Today, 11 naval Zeppelins (L41, L44, L45, L46, L47, L49, L50, L52, L53, L55, L56) attempted a raid on England.
The targets were various industrial centres in the North of England, and overall, and whilst successful in terms of the damage caused with 36 killed, 55 injured and nearly £55,000 worth of damage, five of the Zeppelins were lost and this turned out to be the last mass Zeppelin raid of the war.
For more detail on the damage caused by the raid see Ian Castle’s excellent website. Here I am going to focus on how the Zeppelins fared, as for all the talk of disaster, what is telling is that the British defences played no part whatsoever in the loss of the Zeppelins and had it not been for the poor weather including winds of up to 50 miles an hour, it is likely that the raid would have been more successful and losses would have been reduced.
L46 came in over the Norfolk coast but soon abandoned the mission and jettisoned the bombs. L46, flying at great height, was taken by the wind over neutral Holland but was unseen by the Dutch defences and reached home safely, the last of the raiders to do so on a direct route.
L41 also came inland over Lincolnshire and eventually reached Birmingham where bombs fell on the Austin plant at Longbridge. Turning for home, L.41 was carried over Northamptonshire, Essex, the Thames estuary, Kent and over to France where, after struggling in the wind for nearly three hours, she finally crossed the Western Front near La Bassée.
L53, came inland over The Wash bombing Bedford, Leighton Buzzard. And targets near Maidstone. L53 passed out to sea between Folkestone and Dover at 2330 but was carried by the winds behind Allied lines in France, L53 finally managed to push across the Western Front near Lunéville at around 0300.
L52 came inland over the Lincolnshire coast at 1930pm. High winds forced the ship south-west and then south dropping bombs at Kensworth and Hertford. The wind continued to carry L52 to the south-east and after crossing Kent the ship went out to sea near Dungeness at 2315. Carried across France, L52 managed to cross the Western Front near St. Dié at about 0530.
L55 also arrived over Lincolnshire and was blown south west and then south east eventually going out to sea near Hastings at about 2225. Once over France, the ship experienced severe engine problems, struggled with navigation and lost the use of the radio. The captain eventually got L55 back over Germany but, running out of fuel, they made an emergency landing at Tiefenort, where a storm wrecked L55 on the ground.
L44 arrived inland over the Norfolk coast at 1845 and headed south dropping bombs along the way. L44 went out to sea over Deal at 2052. Swept across France behind Allied lines, French AA guns opened fire on the ship just 10 miles from the Front Line and it crashed in flames at Chenevières. The entire crew were killed.
L49, came inland at 2000 over north Norfolk coast and proceeded to drop bombs all over he area. Struggling with engine problems and navigation, L49 crossed south-east England with the wind carrying her across France. Having seen L44 shot down, with only two engines working and attacked by a squadron of French aircraft, the captain decided to ditch to avoid being shot down. Once on the ground the crew were prevented from burning L49, leaving the Allies the prize of one the latest Zeppelin designs.
L50 came inland over Norfolk at 1945 and flew south-west dropping bombs along the way. The wind then carried L50 towards the south-east and out to sea. The ship seems to have had serious navigation issues at one point being 150 miles west of the Western Front. Seeing the fate of L44 and L49 the captain, with two engines out of action, decided to crash land and at least deny his ship to the enemy. He hit a wood, which ripped off two of the gondolas causing most of the crew to leap overboard. L50 then soared back up with four men still on board. The uncontrollable airship eventually disappeared over the Mediterranean and no trace of the ship or the four men was ever found.
L45 appeared over the Yorkshire coast at 2020, attempted to attack Sheffield but the ended up over Northampton. After dropping bombs there the ship ended up over London where most of the nights damage was done. The wind then carried L45 over the coast near Hastings at 0100. Blasted across France by the wind, L45 was unable to make headway to the east and eventually, when about 70 miles from the Mediterranean coast, he decided to make an emergency landing near Sisteron and the crew surrendered.