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 2)


L.13, commanded by Heinrich Mathy, came inland over Sizewell in Suffolk at about 8.00pm. Recognising conditions were against a raid on London he selected Stowmarket as his secondary target, where he knew the New Explosive Company had their works. Approaching the town from the south-west at a height of about 6,000 to 7,500ft, he dropped two flares at about 8.45pm over the village of Badley, about a mile and a half from the works but could not locate them. A searchlight and two AA guns opened up on L.13 against which Mathy dropped 12 HE bombs that all fell close to the guns, but he failed to realise they were defending the works. Mathy circled around and approached the town again at about 9.15, still searching for munitions factory, as the AA guns opened up again. This time bombs damaged some railway track and a fragment of an AA shell injured a soldier, but another shell burst close to L.13 sending a jagged piece of metal slashing through one of her gasbags causing a loss of hydrogen. Mathy immediately set course for the coast. At Wangford he released 11 HE and five incendiary bombs, aimed at the headlights of an RNAS armoured car machine gun section. Then, over the airfield at RNAS Covehithe, L.13 dropped her remaining seven HE and 20 incendiary bombs at about 10.20pm. Both attacks failed to produce results but, now lightened, L.13 was able to gain height and struggled back to her base.


Kapitänleutnant Martin Dietrich, commanding L.22, experienced serious engine problems during his crossing of the North Sea, delaying him for four hours. He abandoned London as a target and steered instead for the Humber. Crossing the coast near Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire, at 1.00am he headed north, dropping a sighting incendiary bomb at Donna Nook on the coast twenty minutes later. At about 1.35am a searchlight locked on to L.22 and a 1-pdr AA gun at Waltham Wireless Station opened fire.  L.22 responded with 14 HE and 12 incendiary bombs all of which fell on farmland at Humberston. Five of the HE bombs failed to detonate with damage limited to broken wondows at a farm. Then, at 1.48am L.22 appeared over Cleethorpes. Having flown over the town she dropped a flare in the river near the end of the pier then turned back, coming in over the railway station and dropped six HE bombs on the town. One detonated in Alexandra Road, another on the council offices at the corner of Cambridge Street and another landed in Sea View Street, then L.22 headed out to sea. But behind her she left a devastating mark on the town. The bomb that fell on Alexandra Road exploded as it hit the roof of a Baptist Chapel, a billet for a company of the 3rd (Special Reserve) battalion of the Manchester Regiment who had arrived only the previous day. When the rubble was cleared and the bodies recovered 31 men were dead and 51 injured.  





Casualties: 48 killed,  64 injured


Damage: £19,431

The other Zeppelin to come inland that day was L.15, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Joachim Breithaupt. It crossed the coast at Dunwich, Suffolk at about 7.45pm dropping a couple of bombs in the sea before an incendiary fell at Yoxford at 7.50pm without effect. Approaching Ipswich at about 8.20pm she dropped two HE bombs and an incendiary near the docks. One of the HE bombs fell in Key Street, behind the Custom House, killing a man standing outside The Gun public house, while a soldier billeted in a house in the street lost a leg. The incendiary fell in the dock while the other HE fell on the Stoke Bathing Place, on the west bank of the River Orwell opposite Cliff Quay. Two others died and a woman injured. L.15 continued towards London, dropping a single HE bomb on Colchester at 8.45pm, damaging the glass roof of a printing works in Hawkins Road and smashing windows nearby. Flying south L.15 reached Pitsea in Essex where Breithaupt picked up the course of the Thames. But L.15 now attracted a number of searchlights and AA gunfire. He turned back northwards at 9.43pm, releasing 20 HE and 24 incendiary bombs, presumably to gain height. The bombs fell harmlessly on open fields at Rainham but L.15 did not escape. At 9.45pm a round fired by the AA gun at Purfleet, ripped through three of her gas cells. L.15 headed away from the guns then, between Brentwood and Ingatestone, she survived a dramatic encounter with 2nd Lieutenant Alfred de Bathe Brandon of No.19 Reserve Aeroplane Squadron. Losing height now through loss of hydrogen, in a desperate attempt to keep L.15 airborne Breithaupt ordered all unessential equipment overboard but at 11.00pm, with her structure severely weakened and flying at just 2,000ft, her back broke and she fell into the sea about 15 miles north of Margate. One of the crew drowned but the rest were rescued and taken back to England as prisoners of war.


L.15 with her back broken lying in the sea off Margate