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, Kent

5th June 1917


With the weather not ideal for an attempt on London, Kagohl 3 set out with 22 Gothas to attack secondary targets on the Essex and Kent coasts.


The formation came inland between the rivers Blackwater and Crouch at about 6.15pm where they were greeted by a mobile AA gun at Burnham firing off two rounds. The first RNAS aircraft took off at 6.05pm, followed thirteen minutes later by the first of those from the RFC, but it would take precious time to claw their way up to operational height.


The first two bombs dropped harmlessly in fields at Great Wakering at 6.20pm on the north side of the Thames estuary, followed by another at Bunkers Nursery at North Shoebury with similar effect. At Shoeburyness the Royal Artillery had a School of Instruction. About 24 bombs, mainly HE, were dropped over the town with three or four HE bombs falling on the gun park where they killed two soldiers and a horse. Two AA guns at the School and one on the Experimental Ranges opened fire causing Kagohl 3 to open out from their tight formation. Other bombs fell in Smith Street, Grove Road (an incendiary), in a garden at Sandpit Cottages, two in the grounds of South Shoebury Hall, an incendiary in the garden of the Cambridge Hotel on Ness Road and others on the beach and in fields. Outside the Royal Artillery establishment, the Essex Police recorded the only damage as broken glass.


As Kagohl 3 now headed south across the Thames, two Gothas broke away and headed for home, having presumably dropped their bombs, while the rest headed towards the garrison and dockyard town of Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey. On the Kent side of the Thames, six AA guns had opened fire. Five HE bombs landed in the Dockyard. One struck the Grand Store, setting a major fire burning; one exploded on the quay of No.3 Dry Dock, narrowly missing a ship and killing a dockyard worker, George Frier; and another struck the goods office at the Dockyard Railway Station. In the Blue Town district of Sheerness bombs fell around the Ravelin Battery and over Well Marsh Camp where the King’s Royal Rifles (KRR) were based. Three soldiers of the 5th KRR died while an officer and six men of the regiment suffered injuries as did an officer of 6th KRR.








In Blue Town High Street a 50kg bomb exploded on Messrs Gieves Outfitters, killing the manager, Edward Perry, and customer, Herbert Gandy, a warrant officer serving on Torpedo Boat No.7. Other bombs fell at the Botany Road Camp, south of the town, where the 29th Battalion Middlesex Regiment (recently transferred to the Labour Corps) were quartered. One of the men, Private Frank Smith, was killed and eleven injured (also killed was Private Benjamin Corby, 2nd Garrison Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment). A number of bombs also fell in residential New Town. Of these, two fell in Coronation Road (on Nos. 27 and 105) causing widespread damage, while the 50kg HE bomb on No.105 also injured a Mrs Bothwick and her son John. A bomb that exploded by Duttells Opening off Cavour Road killed Samuel Hawes, Chief Armourer at the Royal Navy’s shore establishment, HMS Actaeon. This bomb may have also killed Joseph Davis, an officer’s steward on HMS Dominion, who had been visiting his mother in Alma Road. Two bombs in Berridge Road caused significant damage; another that fell at the rear of 33 Unity Street also damaged properties; and two fell on allotments behind Jefferson Road. A bomb on a footpath by 173 Invicta Road injured three and caused serious damage to the house as well as to others nearby. On the coast five bombs landed around Cheyney Rock without causing damage.


The bombing of the town lasted about five minutes and was over by 6.34pm. In that time, however, one of the Gothas had descended to about 9,000 feet and was hit by AA fire, crashing into the sea. Only one of the three-man crew, Georg Schumacher, survived. Credit for the victory was given to the AA gun at Barton’s Point.


The final bombs dropped were seemingly aimed at the Power Station near the village of Halfway Houses to the south of Sheerness. The nearest bomb landed 100 yards south-east of the Power Station. Four landed in the open between the Power Station and Danley Farm and three others further distances away to the west of the target.


The RNAS and RFC flew 62 sorties but only three Naval aircraft got close enough to the departing Gothas to attack – without result. Four RFC pilots saw the Gothas but were unable to climb quickly enough to engage. However, two RNAS squadrons based at Dunkirk intercepted the returning Gothas and shot down one while another crash landed near Bruges.













Casualties:  13 killed,   34 injured


Damage: £5,003