4 July 1917 – Back again

The Germans resumed their daylight bombing of England today with two attacks.
At 0700 eighteen Gothas appeared over Harwich.

Coincidentally Captain John Palethorpe, from the RFC testing squadron at Martlesham Heath, was in the air in a DH4 and je attacked at once. Unfortunately his front gun jammed and then his observer air Mechanic James Oliver Jessop, was shot through the heart and killed, and the pilot had to break off the fight and land. He went up again with a new observer but by then the raid was over.

At this point the bombing squadron divided into two. Four Gothas attacked Harwich. Nineteen bombs fell on Harwich doing little damage to the town or ships in the harbour, However, three naval ratings were killed at the nearby RNAS Balloon station at Shotley. Ships in the Harbour opened fire but to no effect.

The remaining Gothas moved on to Felixstowe, 2 bombs fell on a camp of the 3rd Suffolks and killed five soldiers and wounded ten. Other than that damage to the town was superficial from the other bombs dropped.

However, the squadron moved on the attack the Felixstowe seaplane base only two bombs hit but the damage was considerable. Six naval ratings and three civilian workmen were killed and eighteen ratings and one workman injured. A flying-boat was destroyed by fire and another damaged, and the telephone system was put out of action.

The anti-aircraft guns of the Harwich defences were in action for nineteen minutes and fired 135 rounds, but no hits were made. Eighty-three airraft went up from the coastal stations but none found the enemy.

Over in France. 66 Squadron in Calais received the communication too late and missed the returning bombers. Twenty naval pilots from Dunkirk were in the air some time before those of 66 Squadron, and five of them, in Sopwith Camels found and attacked sixteen bombers around 0830. They reported that they had shot one down in flames, but the German records do not show any Gothas lost on this day.

Palethorpe was subsequently awarded the Military Cross.

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