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)

Durham, E. Yorks., W. Yorks., Cheshire, Staffs.

27th/28th November 1916

(Part 1)


This raid by ten navy Zeppelins was the first since the destruction of L.31 on the night of 1st/2nd October. Two of them, L.24 and L.30, turned back early and L.36 failed to cross the coast. One group aimed for the north-east and the other targeted the north Midlands.


The first of the north-east group, L.34, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Max Dietrich, approached Blackhall Rocks just north of Hartlepool at 11.30pm. Four minutes later, as she passed over Castle Eden, a searchlight at the village of Hutton Henry located her. L.34 turned south-east towards the searchlight, and as she did so she was seen by 2nd Lieut. Ian Pyott of No.36 Squadron flying a BE2c from Seaton Carew. Another searchlight, near the village Elwick, west of Hartlepool, now picked up L.34 and Dietrich responded by dropping 12 HE bombs as he neared it. Two damaged telegraph wires in fields on either side of the main Sunderland to Stockton road, while one dug a hole at the crossroads. Three more bombs fell close to the searchlight, the nearest landing 150 yards away, while one exploded close to Dove Cote Farm where it demolished a cow byre (injuring two heifers), smashing windows and breaking doors in the farmhouse. The final three bombs landed harmlessly in fields.


Just as L.34 began dropping her bombs at Elwick, Pyott opened fire on her without result as he dived and passed beneath her great bulk. L.34 now headed east back towards the coast with Pyott flying on a parallel course, preparing to attack again. As he reached West Hartlepool at 11.40pm, Dietrich began dropping the first of 16 more bombs, probably to enable him to climb away from his attacker. Four HE bombs fell in fields at West Park on the western edge of West Hartlepool, followed by two in Ward Jackson Park. Moments later a salvo of bombs landed in Hartley Street, Lowthian Road and the Poplar Grove section of Hart Road. Beyond Hart Road bombs landed in allotments and one demolished the stand at the football ground in Clarence Road. They killed one man and three women, while injuring two men, five women and four children. They also wrecked 15 houses and shattered windows in 455 houses and 121 shops, some of which also suffered damage to doors, walls and roofs.  But as L.34 dropped her last bombs, she was under heavy AA gunfire as Pyott made his second attack. This time his bullets took effect, L.34 began to burn, flames spread quickly through the Zeppelin and she crashed into the sea about a mile off the coast. Max Dietrich and his 19-man crew all perished.











On her maiden flight to England, L.35, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Herbert Ehrlich, came inland six minutes after L.34, at Hawthorn, just over four miles north of her compatriot. Picked up by the Seaham searchlight and AA gun, Ehrlich turned back. At 11.45pm he aborted the raid, having seen L.34 burst into flames over the sea about 12 miles away. He dropped no bombs and took L.35 out to sea near Easington Colliery.  


L.14, commanded by Hauptmann Kuno Manger, was the first of the second group, crossing the coast at 9.10pm near Tunstall, east of Hull. Manger initially approached Hull but then turned away from the city and headed back towards the coast. At 9.20pm two mobile 13-pdr guns at Cowden fired 26 rounds at L.14. In response Manger released 18 HE and 26 incendiary bombs, which fell between Mappleton and Rowlston Hall without causing any damage. L.14 then headed up the coast to Barmston where two more mobile 13-pdr guns fired 14 rounds at her. She turned back southwards and, now drifting with the wind, approached Hull again at 10.15pm. But when the 12-pdr gun at Sutton, on the north-east edge of the city, fired eight rounds at her, Manger restarted the engines and turned away. L.14 crossed the coast near Spurn Head at 10.25pm.  


At 9.20pm, L.16, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Hans-Karl Gayer, came inland over Filey Bay on the North Yorkshire coast. It was Gayer’s first time over England and he spent a little under three hours wandering over North Yorkshire. He initially followed a south-west course, approaching Selby where the AA gun at Hemingborough Grange fired at 10.10pm, joined by another at Cliffe and one at Wood House. Gayer steered away and dropped three HE and six incendiary bombs over Sharlston at 10.32pm, where the coke ovens at the colliery were burning, resulting in a few broken windows. At Cudworth, west of Barnsley, he dropped an incendiary bomb at 10.40pm. Two minutes later, two HE bombs fell at Monk Bretton. L.16 then turned back to the north-east, passing over South Hiendley and dropping two HE and two incendiaries (both failed to ignite). None of these last seven bombs caused any damage. Just before 11.00pm, L.16 released four HE and four incendiaries (all duds) over the northern edge of Pontefract. Four bombs fell in Pontefract Park, one in the railway yard at the Prince of Wales Colliery, while another at the colliery fell within 30 yards of the gunpowder store. Another landed in a field close to Towend’s farm stack yard and the last in a field nearby. The only damage caused by the bombs were a few broken windows. From Pontefract, Gayer headed south-west, dropping six HE bombs at Featherstone at 11.10pm. Again, they failed to inflict any damage. L.16 then returned towards Pontefract, passing north of the town. At 11.15pm she dropped single incendiary bombs at Lumby and at Monk Fryston, which landed harmlessly, before reaching Tadcaster at 11.27pm. From there she headed towards York, but as she approached the city from the west, the AA guns at Acomb opened fire at 11.35pm and Gayer veered away. L.16 now headed back towards the coast. At about 12.25am an HE bomb landed at West Farm, Helperthorpe. It failed to detonate and similarly, a bomb on a farm at Boythorpe was also a dud. Gayer dropped his last five HE bombs as he passed the village of Foxholes. They all landed in fields but the blast damaged a cottage roof and smashed windows. L.16 went back out to sea just south of Scarborough at 12.35am under fire from two 13-pdr AA guns.


For more details on this raid see Part 2






Casualties: 4 killed,  37 injured


Damage: £12,482