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, Essex, Suffolk, Kent

4th/5th September 1917


After the attack on Chatham proved the practicality of raiding after dark, Kleine launched the first night time attack on London. Eleven Gothas set out of which two turned back with engine problems. Five battled through to London while the four others struck targets in Kent, Suffolk and Essex.


The first bombs were dropped in Suffolk at around 10.25pm. The crew remained close to the coast, their bombs falling on fields at Raydon Hall Farm near Orford (two 50kg), and on Sudbourne Marshes (two 50kg, one 12kg,) with the final two bombs falling in the sea about 300 yards off the Martello tower at Slaughden. There were no casualties.


At 10.38pm a Gotha appeared over Margate, dropping seven bombs in the Cliftonville district. Two exploded in Surrey Road, causing extensive damage, with lesser damage extending to other houses in the road and Cornwall Gardens.  Two bombs exploded at the rear of Fifth Avenue as did two in the road on Eastern Esplanade, breaking a number of windows, but one that fell nearby in Oval Gardens, failed to detonate. Police recorded injuries to five men and three women.


Bombs also fell in Dover. Both a furniture warehouse on Biggin Street and the Salvation Army headquarters on High Street suffered damage. Two unexploded bombs landed in Priory Hill where falling masonry killed Mr H. Long. A bomb in Widred Road wrecked two houses and killed Edward Little, aged 73, and fatally injured his daughter, Minnie Smith. Four others living in the street were injured. Two bombs in Odo Road caused serious damage to houses as well as a gas main and sewer. Casualties in Dover totalled three dead and seven injured.


A fourth Gotha dropped eleven bombs in Essex, in the rural area surrounding Tiptree. One bomb fell south of the Bridgefoot to Inworth road, one south of Theobald’s Farm, four near Ruffell’s Cottages on Tiptree Road, three at New Park Farm and two on Grove Farm at Messing. Damage amounted to 17 panes of glass smashed at three properties.


The first Gotha to reach London dropped bombs on the eastern approaches. Two fell harmlessly in Barking, then six in Wanstead Park caused slight damage. In Stratford a bomb smashed the glass roof of an unoccupied factory and one in Gibbins Road damaged a number of buildings and injured two men.


The next three bombs landed in West Ham. At the junction of Henniker Road and Leytonstone Road one man died as the blast damaged 60 shopfronts and burst a water main. Another exploded at 15 Gurney Road causing damage to a number of houses and the third damaged the backs of three houses in Ravenstone Road.


In south-east London five bombs fell east of Greenwich Park, between Foyle Road and Coleraine Road, breaking windows in about 60 houses and damaging doors and ceilings. Nine bombs fell in Woolwich. One in Ha-Ha Road failed to explode, but two in Manor Road and one in Jackson Street damaged three houses and injured two children, while another, one of four that fell on Woolwich Common, injured a woman. In Academy Road a bomb damaged the railings of the Royal Military Academy.


Approaching over north London, a Gotha dropped a bomb on a building owned by the department store Bourne and Hollingsworth, just off Oxford Street, causing serious damage, but no injuries. Heading towards the Thames the Gotha released four bombs between the Strand and Victoria Embankment. In Agar Street two Canadian soldiers and a woman died and five people suffered injury, and nearby the Little Theatre, used as a canteen by the Canadian YMCA, was wrecked. Minor damage occurred in Victoria Embankment Gardens before the last of the four bombs exploded on Victoria Embankment by Cleopatra’s Needle just as a tram passed. The explosion killed the driver and two passengers and injured nine others. This Gotha may have also dropped two bombs that fell on Millwall Docks.  


The fifth London Gotha approached from the north, dropping a bomb in Montagu Road, Edmonton followed by seven across Hornsey and Upper Holloway. Of these, bombs at a water pumping station failed to have a significant effect although one man was injured, and a bomb injured a soldier in Clarendon Road. An unexploded bomb landed in a garden in Hillfield Avenue, but serious damage did occur when a bomb struck the laundry of the Islington Workhouse. Other bombs fell on Crouch End Hill, at Middle Lane,on West Hill, Highgate, in Lamble Street, Gospel Oak, and in Kentish Town where a bomb damaged walls and windows in Vicars Road. Another, in Wellesley Road, killed three and injured nine. Seven people were injured by a bomb in Primrose Hill, at the corner of Ainger Road and Oppidans Road.  Another fell harmlessly in Regent’s Park before three exploded close to the Edgware Road, between Paddington and Marble Arch:  two in Tichborne Street and one in Norfolk Crescent. One woman died and there were 16 injuries.


About 40 AA guns opened fire but the searchlights found it hard to hold the raiders. The RNAS sent no aircraft up and although four RFC squadrons had 18 aircraft airborne, only two caught a glimpse of the Gothas. It does appear, however, that one Gotha came down in the North Sea after damage inflicted by AA fire.  











Casualties:  19 killed,   71 injured


Damage: £46,047