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 December 1914

Friedrichshafen FF 29, no. 203, flown by Prondzynski and Frankenburg, that had dropped bombs in the sea off Dover on 21 December, returned to British skies again on Christmas Day. Aided by the foggy conditions, the aircraft passed unnoticed until flying over Sheerness at about 12.30pm, pursuing a westerly course up the River Thames at 7,000ft. Anti-aircraft guns opened fire.  


News of the approaching aircraft alerted the RFC airfields at Joyce Green, Farnborough and Brooklands and the RNAS stations at, Eastchurch and Grain. Shortly before 1.00pm spotters saw it again, flying at about 4,000ft over Gravesend, then Dartford, as it edged closer to London. However, at 1.13pm a British aircraft appeared over Erith, and that, combined with the anti-aircraft fire, persuaded the raiders to turn away from the city. The intercepting aircraft was a Vickers F.B.4 ‘Gunbus’ from Joyce Green piloted by 2nd Lieut. Montagu Chidson with Cpl. Martin as observer/gunner. A chase now developed over Purfleet and Tilbury, as Prondzynski began to climb before he turned across the Thames to the Kent side of the river. At about 1.35pm the German pilot, believing he was over Sheerness, dropped his two bombs, claiming he targeted oil storage tanks there, but in fact they landed harmlessly near Cliffe railway station on the Isle of Grain. Martin, firing a Vickers Maxim, engaged the raider and possibly scored some hits as the Friedrichshafen sustained minor damage. But beyond Sheerness, Chidson and Martin’s pursuit came to an end. With the engine running badly and the maxim jammed, there was little more they could do so they put down at Eastchurch.


Spectators at Southend had been watching the battle from the pier and unofficial reports claim two other British aircraft joined in the engagement, but official reports do not confirm this. However, a Bristol T.B.8 from Dover, flying over Herne Bay, saw the departing raider and attempted to intercept but could not match its speed and returned to base after a short pursuit.


Back safely at their base at Zeebrugge, both Prondzynski and Frankenburg received the Iron Cross the following day for their exploits.


Casualties: 0


Damage: £0

Bristol TB8 Vickers FB5 Gunbus

Vickers Gunbus

Bristol T.B.8