Tag Archives: london

17 February 1918 – Single

The attack yesterday was followed today by another raid, this time by a single Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI (R25). However, the confusion and damage was such that at the time it was thought that there were multiple raiders. The noise of the aircrafts engines was heard over a wide area contributed to this.

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R25 preparing for a raid

The Giant approached London from the south-east and dropped nineteen 50-kg. bombs between Lee and St. Pancras railway station.

The main damage was inflicted by the last six bombs dropped which all fell near St Pancras station. Damaged was caused to the Midland Hotel and the booking office. 20 people sheltering there were killed and twenty-two injured. One other person was killed elsewhere.

Sixty-nine pilots, twenty-two them in Sopwith ‘Camels’, patrolled, but only three of them came in contact with the bomber but soon lost it. One of these got off fifty rounds, but to no avail. The confusion led to a large number of AA guns firing, often at RFC aircraft. No hits were recorded.

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16 February 1918 – Y1K

Today, five Giants (Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI) set off to bomb London. Of these only two reached London. One of these (R39) dropped the first 1000kg bomb on any target in England. The bomb hit the Chelsea Hospital around 2215. An officer of the hospital staff was killed with his wife, her sister, and two children. Three other children were taken alive from the debris. Neighbouring buildings were also damaged.

Chelsea Hospital after the bomb8ng

The other (R12) approached Woolwich but was got tangled in the balloon barrage in the area. The pilot managed to free the aircraft but in the process two 300kg bombs were shaken free. They fell on Woolwich killing seven people, injuring two, and damaging several buildings including the Garrison Church. Relieved to be still flying, the crew jettisoned the remaining eight 50kg bombs and turned for home.

The remaining three aircraft (R25, R33, and R36) were forced to turn back due to high winds and dropped their bombs on Dover causing only minor damage.

AA guns and 60 aircraft attempted to intercept the raid but none of them got close. All five bombers retuned safely, despite one of them losing three of its four engines.

29 January 1918 – They might be giants

Following last night’s raid, four ‘Giant’ Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI set off this evening on another attempt to raid London. One was forced to turn back early with engine trouble.

The first raider (R39) arrived at around 2200 over the Blackwater in Essex. Fifteen minutes later it was intercepted by Captain Arthur Dennis, 37 Squadron RFC, in a BE12b.

The BE12b was a night fighter version of the BE12, itself a single-seater version of the now ancient Be2. The BE12b had the 200hp Hispano-Suiza engine also used in the SE5a and was fitted with overwing Lewis Guns rather than synchronized Vickers Guns.

The R39

Dennis opened fire as the ‘Giant’ took evasive action while returning fire. Dennis jammed his gun but got it working again. Whilst trying to reload the drum, the rough slipstream from the Giant’s engines threw his BE12b out of control. By the time Dennis regained control he had lost sight of the Giant.

R39 flew westwards eventually dropping bombs on south-west London around 2330. None of these caused much damage. R39 then crossed over the Thames, dropped bombs on Syon Park without effect and then dropped bombs on Brentford, killing eight people, and damaging many properties. Two men were killed and 5 injured at the Metropolitan Water Board’s works at Kew Bridge six HE bombs exploded, killing two men, injuring another and damaging a reservoir, pumping station and boiler house. The final bombs fell on Chiswick where they damaged 99 houses. Before R39 reached the coast, three other RFC pilots engaged her but she escaped.

Giant R26 arrived at 2244 near Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex. However by this point the aircraft had only two fully functioning engines ando so was flying slowly and losing height. At around midnight the bombs were dropped to help gain height. These fell harmlessly on Rawreth and Rayleigh. By 0020am the aircraft was back out at sea.

R25 arrived over Foulness around 2250 and headed west. The aircraft was picked up by searchlights, and a number of British fighters attacked. At around 2325 a bullet put one of the engines out of action but the crew continued a reduced speed. Shortly after this, they encountered a balloon apron and at this point the aircraft dumped all its bombs over Wanstead and turned back. All 20 HE bombs landed within 300 yards of each other at Redbridge Lane but no significant damage was caused. The R25 limped home and on inspection found 85 bullet holes in the aircraft.

80 sorties were flow in defence and 8,132 rounds of Anti-Aircraft fire to little effect.

28 January 1918

After a long winter break, German raiders returned to Britain this evening. Bad weather did not seem to put them off, but 6 of the raiders were forced to turn back, leaving seven Gothas and one ‘Giant’ Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI to make the attack.

Records are unclear about exactly what happened, but it appears that the Giant and three or four Gothas bombed London while the rest attacked towns in Kent. Between 2025 and 2135, bombs fell on Ramsgate, Richborough, Sheerness and Margate. The only significant damage occurred at Sheerness where various ships were damaged in the docks and other buildings were wrecked injuring five, one of whom later died.

