17 March 1917 – Zeppelins are back

In the first raid since November 1916, five Zeppelins attempted to attack London overnight. One of them, L42, was the first of the ‘s-class’, Zeppelins, but L42 had to return early with engine problems.The remaining Zeppelins, L35, L39, L40 and L41, were modified ‘r-class’ models, with an engine removed for greater height.

Strong winds forced the raiders south.  L39 arrived first over Margate in Kent at 2220. Unfortunately thick cloud from 3000ft to 9000ft made target identification impossible    and L39 dropped bombs more or less blind. In the event L39 only dropped seven bombs, none of which caused any serious damage.  L39 reached the coast at St. Leonard’s at 2340 and then flew westward along the coast as far as Pevensey Bay and then went out to sea. Strong winds forced her south across the English Channel to Dieppe. Battling the wind across France, L39 passed to the north of Paris, but then stopped over Compiègne around 0530. Three batteries of French AA guns opened up and eventually they hit their target. L39 burst into flames and crashed at about 0555a with the loss of the entire crew.8ef58bdd5536ec0c20403f6703f1baf1-640x3601A short video of the wreck can be seen here.

About 20 minutes after L39 appeared over Kent, L35 appeared over Broadstairs, Kent. In the end 20 bombs in all were dropped, none of which caused any serious damage. L35 went out to sea at 0015 near Dover. L35 was also blown off course and flew over Calais. Strong winds prevented her reaching her home base at Ahlhorn near Bremen. Instead she managed to find a berth at Dresden, many miles to the south-east, but  was damaged entering the shed. 

The second wave arrived at 0100 over Herne Bay with L40, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Erich Sommerfeldt, led a second wave, arriving over Herne Bay on the north Kent coast at about 1.00am. 23 bombs fell causing little damage, though four sheep were killed. L40 went out to sea at New Romney at about 0215, and eventually got back to her base at Ahlhorn.

L41 arrived 20 minutes later at Cliff End near Pett, south of Winchelsea. L41 dropped 23 bombs over the Rye and Camber Sands area again causing minor damage L41 went out to sea at Dungeness at 0205 and crossed the French coast at Boulogne eventually reaching the base at Ahlhorn after a mission lasting almost 27 hours. 



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