Garrett Street, off Old Street, caused damage and smashed windows. In Great Eastern Street a bomb caused damage at Hamilton Buildings, injuring two people and smashed windows over a wide area. A final incendiary fell without effect in Foster Street, Bethnal Green.


The new ‘curtain’ barrage proved very effective and it seems that some of the Gothas turned away from London in the face of this new intense AA fire. 30 RFC aircraft took off to oppose the raid but none sighted any of the Gothas.












Casualties:  21 killed,   70 injured


Damage: £30,818