Early this morning, the second daylight raid of the year by an aeroplane took place. Once again only a single aeroplane was involved. The type is unknown, although at the time offical British sources claimed that it was the Handley Page 0/100, captured on 1 January 1917, flown by a German crew. This was not substantiated at the time, and indeed seems very unlikely given that the bombs dropped were small 5kg ones.
The target was shipping in The Downs off the east Kent coast but a thick layer of cloud hindered the crew’s navigation. At around 5.30am the aircraft broke through clouds at a height of about 1,300 feet. The crew then discovered they were over land and approaching Westgate on the north Kent coast.
Flying north, the crew dropped two bombs on fields at Dent-du-Lion Farm, between Garlinge and Westgate, followed by a third that fell at Mutrix Farm. The RNAS had established a station at Westgate on land owned by Mutrix Farm and the next bomb landed about 150 yards to the east of the airfield. The aircraft now turned west, and the next bomb landed west of Mutrix Farm, on land between the road and railway line, with another striking the railway embankment. Damage was limited to broken windows.
The aircraft now turned south and rapidly dropped 10 bombs which all fell within 100 yards of each other in a field about 700 yards south-east of Westgate Station, casuing no damage.
Turning north-west the aircraft’s next bomb landed on a lawn at Streete Court, a boys boarding school, followed by one on a greenhouse at a large house about 250 yards north of St. Saviour’s Church. The last bomb on land struck the ground about 20 yards from a bandstand and shelter on the sea front, shattering more glass, with the final two bombs falling in the sea within 300 yards of the shoreline.
The RNAS sent up three aircraft between 5.35 and 5.45am but the low cloud prevented them seeing anything.
The RFC also sent up three aircraft just before 6.00am, from Rochford (37 Squadron), Dover (50 Squadron) and Bekesbourne (50 Squadron), but they suffered the same problems with the low cloud and the raider escaped unharmed.
[Data on this raid from Ian Castle (http://www.iancastlezeppelin.co.uk/16-mar-1917/4593673632).]