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)

Suffolk, Essex, Lincs.

31st Mar/1st Apr 1916 (Part 1)


This started as a seven Zeppelin raid but two dropped out en route leaving five to target the London area.


Zeppelin L.14 came inland over the Norfolk coast near Sea Palling at about 8.15pm and flew a wide circle to the west of Norwich before heading towards London. At 10.30pm L.14 passed over Sudbury where she dropped eight high-explosive (HE) and 19 incendiary bombs from east to west across the town. One HE bomb stuck neighbouring houses, 34 and 35 East Street causing extensive damage. It also killed Ellen Wheeler, a 64-year-old widow living at 34 and a married couple at number 35, Thomas and Ellen Ambrose. Outside, John Edward Smith, who lived at number 58, was killed as he crossed the road. Soldiers of the 2/6th City of London Rifles had billets in the town, one of these, the Horse and Groom was damaged and two days later Rifleman Robert Wilson, died of injuries caused by flying glass received at his billet in Constitution Hill. A little further on, an incendiary crashed down into 22 Melford Road, another billet, and Sgt Charles May was awarded the Military Medal for rescuing Rifleman Bond from the burning building.


L.14 then continued towards London and at 11.05pm dropped three HE bombs on Braintree. One landed on 19 Coronation Avenue, killing Ann Herbert, aged 70. Next door at 21, however, the chimney collapsed on the house, killing Alfred Dennington, his wife Annie and their three-year-old niece (or adopted child) Ella Hammond.


At Kelvedon Hatch an AA gun and searchlight engaged L.14. In response she dropped two HE bombs north of Doddinghurst at about 11.40 followed by nine at Blackmore five minutes later, which all fell in open fields gouging great craters in the earth. L.14, however, abandoned London, and dropped a HE bomb at Springfield near Chelmsford at about 12.55am without effect before heading south towards the Thames estuary and dropping an incendiary at Stanford-le-Hope at 1.25am, followed five minutes later by five HE and 12 incendiary bombs over Thames Haven. Incendiary bombs landed on two of the vast oil tanks there but luckily they were empty at the time. Other than a small fire on a pier there was no other damage. Evading the AA guns that opened up, L.14 turned north-east and eventually went out to sea at Dunwich, south of Southwold, at about 3.00am.





Casualties: 48 killed,  64 injured


Damage: £19,431

Oberleutnant-zur-See Werner Peterson brought L.16 inland at about 10.10pm over Winterton, and passing to the east of Norwich approached Bury St Edmunds from the east at 11.45pm. Two mobile 1-pdr guns opened fire which Peterson responded to by releasing 21 high-explosive and five incendiary across the town wrecking two cottages and nine others seriously damaged; the incendiary bombs landed in open fields.


One HE bomb exploded on 75 Mill Road with devastating effect. Annie Dureall, 29, the wife of a drummer in the Suffolk Regiment, was upstairs with her five young children when the bomb struck. The floor collapsed below them. Annie died along with 5-year-old James and Catherine, aged 3. The other children were badly injured but survived. Next door, at number 75, 44-year-old Harry Frost was outside in the garden but as he turned to go back in the bomb exploded. He died two days later and other members of his family were injured by flying glass.


Two bombs landed close by, at the rear of Beaconsfield Terrace, Chalk Lane. Hubert Hardiment, a 21-year-old soldier on leave from 4/1st Bn. Cambridgeshire Regiment, heard explosions and went to the back door to investigate just as a bomb exploded. The back of the house collapsed killing Hardiment and neighbours on either side suffered injury.  


There were two final casualties of the raid. A bomb blew off the roof of the King of Prussia pub, the clock inside stopping at 11.54pm, and two bombs exploded in the garden of St. Mary’s Vicarage by Prussia Lane. Awoken by the bombs, Henry Adams, 60, and three of his sons, including 15-year-old George, went out to check on a horse and passed the Vicarage just as the bombs exploded. Both Henry and George died in the blast.


From Bury St Edmunds L.16 headed east and dropped a single HE bomb over Lowestoft, causing considerable damage to a tram shed in the town, before heading back out to sea.