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)

Norfolk, Suffolk,  Cambs, Lincs.

24th/25th Apr 1916


This was a large raid involving six Navy Zeppelins planned to strike against London in advance of the German naval bombardment of Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth. However, strong winds from the south and south-west forced them to seek alternative targets in East Anglia.


L.16 (Oberleutnant zur See Werner Peterson) came inland over Trimingham on the coast of north-east Norfolk at 10.15pm. Following a course to the south-west via Attleborough, L.16 reached Thetford at about 11.30pm. After circling for 20 minutes Peterson resumed a south-west course and arrived over Newmarket Heath at 12.30am from where two machine guns opened fire. Stung into action, Peterson dropped 18 high-explosive (HE) bombs on a line from Newmarket Heath right across the town of Newmarket, to Warren Hill Station. Several houses on St. Mary’s Square were damaged as was a racing stable on Bury Road where a prize racehorse, Coup-de-Main, was killed.  A bomb on a house near Warren Hill Station seriously injured its owner. On the eastern outskirts of Newmarket L.16 dropped an incendiary close to the junction of the Bury and Norwich roads, followed by an HE and an incendiary on the ‘Limekilns’, a training ground near Snailwell. Peterson then headed back towards the coast, dropping five incendiary bombs at Honingham, between Norwich and East Dereham at about 1.15am, which fell in wheat fields setting fire to a large haystack which spread to farm sheds. L.16 went back out to sea near Mundesley at about 1.35am.


L.13 (Kapitänleutnant Eduard Prölss) came inland about five minutes after L.16, near Cromer. Her course after passing Hanworth is unclear. It would appear that shell splinters from an AA gun struck the command gondola and although they did not cause any significant damage it was enough to persuade Prölss to turn for home. L.13 went back out to sea a little after 11.00pm near Sheringham without dropping any of her bombs.


L.21 (Kapitänleutnant der Reserve Max Dietrich, with Peter Strasser commander of the Naval Airship Division on board) came inland just south of Lowestoft at 11.10pm and took a course leading to Stowmarket where there was an important munitions works. As he approached the town, AA guns at Badley Park and Stowupland engaged, then two 6-pdrs at Stowmarket opened fire. Dietrich released water ballast at 12.16am to climb quickly out of danger and also dropped nine HE bombs, which landed on Ward Green Farm at Old Newton owned by F. Stearn, two miles north of Stowmarket. They caused no significant damage, merely breaking windows and gouging craters in a ploughed field. Dietrich then followed a north-east course across Norfolk, passing to the west of Norwich and dropping a final HE bomb at Witton, which fell harmlessly, before going out to sea near Bacton at 1.35am. At about 2.00am she joined the German fleet approaching the coast.

Casualties:  1 killed,   1 injured


Damage: £6,412

Kapitänleutnant Otto von Schubert brought L.23 inland at Caister at 11.50pm where he dropped three HE bombs but only one detonated, smashing windows and damaging a wall. He then followed a course to the north-west until he reached the village of Ridlington. Here von Schubert dropped nine HE bombs partially wrecking a cottage, breaking windows and extensively damaging the chancel end of the church of St. Peter. At Church Farm, besides breaking windows, the bombs also killed a bullock. Before passing out to sea, L.23 dropped six HE bombs near the coast that damaged two houses, ‘Beech Bough’ and ‘The Croft’, close to the RNAS airfield at Bacton.


The last Zeppelin to come inland over Norfolk was L.11 commanded by Korvettenkapitän Viktor Schütze, which crossed near Bacton at about 12.30am. She made very slow progress south then, between the villages of Honing and Dilham, Schütze released 19 HE and 26 incendiary bombs at around 1.00am. At Dairy House Farm, Dilham, the blast ripped roof tiles from a number of farm buildings, doing the same to four cottages nearby, also smashing windows in another four cottages. Not far away, at Hall Farm, the shock of the raid caused a 79-year-old widow, Fanny Gaze, to die from a heart attack.  L.11 crossed the coast near Sea Palling at 1.18am but instead of going out to sea at once, she followed the coast towards Bacton. At 1.25am 3-pdr AA guns of the RNAS Eastern Mobile Section opened fire on L.11 and it appears they had some success, one gas cell was later reported as punctured by a piece of shell, after which L.11 finally went out to sea.


The final Zeppelin to come inland did so further north, L.17 (Kapitänleutnant Herbert Ehrlich) crossing the Lincolnshire coast at Chapel St. Leonards, just before 1.20am. She only came inland as far as Alford (about 6 miles) where she dropped three HE bombs from a height of about 10,000 ft, the damage amounting to one broken window. A single incendiary also fell in a field at Anderby. Ehrlich crossed back over the coastline near Sutton-on-Sea at 2.05am.


Four aircraft from RNAS Yarmouth, one from RNAS Bacton and one from No. 35 Squadron RFC based at Thetford, went up to oppose these raiders but only Flt sub-Lieutenant Edward Pulling caught sight of one, L.23, before losing it again.