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, Suffolk,


24th/25th August 1916 (part 1)


Twenty-four hours after the raid by a single army Zeppelin, the navy launched a 12-airship raid of their own intended to strike London. Eight, however, dropped out and only four came inland with just one reaching London. Even so, it caused the second highest material damage cost of all the Zeppelin raids on the capital.  


Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Mathy brought L.31 up the Thames Estuary, passing Margate on the north Kent coast at 11.30pm and Herne Bay 25 minutes later where he circled for another 20 minutes. At about 12.45am L.31 crossed to the Essex shore, heading inland towards Vange where she turned west towards London. Low cloud hindered searchlights from locating the raider. Having passed between North Woolwich and Beckton, as she approached Blackwall, L.31 turned south over the Isle of Dogs. Here Mathy released his first four London bombs at about 1.30am, which fell along West Ferry Road damaging about 80 houses and causing £55,000 worth of damage at the works of an engineering company near Millwall Docks. Crossing to the south of the Thames, Mathy then dropped bombs on Deptford causing damage to an army supply depot at the Foreign Cattle Market, to the Deptford Dry Dock (one injured) and the premises of the London Electric Supply Corporation (one killed) that amounted to another £43,695. Mathy continued in a south-east direction towards Greenwich where a bomb in Greenwich Road outside the station injured the station master and the driver of a horse-drawn van, also killing his two horses. Another bomb in South Street injured five people in their homes and caused much damage in surrounding houses. From Greenwich Mathy approached Blackheath where three HE and an incendiary landed on the Army Service Corps’ Reserve Horse Depot injuring 14 soldiers. Another bomb, landing in Southvale Road, killed a 70-year-old woman.  






From Blackheath Mathy changed his course to the east and, when over Eltham, dropped another five HE bombs. One wrecked a house in Well Hall Road, killing three members of the Allen family and 29-year-old Annie Tunnell. A bomb in Brome Road injured a young woman and another in Dickson Road injured seven people. Numerous other houses in Eltham suffered damage too. Mathy’s last concentration of eleven bombs fell on Plumstead at about 1.40am wreaking significant destruction. One destroyed a house at 3 Bostall Hill and killed three members of the Pearce family: father, mother and child. Due to low cloud, searchlights only picked up L.31 at 1.35am with the south-east London AA guns opening fire two minutes later, getting off about 120 rounds. Mathy quickly took L.31 back across the Thames to the Essex side and dropped his last bomb, an HE, on Rainham, which broke a few windows, before passing Shoeburyness and out to sea at about 2.15am.  


For more details of the raid see Part 2








Casualties: 9 killed,  40 injured


Damage: £130,203

Eltham Well hall Road

The devastating damage caused by an HE bomb dropped on a house in Well Hall Road, Eltham.

© IWM (HO 92)