The first Gotha reached London shortly before 2100 and the raid continued until shortly after 2200. 39 bombs were recorded destroying many buildings, killing 28 and injuring 77. 14 of these were killed during a stampede to get into the air raid shelter at Bishopsgate Goods Station when the warning maroons were mistaken for bombs.

The Giant finally appeared over London at around 0015. It had already survived an encounter with a Bristol F2b from 39 Squadron RFC (C4638 with 2nd Lieutenant John Gorbell Goodyear and 1st Class Air Mechanic WT Merchant) – the Bristol had had to retire with a holed engine and wounded observer. 5 bombs were dropped one of which smashed down through the pavement lights of Odhams Printing Works, which was an approved air raid shelter, and exploded in the basement killing 38 and injuring 85.

The last of the Gothas was intercepted by two Sopwith Camels from 44 Squadron and shot down. It crashed at Wickford killing all three crew members. Four more crashed on landing, with one complete crew killed. At least some of this was likely due to RFC and RNAS action. 103 sorties were flown and five close encounters were recorded. The anti-aircraft guns fired 14,722 rounds against the eight raiders.

10 January 1918 – Loud Warnings

Today the Commissioner for Police in London announced changes in the public warnings to be issued in the event of an air raid.

The debate has long been raging on the ways of informing the public to take shelter without at the same time causing undue panic. However, the Government’s hand has been forced by the raid on 18 December 1917, which developed too quickly for police officers with their Take Cover placards to be deployed. Instead Maroons (sound bombs) were fired to warn the public of the attack.

Of course this let the cat out of the bag, and public opinion was very clearly in favour of this type of warning that the Government had no choice but to give in.

Nevertheless, the Government has limited their use. The announcement made today stated that the maroons would be fired, when necessary, up to 2300 but they would not be used after that hour if the Commissioner of Police believed that he had sufficient time to mobilize officers to issue the warning by placard.

Unsurprisingly, this did not last long and in February the time was extended to midnight and in March the restriction was removed altogether.

6 December 1917 –  “A complete failure”?

German Gothas carried out their first raid since 1 November on England. The raid was notable for the first large scale use of a new incendiary bomb (392 out of 420). The raid also took place later than usual, as the raiders arrived in the early hours of the morning between 0200 and 0430.

The raid caused over £100,000 worth of damage, killed 8 and injured 28.

Sheerness was attacked first at 0218. In all 24 bombs hit the town killing four people, injuring 12 and wrecking various buildings. Around 0335 three bombs hit Dover causing minor damage. Margate suffered three separate attacks killing one woman, injuring another, and damaging houses.

Other bombs fell at Manston airfield, Garlinge, Graveney,  Whitstable, Herne Bay, Ramsgate, Darenth, West Thurrock, and Purfleet causing only minor damage.

Six Gothas reached London, and 267 bombs were dropped all over the capital. 108 of these fell south of the Thames killing one and injuring five. North of the Thames, three major fires were started near Liverpool Street Station, Whitechapel Road and at Henry Street, causing major damage.

RFC units flew 34 sorties but without intercepting any of the raiders. However, the AA guns were more successful. One Gotha, was hit over Canvey Island and made a forced landing on a golf course close to Rochford airfield. The crew survived but the aircraft was accidently set on fire and destroyed by an inspecting British officer. Another Gotha, crash landed at Sturry near Canterbury. The crew destroyed their aircraft before surrendering. Another Gotha failed to return and was presumed lost over the sea. Three more were damaged when they crashed on landing in Belgium.

Later German documents suggest that, despite the extensive damage, the raid was considered a failure. Major Freiherr von Biilow wrote:

“The bomb was a complete failure. During two night raids on England, on the 31st of October and the 6th of December, 1917, large numbers of these bombs were dropped, both times with no success. The sound idea of creating panic and disorder by numbers of fires came to nothing owing to the inadequacy of the material employed.”

1 October 1917 – Gothas again

For the fourth night in a row German bombers arrived over England. 18 Gothas set out but only 12 made it to England.

Gothas arrived over the Kent coast at about 1900 and 19 minutes later dropped bombs over Sandwich, Richborough, Kingsgate, and Broadstairs. Various buildings were damaged but fortunately no casualties resulted.

In Essex, the sound of aircraft was detected by the Harwich garrison and at 1940 the garrison opened fire with over 200 rounds forcing the Gothas away to the south. Most of the bombs fell in the sea or in open fields and little damage was caused.

Around 2000 the first Gothas reached London. In all 29 bombs fell on the capital. 26 HE and 3 incendiary bombs fell. A large number of houses suffered minor damage, though only a few were destroyed. 10 people were killed and 32 injured.

The barrage fire of the AA guns proved partially effective and appears to have succeeded in driving a number of the raiders off. There was, however, a downside to the AA fire; falling shells killed a woman and injured 13 others.

The RFC sent up 18 aircraft to intercept the raiders but the misty conditions made observation difficult. Only one pilot caught a glimpse of the Gothas but was unable to make an attack.