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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4th/5th June 1915

For the first time, on the night of 4/5 June, a naval division wooden-framed Schütte-Lanz - SL.3 - appeared over Britain. Unsure of his position, Kapitänleutnant Fritz Boemack delayed his attack until he finally recognised Flamborough Head at about 00.30am, from where he set a course for Hull. But flying into a strong headwind he made only slow progress until, after dropping two or three bombs on Driffield, he abandoned the mission. The bombs  landed in an orchard and field near Beckside, ‘tearing up and splitting the fruit trees in all directions, and slicing the vegetable crops as if they had been cut with a scythe,’ as well as smashing windows in almost every cottage within a hundred yards.


Zeppelin L.10, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Klaus Hirsch, came inland between Grain and Eastchurch around 11.00pm. Hirsch mistakenly thought he attacked Harwich. Instead, four high explosive (HE) and 24 incendiary bombs fell on Sittingbourne and Milton Regis, the HE bombs falling in Jackson’s Field, St. Paul’s Street (near Pear Tree Alley), a field at Chilton Farm and on a garden wall between Unity Street and Park Road. The blast from this last bomb seriously damaged a number of houses and injured two people.


L.10 then flew on towards Gravesend, dropping a single bomb at Rainham, which fell on Twydell Farm, killing a horse. Once over Gravesend, L.10 flew a figure of eight course, dropping five HE bombs and a few incendiaries. Three of the incendiaries landed on the north side of Windmill Hill. An HE bomb fell on Wrotham Road demolishing nos. 48 and 50 and burying five occupants in the rubble, while other bombs fell on Windmill Street, Wingfield Road, Peppercroft Street, Brandon Street, Cobham Street, Woodville Terrace and Bath Street. In addition, a serious fire broke out at the nurses’ quarters at Gravesend Hospital and an explosion at the VAD Military Hospital, based at the yacht club, caused its relocation to Chatham. Total injuries in Gravesend amounted to two men, three women and a child.


Defence aircraft were slow to get airborne, allowing L.10 to steer away unmolested via Ipswich, after which it crossed the coast towards Southwold.


East Yorkshire & Kent

Casualties: 0 killed, 8 injured


Damage: £8,740

Crowds outside 60 and 58 Unity Street, Sittingbourne,  viewing bomb damage

Three granite markers on Windmill Hill, Gravesend, showing where incendiary bombs landed

(Photo courtesy of Andy White)

Unity Street Sittingbourne Gravesend Zepp bomb marker