8 July 1917 – London hit again

Today, just a couple of days after 56 and 66 Squadrons RFC had returned to the front, 22 Gothas made a raid on the capital. One of the aircraft, in an apparent diversion, bombed Margate around 0930 and then flew off. Later German evidence suggests the aircraft was defective and dropped the bombs to lessen the load on the way home.

The rest flew on to London and attacked from the North and Northwest despite AA fire . The total casualties were 54 killed and 190 injured, including 10 killed and 55 injured by AA fire.IMG_1096.PNG

The raid once again demonstrated the futility of an unorganized defence. 78 pilots from the RFC and seventeen from the RNAS took the air from home defence and training squadrons, from acceptance parks, and from coast stations.

The aeroplanes flown were of twenty-one types, many of them of little fighting value, but there were about 30 more modern Camels, SE5s and Strutters. 36 pilots got close but individual attacks reduced the chances of success.

A Sopwith two-seater of 37 Home Defence Squadron was shot down, the pilot. Lieutenant John Edward Rostron Young was killed and his observer Air Mechanic Clifford Charles Taylor was seriously wounded. Captain John Palethorpe was in the action again in his DH4 but was hit in the hip and forced to land. Second Lieutenant Wilfred Graham Salmon from 63 Training Squadron in a Sopwith Pup was also killed

One of the Gothas was found, flying low down near the North Foreland apparently in trouble, by Second Lieutenant Frederick Arthur Darien Grace and Second Lieutenant George Murray from 50 Home Defence Squadron in their Armstrong-Whitworth two-seater and was shot down in the sea. Two of the crew climbed on the wings. Grace fired all his Very lights in the hope that he would attract attention to the plight of the enemy but had to leave due to shortage of petrol. When the area was searched later there was no sign of the Gotha or its occupants. This was the only Gotha shot down, though four more were damaged on landing.

The raid, in broad daylight, caused much consternation amongst he public and the War Cabinet met this afternoon to discuss the matter. They agreed that two squadrons should be withdrawn from France for Home defence and that he RFC should conduct retaliatory raids on Mannheim. Douglas Haig immediately agreed to the temporary transfer of Squadrons but stated that the retaliatory bombing would weaken his air strength too much and that this would but the planned operations in jeopardy.

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