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, Kent, Essex

6th December 1917


In this raid by 16 Gothas and two ‘Giants’ targeted against London, the raiders changed tactics by arriving in the early hours of the morning between 2.00am and 4.30am. Of the 420 bombs traced on land, all but 28 were the new 4.5kg incendiary bombs.


The first bombs landed at Sheerness at 2.18am. Seven HE bombs dropped around Invicta Road killing four people, injuring 12 and wrecking several houses, and one in Cavour Road damaged a house considerably. Seventeen incendiaries also dropped on the town: one in Cavour Road, three in Granville Road, three in St. George’s Avenue, three at Wellmarsh Camp, three at the Royal Dockyard, four at the Dockyard Station. Three buildings and a railway carriage were damaged. The police estimated the value of damage at Sheerness at about £10,000.


A number of aircraft passed over Dover but only three HE and one incendiary bomb dropped on or near the town at around 3.35am. Two HE landed at Guston: at Connaught Barracks near Fort Burgoyne, which damaged some huts, and one in a field on Frith Farm. The other HE set fire to a paint store in the Naval Dockyard and the incendiary cut a pipeline leading to the oil tanks in the dockyard. At Margate a single incendiary dropped in Broad Street at about 3.40am without effect. Another landed at about 4.20am, setting fire to 2 Oxford Street, killing a woman and injuring another. A third attack took place around 5.00am when 27 incendiaries and an HE fell on the town of which at least seven incendiaries and the HE failed to detonate. The bombs damaged two houses and a business premises without causing any casualties. At about 3.35am a single incendiary fell at Manston airfield, followed by 16 at Garlinge and one on the promenade at Westgate. None caused any damage. About 25 minutes later an HE and incendiary fell harmlessly at Graveney. At 4.40am twelve incendiaries and three HE bombs struck Whitstable, causing damage estimated at £5 in Nelson Road, Oxford Street, Teynham Road and at the railway station. Minutes later nine incendiaries dropped at Herne Bay where they burnt out without causing damage.


At about 4.30am a raid developed near Ramsgate. An HE bomb landed in a field at Minster-in-Thanet followed by an HE and 24 incendiaries close to the coast around Pegwell Bay. The only damage (to the value of 10 shillings) was to the portico of the porter’s lodge at Westcliff Terrace on Pegwell Road.


At about 5.30am one HE and two incendiaries fell at Darenth, and another incendiary at Stone, all without effect.  

In Essex at 4.35am two incendiary bombs fell either side of the AA gun at Tunnel Farm, West Thurrock, and moments later 15 incendiaries dropped on open ground just east of Purfleet where they burnt out harmlessly.


The first Gothas approached London from the south-east near Bromley. One dropped single incendiaries at Downe and at Hayes then turned away, but six aircraft made for the capital approaching on either side of the Thames. British authorities recorded 267 incendiaries and nine HE bombs falling in the London area.


Over south-west London, in Chelsea, Kensington and Westminster, about 47 incendiary bombs fell, mostly between 4.42am and 5.17am. They caused only slight damage and injured one woman.  South of the Thames, 51 incendiaries and three HE bombs fell on Lambeth, Kennington, Stockwell, Battersea, Clapham, Brixton and Balham. One of the HE bombs caused serious damage around Paradise Road, Clapham, where three children were injured. Another HE bomb, in Burgoyne Road, Brixton, severely damaged five houses while an incendiary caused a serious fire at 12 Southville, Clapham, and damage at a laundry in Lawn Lane, Kennington, was estimated at £2,000. Other fires broke out in various locations but damage was generally limited.


Over south-east London, 61 incendiaries and six HE bombs fell at Sydenham, Dulwich, Lee, Brockley, Peckam, Lewisham, Blackheath, Eltham and out to Chislehurst. The first landed in Sydenham at 4.38am and the last, at Chislehurst, at 5.53am. An HE bomb in Dulwich caused serious damage to a building in College Road, killing two people and injuring a third, and in Blackheath an HE caused serious damage to Nos. 16, 37 and 55 Blackheath Park, but elsewhere the effect of the bombs was negligible.


North of the Thames bombs fell around the centre of London in Bloomsbury, Holborn, Strand, Clerkenwell, St. Pancras and the City, to the east in Finsbury, Shoreditch, Whitechapel, Stepney and Bethnal Green, and in the north to north-east at Islington, Hoxton, Dalston and Hackney. Just over 100 incendiaries fell between 5.00am and 5.30am but they caused only three major fires. One, at the junction of Worship Street and Curtain Road, north of Liverpool Street Station, caused extensive damage to business premises valued at £45,400. At 113 Whitechapel Road a bomb set fire to a clothing factory with damage estimated at £16,385, and at Henry Street, off Gray’s Inn Road, another incendiary caused £13,500 of damage to business premises. Numerous other fires broke out but damage was limited. These three fires accounted for almost 82% of the £92,257 damage caused in London during this raid.


Although no RNAS aircraft took off, the RFC flew 34 sorties but without intercepting any of the raiders. The AA guns, however, met with success. One Gotha, struck by an AA shell while over Canvey Island, made a forced landing on a golf course close to Rochford airfield. The crew survived but the aircraft was accidently set on fire by an inspecting British officer. Another Gotha, damaged by AA fire over London, made a forced landing at Sturry near Canterbury. The crew succeeded in destroying their aircraft before surrendering to local special constables. The German authorities also reported one Gotha as missing, presumably lost over the sea, and three crashed on landing in Belgium.  


Casualties:  8 killed, 28 injured


Damage: £103,408