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)

London, Kent, Essex

31st Oct./1st Nov. 1917


This raid by Kagohl 3 involved 22 Gothas and for once none turned back early. Kleine, commanding the squadron, took the decision to carry an increased number of a new type of incendiary bomb. Of the 274 bombs recorded by the British authorities 93 were HE and 181 were incendiaries. The majority  (56 x HE and 127 x  incendiary) were dropped over Kent.


The attack started over the Kent coast at 10.37pm. At Dover, most bombs fell along the seafront with damage recorded at the RNAS seaplane station where an incendiary set fire to a workshop. An HE that exploded near Prince of Wales Pier killed a trawler man and injured a colleague while an incendiary set fire to the side of a the cross-channel ferry. Bombs also fell just outside Dover, at Guston, causing insignificant damage. At 11.30 an incendiary dropped at South Preston, followed 25 minutes later by an HE at Fawkham where there was an AA gun and searchlight. Later another four HE and 11 incendiaries fell close to the gun. An incendiary and an HE fell at Dartford, followed by single HE bombs at Southfleet and Cuxton, and at Darenth four incendiaries and three HE bombs landed but none of these caused any damage. Seven HE and three incendiaries fell at Herne Bay on the north Kent coast, damaging walls, ceilings and windows in 62 houses. At neighbouring Edington bombs injured a woman and smashed glass at 11 properties. An incendiary also fell harmlessly on Whitstable. Six incendiaries landed in fields between Westgate and Garlinge without effect, followed by two incendiaries at East Northdown and an HE and four incendiaries at Kingsgate, St. Peter’s, Broadstairs. Between 11.40pm and 11.50pm, 16 incendiary bombs fell to the south of Canterbury all without damage: six around Littlebourne, three at Bekesbourne, three at Patrixbourne and one each at Bridge, Adisham, Thannington and Nackington. An incendiary also fell at Wormshill near Frinsted, followed by five 12kg HE bombs at Boughton Malherbe, three at Egerton, eight at Charing and two at Charing Heath. No damage resulted. At about 12.40am a single incendiary fell at Ridley. Twenty minutes earlier an HE bomb landed on a bakery in Gillingham causing considerable damage before nine incendiaries dropped over Longfield at 1.00am followed by six at Ash and a single 50kg HE bomb at Linton which failed to explode. Other than at Gillingham, none of these bombs caused any damage, as was the case at Walmer where a single incendiary landed on a road at 12.30am. Between 1.15am and 1.30am, returning Gothas passed over Kent dropping single HE bombs at Dartford and Swanscombe, six incendiaries and an HE at Northfleet, four incendiaries and an HE at Gravesend, two 12kg HE at Denton and a 12kg HE and an incendiary at Gillingham. (Cont'd)

Only at Gravesend did the bombs have any effect where they caused slight damage to three houses and a school. Another returning Gotha offloaded five HE bombs over Ramsgate as it headed out to sea. Two struck the gas works, one damaging the purifier and fragments of this bomb pieced one of the gasometers, whereupon the escaping gas caught on fire. In the town 200 houses suffered minor damage with five shop fronts seriously damaged.


In Essex two incendiaries fell at Tilbury at 12.25am, landing harmlessly on West Tilbury marshes. About 15 minutes later four incendiaries fell without causing any damage at Stifford, South Stifford, West Thurrock and Rainham.


It appears that the first Gothas attempting to reach London got as far as Erith on the south bank of the Thames, north-west of Dartford. Ahead of them the Woolwich guns opened fire at 11.49pm and this appears to have caused them to commence dropping their bombs. Six 50kg HE and seven incendiary struck Erith. In Alexandra Road a bomb killed a man and a woman, demolished a house, and damaged 24 others. Another bomb, on East Terrace, Crayford Road, injured three, demolished a house and damaged nine. Just a minute later 22 incendiary bombs rained down on Slades Green but failed to cause any damage. At 12.40am the first Gothas reached London and released two incendiary bombs over the Isle of Dogs, in Manchester Road and West Ferry Road, causing minor damage. The raider crossed the Thames and two minutes later dropped three 50kg HE and five incendiary bombs over Greenwich, with one incendiary landing close to the Royal Observatory, but otherwise the only damage was to the roof of a soap works in Tunnel Avenue. An incendiary also landed at Blackheath but failed to ignite. At 12.45am eight HE bombs fell on the marshes at Belvedere and two HE and five incendiaries landed at Charlton where the incendiaries set fire to a barge on the river as well as a storehouse at a paint works on Riverside causing damage estimated at £2,325. At 1.00am two incendiaries fell at Silvertown damaging a school roof. About 30 minutes later a string of 12 HE bombs fell from Upper Tooting to Streatham. In Upper Tooting two men died and two people were injured at 31 Crockerton Road and another man was killed in Brenda Road; nineteen houses were damaged. In Tooting a bomb killed three and injured three at 39 Romberg Road, causing significant damage in the area, while two other bombs in Tooting merely smashed windows. The six bombs that fell in Streatham claimed no casualties and only caused minor damage to a few houses and to the Tate Library on Streatham High Road. At 1.45am two HE bombs dropped on Plaistow damaging 45 houses and injuring a woman in Woodside Road. The last bombs to strike London did so around 1.45am. Two HE and two incendiary bombs fell on the Isle of Dogs, one damaged sheds at West India Dock and one that fell on Maria Street, close to Millwall Docks, damaged 100 houses but there were no injuries. Another bomb fell in the water across the Thames in the Surrey Docks. An HE bomb that landed in Deptford Park damaged a building used as a searchlight station and also caused minor damage in Grinstead Road, and an incendiary bomb that fell at Pier Wharf failed to ignite but damaged a timber stack.


The Home Defence organisation had a busy night. The first AA gun opened fire at 11.16pm with the last shots fired at 2.07am, during which time they fired 4,101 rounds. Some of the five aircraft sent up by the RNAS and 45 by the RFC caught fleeting glimpses of the raiders but had no luck in combat. All the Gotha returned to Belgium but five crashed on landing and the impact of the new incendiaries had been poor.

Casualties:  10 killed, 22 injured


Damage: £22,822