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)

Essex, Suffolk

4th July 1917


The commander of Kagohl 3, Hauptman Ernst Brandenburg, was injured in an aeroplane crash a few days after the raid of 13 June and command of the squadron passed to Hauptman Rudolph Kleine. While waiting for good ‘London’ weather, Kleine chose to make an early morning attack on the naval installations at Harwich and Felixstowe.


At 6.55am observers at Orfordness heard the sound of aircraft as the 18 Gothas approached the Suffolk coast. Five minutes later the formation came into view flying at about 14,000ft. Ten minutes earlier Captain J. Palethorpe and Air Mechanic J. O. Jessop had taken off from the RFC base at Martlesham Heath to commence an endurance test on a D.H.4. Palethorpe decided to attack the formation single-handed but his forward firing machine gun jammed. Undeterred he closed to about 100 yards so Jessop could fire but, engaged by a number of the Gothas, Jessop was shot dead forcing Palethorpe to turn back. Having landed he took off again 20 minutes later with another observer/gunner, but by then it was too late.  


Once inland the Gothas headed south and appear to have split into two groups as they approached Felixstowe, one group making for that town and the other heading for Harwich. As the group approached Harwich it dropped six HE bombs over Shotley: four fell in fields on Over Hall Farm and two exploded close to the RNAS Balloon Station killing two naval men and fatally injuring another. Passing over Harwich harbour about 13 bombs dropped, all falling in the water or mud and missing the ships at anchor there. Three light cruisers, HMS Canterbury, HMS Concord and HMS Conquest, all opened fire.  A bomb that landed in Harwich failed to explode as did one of two that landed in neighbouring Dovercourt. The other merely broke some windows while others fell harmlessly in the sea.



The first two HE bombs released by the Gothas heading towards Felixstowe fell on Trimley Marshes killing 21 sheep and injuring 29 others. Seven other bombs fell on the marshes without damage. In Felixstowe, two bombs that exploded in Mill Lane, west of the junction with Garrison Lane, killed five soldiers of the 3rd battalion, Suffolk Regiment and injured 10 others. Three bombs exploded near the Town railway station but caused only limited damage. Heading toward the docks, the Gothas dropped 11 HE bombs on waste ground, while four exploded near to the Beach railway station and two fell just north of Felixstowe docks. None of these caused any serious damage, but directly ahead lay RNAS Felixstowe. Two bombs dropped on the naval air station destroyed an H-12 ‘Large America’ flying boat, killing three civilian workmen and six RNAS personnel.


The first AA gun opened fire at 7.10am and, although joined by six others firing 136 rounds, they met with no success. The RFC sent 66 aircraft up but the first of these did not take off until 7.29am by which time Kagohl 3 were on their way back to Belgium. No. 66 Squadron, RFC, had moved to Calais to assist with Home Defence from there but they did not receive the order to take off until 8.10am so by the time they were airborne it was too late to intercept the returning bombers. The RNAS sent up 17 aircraft from bases in England and 20 from Dunkirk. The home aircraft took off far too late to have an impact but five aircraft from Dunkirk found the Gothas and attacked but without result.














Casualties:  17 killed,   29 injured


Damage: £2,065

H-12 'Large America' Flying Boat

H12 Large America