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)

Essex, Suffolk, Kent

25th/26th Apr 1916


This raid by Army airships targeted London but none reached their goal. Five set out, one, the veteran Z.XII, turned back early and survived an encounter with a French aircraft on its return journey. Of the others, LZ.87 never came inland, her commander, Oberleutnant Barth, contenting himself with attacking a steamer, the Argus, in Deal harbour by dropping eight high-explosive (HE) bombs. The bombs, dropped at 9.55pm, all missed their target. Attacked by AA guns at Walmer, LZ.87 turned out to sea and then appeared off Ramsgate at 10.24pm after which she turned for home.


The three raiders that came inland were LZ.97, LZ.93 and LZ.88.


LZ.97, commanded by Hauptmann Erich Linnarz, came inland over West Mersea at about 10.00pm and followed a westward course as far as Fyfield where she turned south. At 10.50pm she began dropping the first of 47 incendiary bombs between there and Onger (11 around Fyfield, 15 at Shelley, 17 at High Ongar and 4 at Chipping Ongar). Five of them failed to ignite and the only damage recorded was to a shed at Ongar. From there Linnarz continued towards east London. At Barkingside he dropped a line of 12 HE bombs: six at Fairlop, three at Barkingside and three at Aldborough Hatch (only one of these three detonated, destroying a well). Near Fairlop station six railway cottages had their windows smashed and doors blown in. Three other cottages nearby were also damaged. It is possible Linnarz released these bombs to climb rapidly as he was now coming under increasing AA fire. LZ.97 then dropped another HE bomb harmlessly at Newbury Park, but as he approached Seven Kings, the AA fire became heavier and two aircraft attempted to engage at long range; at least one used the new Brock incendiary/explosive bullets. With the odds increasing against her, LZ.97 turned away from London and headed north-east, dropping two HE bombs at Chadwell Heath. One landed in a field smashing some cottage windows but the other destroyed a house in Farm Terrace. The owner, Mr. Chapman, and his family were outside watching the raid! LZ.97, under fire from guns at Brentwood, Kelvedon Hatch and Billericay, now set course for home, going out to sea at Clacton at 12.34am. Shells fired by the AA guns caused slight damage to 16 houses and Fred Berris of Pelham Road, Ilford, suffered a shoulder injury caused by dislodged debris after an unexploded shell struck his roof.



Casualties:  0 killed,   1 injured


Damage: £568

The second Zeppelin to come inland, LZ.93 commanded by Hauptmann Wilhelm Schramm, appeared at the mouth of the River Orwell at about 10.30pm. She dropped what a report describes as two ‘water flares’ in the sea which may have been incendiary bombs, then a HE landed without causing damage on the common to the north of Landguard Fort at Felixstowe. Three more incendiaries quickly followed, all falling in the mud of the estuary with one landing close to the RNAS aircraft hangers. Six AA guns now opened on LZ.93 from Felixstowe and Harwich as she crossed the estuary to Harwich and dropped two HE bombs within 20-30 yards of Government House, St. Helen’s Green. Both failed to detonate. Schramm then steered north over the mouth of the River Stour to Shotley, dropping three HE and four incendiary bombs close to the Royal Navy training base barracks (known as HMS Ganges), but only a little broken glass resulted. Another incendiary dropped in mud west of the barracks then LZ.93 turned back and retraced its route. Over Parkeston Quay a single HE bomb fell on reclaimed land between the station and the village, disappearing beneath the earth and mud. Flying over Harwich another four of the ‘water flares’ fell in the river as LZ.93 approached the Landguard Fort again before she passed back out to sea at about 10.45pm having caused no casualties and been unaffected by the 195 rounds fired by the guns.  


Hauptmann Falck brought the last raider, LZ.88, inland at about 12.30am, crossing the coast near Whitstable, Kent. He switched her engines off at about 12.45 and drifted with the wind to Sturry, north-east of Canterbury, which he reached at 12.53am. Turning the motors back on Falck passed over Canterbury, then turned south-east towards Bridge before changing direction north-east towards Wingham, which he reached at 1.15am. LZ.88 released the first of her bombs five minutes later as she now followed a northerly course towards the village of Preston, dropping nine incendiaries that landed on open ground known as Preston Marshes that merely burnt some turf. Bearing to the north-east now and following the main Canterbury-Margate road, LZ.88 dropped 13 incendiary bombs at about 1.25am, of which two failed to ignite. Most fell harmlessly on Chislet Marshes with one at Sarre, all without causing any damage. Five minutes later, at St. Nicholas at Wade, Falck dropped a single HE bomb which exploded in the garden of the vicarage. It destroyed duck and hen coops and uprooted two trees, one of which fell against the house smashing windows. Falck then continued on a course towards the coast at Birchington. He dropped four HE bombs on marshy ground between the vicarage and Shuart’s Farm, then another five between there and the railway line running to Margate. The last two bombs dropped on land by LZ.88 were incendiaries, one fell close to the railway and the other on the sea wall at Minnis Bay – neither caused damage – then she dropped three final HE bombs in the sea after crossing the coast at about 1.35am before heading home.