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

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31st May 1915

On the evening of 31 May 1915 Linnarz made his fifth raid on England in LZ.38. Relenting in the face of increasing pressure, the Kaiser had finally given approval for air raids on London – although at this stage they were limited to a line east of the Tower of London.


Linnarz followed his now familiar route over Southend and, adhering to the Kaiser’s restriction with impressive accuracy, appeared over Stoke Newington in north London around 11.00pm. Here, Linnarz dropped his first bomb, an incendiary, on 16 Alkham Road. Heading south, LZ.38 continued to drop bombs, with the first fatalities occurring at 33 Cowper Road, Stoke Newington. An incendiary set the house on fire and claimed the life of 3-year-old Elsie Leggatt and fatally injured her 11-year-old sister, Elizabeth May. Moments later another incendiary set fire to 187 Balls Pond Road, burning to death a married couple, Henry and Caroline Good. Over Shoreditch LZ.38 steered away from the Tower of London, and, over Whitechapel an explosive bomb claimed two more lives in Christian Street: 8-year-old Samuel Reuben and 16-year-old Leah Lehrman, who died in hospital two days later from her injuries. The seventh and final victim of the raid, Eleanor Willis, 67, also died two days later, as a result of shock caused by the raid.


From Whitechapel LZ.38 continued to bomb, attacking Stepney before flying over Bow and dropping a single incendiary on Stratford, then releasing its final five bombs on Leytonstone. In total LZ.38 dropped 91 incendiary, 28 explosive bombs and two grenades. The defences, however, were caught out by this first London raid. LZ.38 escaped detection by any searchlights, while no anti-aircraft guns opened fire as it passed over the capital. The only ground opposition came from machine gun fire at Burnham and an AA-gun at Southminster, both in Essex. The RNAS flew 15 defence sorties but only one pilot saw LZ.38, engine problems forcing him to abandon the chase.


The home defence aircraft suffered their first loss when Sopwith Gunbus 802 flying from Hendon crashed while trying to land, killing the pilot, Flight-Lieutenant Douglas Barnes.


Casualties: 7 killed, 35 injured


Damage: £18,596

Air crew losses:


RNAS: 1 killed

Alkham Road bombA

The very first bomb dropped on London from the air


This bomb dropped on 16 Alkham Road, Stoke Newington and remained in the possession of the occupier, Albert Lovell, for many years before being donated to the Imperial War Museum, London