20 July 1915 – You may now bomb the King

The Kaiser has finally given permission for unrestricted air raids on London – with the proviso that buildings of historical interest such as St Paul’s are to be spared (though given the inaccuracy of bombing at this time it unlikely that this technicality will make any difference).

The decision follows a long running campaign by both the Army and Navy to remove any restrictions on bombing London. The Kaiser had given permission for raids on military targets, but not the city itself on 9 January. This was extended slightly in February to the area lying east of the Tower of London but still confined to arsenals, shipyards, and other military objectives. As the War Office, Admiralty, and other important targets were to the west of this, the Chief of the German Naval Staff Admiral Bachmann urged that the existing restrictions be removed.

Whilst there is growing public sentiment for greater attacks on London, one of the key drivers is the delivery of new and improved Zeppelins to the navy which make these attacks easier.

On 18 June 1915, the German Admiralty got into touch with the Chief of the Army General Staff with a view to an agreement for the removal of the existing restrictions. In a memorandum dated the 22nd of June, General von Falkenhayn agreed, but expressed a warning against ‘commencing operations in the present unfavourable period of short nights and with inadequate material’. Falkenhayn wanted combined attacks with airships, bombers and fighter aircraft and also wanted the Army put in charge of the operations.

Admiral Bachmann was not so enthusiastic about this approach for two reasons:

1. Previous attempts at combined action had failed, mainly due to the distance between the military and naval airship bases, and the different weather conditions prevailing in each area.

2. The military airship service was not ready to carry out large scale raids, and Bachmann wanted to maintain the pressure on England before the autumn brought tougher weather conditions.

Nevertheless, Falkenhayn’s view that the restrictions should be lifted enabled Bachmann to approach the Imperial Chancellor on 9 July, He agreed to attacks on the City of London between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning – but two days later the Kaiser intervened and approval was withdrawn. Bachmann did not give up and made further representations, resulting in the Kaiser’s agreement today.

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