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)


25th May 1917 (part 2)

Directly ahead now lay the vast military camp at Shorncliffe, spread out between Cheriton and Sandgate. The exact number of bombs dropped is unclear and there may be some duplication in the records. Among the bombs that fell on the camp amongst Canadian troops, one exploded on a tent between two huts in Howitzer lines where it killed 11 infantrymen about to set off on a march and injured many others. A bomb that landed on Risborough Field killed four Canadian gunners and an American serving with them while they were erecting a tent. Another Canadian died when struck by an unexploded bomb on the Cavalry Drill Ground and a British soldier was killed in a quarantine camp. As well as those killed, over 90 soldiers were injured; one bomb that struck the tailor’s shop in the 8th Canadian Battalion’s lines accounted for 25 of these men.  


Bombs also fell at Cheriton and Sandgate. At Cheriton, close to Risborough Barracks, a bomb in Royal Military Avenue killed Alfred Down, aged 54, and injured two others. Another, in Oaks Road, killed Dorothy Burgin (16) and five-year-old Francis Considine. In addition to the casualties many windows were broken including all those at the front of Enbrook Manor. At Sandgate a bomb exploded in a stream in the grounds of Enbrook House. A fragment of the bomb smashed the plate glass door of the Fleur-de-Lis public house in the High Street. The bomb also sent lumps of rock from the stream flying through the air, damaging nearby properties. The next bombs (about 40) fell on the town of Folkestone with devastating effect.


It was a fine Friday evening and many of the town’s residents were out shopping or enjoying the good weather before a Bank Holiday weekend. Approaching from the west, the first bombs killed Doris Walton (16), while she was playing tennis in the grounds of a school on Shorncliffe Road, and Albert Castle (41) who was working as a gardener at another school on the same road. A bomb at the corner of Jointon and Trinity roads cut down Maggie Bartleet (24) and nine landed close to the Central Station but only two detonated, even so that was enough to kill 45-year-old Edward Horn, butler to Sir Thomas Devitt who he had gone to collect from the station. Following the railway line more bombs fell east of the Central Station and one that  



landed at the junction of Foord Road and Radnor Park Road fatally injured George Butcher who was delivering coal. Eight bombs then struck central Folkestone. One, smashing into 21 Manor Road brought much of the building crashing down and killed the cook, Jane Marshment (50). Another of these bombs exploded in the street outside 19 and 21 Bouverie Road East claiming the lives of five people. Moments later a bomb landed in Tontine Street, a busy shopping thoroughfare, where a large queue had formed outside Stokes’ greengrocer shop following a delivery of potatoes. At 6.22pm a bomb exploded outside the shop, the blast ripping through the people, mostly women and children. When the dust and smoke settled 44 shattered bodies lay amongst the rubble, killed instantly, and another 17 later succumbed to their injuries. No single bomb in Britain caused more civilian casualties throughout the war. The Gothas dropped a few more bombs on the town then headed out to sea.

The RFC and RNAS responded to the attack, flying 77 sorties, but most of the aircraft struggled to get up to the Gotha’s height and were left trailing in their wake. Almost all the RFC aircraft were of the BE type, normally used against Zeppelins and provided little threat to the Gothas. A few aircraft made sightings but only two managed to engage. RNAS aircraft from Dunkirk had more luck, intercepting the returning Gothas and shooting down one over the sea. The nature of the air campaign over Britain had dramatically changed.      


(See Part 1 for details of the rest of raid)







For casualties see Part 1 of raid