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, Beds., Herts., Kent, Essex

7/8 March 1918


On the night of 7 March 1918, Rfa 501 despatched six ‘Giants’ to attack London but one turned back when an engine seized.


The first to reach London, R.39, carried a single 1,000kg bomb. Having reached the coast at Deal at 10.56pm, R.39 crossed the Thames Estuary at about 11.30pm having been under AA gunfire for much of its course over Kent. More gunfire traced its westward course towards London, where R.39 became a target for the Tower Bridge gun at 11.47pm. Eight minutes later, R.39 released its bomb. It fell about half a mile north-west of Paddington Station, on Warrington Crescent, a quiet residential road in Maida Vale. The massive bomb exploded on the dividing wall between Nos. 63 and 65, destroying both buildings and those on either side. Serious damage extended to 20 other houses in the street and around 400 in the surrounding area suffered damage to a lesser extent, leaving 12 dead and 33 injured. R.39 headed back over Kent, still attracting AA fire before reaching the coast at about 1.00am.


The second ‘Giant’ to reach London — possibly R.27 — came inland over Broadstairs, at 11.00pm. Heading west, she crossed the Thames Estuary to Essex and followed a course skirting London to the north. At 12.05am observers at Potter’s Bar noted her heading south and about ten minutes later two bombs fell in the Belsize Park area of north-west London. One exploded in the garden of a large house at 15 Lyndhurst Gardens where it smashed a greenhouse, damaged a brick wall and iron railings as well as causing damage to the house. Many houses in surrounding streets suffered broken windows. The second bomb caused severe damage to the upper floors of 31 and 32 Belsize Square and damaged Nos 33 and 34 while causing lesser damage to 58 other properties. The next four bombs fell in St. John’s Wood. Two fell in gardens in Townshend Road where one failed to detonate. The other caused damage to Nos. 37, 39 and 41 and smashed windows in 31 neighbouring properties. In New Street (now Newcourt Street) a bomb destroyed No. 11 killing six people and injuring two, severely damaging the houses on both sides and smashing windows in 21 others. The last bomb exploded in St. John’s Wood Road, outside Lord’s Cricket Ground, killing two men, severely damaging the Lord’s Hotel and causing some damage to the cricket ground. Heading south, the ‘Giant’ crossed the Thames and dropped a final bomb on London in Burland Road, on the west side of Clapham Common. It exploded in the street at 12.25am, smashing both a gas main and water main and partially demolished Nos. 14, 16 and 18. Incredibly, only one person suffered injury. Damage extended to 25 other properties in the street and to 77 in neighbouring roads. Following a route home over Kent, a final bomb exploded in a wood near the village of Hayes in Kent at around 1.00am. The raider crossed the coast at Dover at 1.50am.

A third ‘Giant’ reached London, dropping its bombs on the north-western outskirts. Coming inland over Broadstairs at 11.33pm, the ‘Giant’ headed west facing AA fire and 16 minutes later crossed the Thames Estuary. Guns in Essex then opened fire but the raider continued to the north of London, reaching Enfield at 12.23am where it turned south. A few minutes later three bombs exploded in fields behind houses in Addison Way, between Golders Green and Finchley, causing damage to 30 properties. The ‘Giant’ then turned away from London, dropping its next bomb in Dollis Avenue, Finchley, causing damage to 72 houses, with those closest to the explosion seriously affected. Following an evasive course, a bomb dropped in a field on Frith Lane, Mill Hill, smashing windows in two houses, followed by one that exploded in the back garden of 16 Totteridge Lane, Whetstone, damaging 157 houses, some seriously. One man died here with 10 other people injured. Heading back over Essex, the ‘Giant’ passed out to sea near Bradwell at about 2.00am.


Two of the raiders failed to reach London. One of these came inland near Foulness in Essex at 11.10pm. Encountering AA fire, its course deflected north of London into Bedfordshire where at about midnight four bombs fell in Luton Hoo Park, just south of Luton, digging craters and damaging a small shed. Now heading towards London, the ‘Giant’ ran into AA fire from guns at Harpenden and Wheathampstead at about 12.10am, which forced her to turn away to the north-east. More gunfire caused further changes of direction and at about 12.40am, as the raider reached the village of Great Munden in Hertfordshire, a bomb dropped in a ploughed field on Mentley Farm. Moments later, ten more bombs landed around the village of Much Hadham. The first exploded in a field on the Moor Park estate not far from the mansion, eight fell in fields at Danebridge and one on a disused brick kiln nearby. The bombs damaged the kiln, the roof of a cattle shed, crops in a wheat field, while two cottages had their windows smashed and ceilings damaged. After dodging more AA fire, the ‘Giant’ eventually went out to sea near Harwich at about 1.55am.


The other raider that failed to reach London had come inland near Southend-on-Sea, Essex, at 11.18pm. Facing heavy AA fire as it headed west, it turned away from London when near Billericay. More guns opened fire as it headed back to the coast before it dropped a 100kg bomb at Tillingham at 12.20am, which fell harmlessly in a field at Stowe’s Farm. The aircraft then crossed the Thames Estuary to the Kent side where more AA guns engaged. Appearing over Herne Bay, the ‘Giant’ dropped a 100kg bomb on the beach at 1.02am. The blast seriously damaged five houses, caused slight damage to four, smashed windows in 30 others and caused much damage at the St. George’s Hotel. Coming inland to Broomfield, a bomb dropped in a field close to Broomfield Hall but caused no damage. The raider went out to sea near Broadstairs at about 1.25am.


The five ‘Giants’ kept the AA guns busy with 9,737 rounds fired. No RNAS aircraft took off and none of the pilots of the 42 RFC aircraft saw any sign of the raiders. Sadly two pilots — Captain A.B. Kynoch (37 Squadron) and Captain H.C. Stroud (61 Squadron) — died when their aircraft collided over Essex.



Casualties:   23 killed,  39 injured


Damage: £42,655