Zeppelin Blitz: The German Air Raids on Great Britain During the First World War

Zeppelin Blitz: The German Air Raids on Great Britain During the First World War

by Neil Storey (Compiler)


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The first ever full account of the Zeppelin attacks on Great Britain, using previously unpublished German archives

This is the first full, raid by raid, year by year account of the zeppelin air raids on Britain during World War I based on material drawn from official reports and document from both Britain and Germany during the era, including the zeppelin raid reports complied by the Intelligence Section, General Headquarters, Great Britain which at the time, and for many years afterwards, were classified "secret." The result of 25 years of research in both public and private archives, this book provides an insight into the zeppelin raids of World War I like never before. Locations of where the bombs fell, rare and previously unpublished photographs of bomb damage, zeppelin crash sites and crews, names of previously publicly unidentified victims, RFC and RNAS pilot combat reports, and a host of zeppelin ephemera, related propaganda material, and memorabilia are all included in this remarkable work.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780750956253
Publisher: The History Press
Publication date: 05/01/2015
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Neil Storey is an award-winning historian and author specializing in social history. He has researched and lectured on 20th century warfare and its impact on society for 25 years. He has published more than 30 books and numerous articles on a variety of social history themes in both academic journals and national periodicals, and has acted as consultant for television and film companies.

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Zeppelin Blitz

The German Air Raids on Great Britain During the First World War

By Neil R. Storey

The History Press

Copyright © 2015 Neil R. Storey
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7509-6321-3



14 April 1915

During the months of February and March, and during the first half of April, no raids actually took place. Only one unsuccessful attempt was made in March, and no extensive reconnaissances were recorded. The Zeppelins L-3 and L-4, which had carried out the raid on 19 January 1915, were lost in a snowstorm off the Jutland coast on 17 February, and no doubt imposed caution on the airship command.

Two new naval airships, L-8 and L-9, of an enlarged type, had, however, replaced these losses. On 4 March L-8, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Beelitz, attempted a raid on England from Belgium which failed. On her return the weather was cloudy and she came in too low under cloud; she was hit by gunfire off Nieuport and, losing gas, came down too low to ascertain her position. She was riddled with fire from a land battery and five of her gas bags were pierced by shell fragments. She just cleared the chimneys of the town of Tirlemont and eventually fell into some trees close by, being totally wrecked.

L-9, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Mathy, had meanwhile made several successful reconnaissance flights from north Germany over the North Sea. Her commander was a man of great courage and resource, and soon proved himself capable of raiding England with effect. On the night of 14 April 1915, he inaugurated the series of raids on northern England which were to become a speciality of the Imperial German Naval Airship Service.

He is said, on this occasion, to have first taken his Zeppelin up the coast of Jutland to the neighbourhood of Norway, then to have crossed the North Sea to the coast of Scotland, coming southward in order to attack the industrial establishments of the Tyne, which he found with success, though the raid did little damage.

Mathy appeared off the mouth of the Tyne and coasted as far as Blyth, where he was off the harbour at 7.30 p.m. The Zeppelin appeared to take her bearings, then proceeded up the River Blyth to Cambois where she was fired at by members of C Company, 1st Northern Cyclist Battalion. She then carried on to West Sleekburn, where the first bomb, of incendiary type, was dropped in a field, doing no damage.

The Zeppelin passed on, by Bomarsund and Barrington collieries, to Choppington. Four incendiary bombs were dropped on fields on the way. A sixth incendiary bomb was dropped in front of a house at Choppington, breaking a window of the Station Hotel, just before 8 p.m. The next bomb thrown was explosive, and dropped in a field west of Glebe Farm, Choppington. Two more HE bombs were dropped in the same field. The tenth bomb, also HE, was dropped in a field west of Bedlington, followed by another HE in a second field close by. At Bedlington, L-9 turned south, passing over Crowhall Farm, where a 50kg HE bomb was dropped, again in fields doing no damage, though it fell within 30ft of two police constables, who were saved by throwing themselves flat on the ground.

The Zeppelin then proceeded towards Cramlington, dropping another HE bomb in a field, which again did no damage. At Cramlington an incendiary bomb was thrown, which fell through the roof of a warehouse. A small fire was caused but was soon extinguished by some workmen.

Proceeding south, L-9 dropped an incendiary bomb in a field near West Cramlington. The Zeppelin was then seen about 2 miles south of the latter place, apparently hovering in the air for a short time. Three more incendiary bombs were dropped in this vicinity, falling in a field west of the railway and close to the line.

L-9 then turned westward to Seaton Burn, and on the way, another incendiary bomb fell in the village but caused no damage. The Zeppelin headed further west, in the direction of Dinnington Colliery, 1 mile distant from Seaton Burn, and when about two thirds of the distance had been covered an HE bomb was dropped in a field, making a large crater. Going south-east the airship passed over Forest Hall at 8.35 p.m. and then went south over Benton, where an incendiary bomb was dropped, falling in a field a little west of the railway station.

L-9 dropped six incendiary bombs at Wallsend. Three did no damage, the fourth went through the roof of a cottage and slightly injured a woman and a little girl (the woman was sitting at the fireside washing the girl and they both had their hair singed, the bomb setting the floor on fire); the fifth and sixth set fire to railway sleepers.

A HE bomb then fell into the River Tyne between the electric power station and Castner Kellner's Works, the force of the explosion damaging windows at both places.

The last bomb, an incendiary, fell at Hebburn Quay, on the south side of the river, at 8.48 p.m. It struck the concrete floor of a dry dock, doing no damage. The Zeppelin then went out to sea at Marsden, between Sunderland and South Shields, persuaded by two aeroplanes, although the pilots could see nothing of her.

The HE bombs were all estimated to be around 50kg in weight. The monetary value of the damage caused by the raid was estimated at £55.

15/16 April 1915

Three Zeppelins set out to raid the Humber but ended up raiding the East Anglian coast:

L-6, under Oberleutnant zur See von Buttlar, was reported from Lydd as being out to sea, flying northward at 9.22 p.m., and reached the Essex coast at Walton-on-the-Naze at about 11.30 p.m. It passed over Frinton at 11.40 p.m., circled over Clacton at 11.45 p.m. without dropping bombs and then made across the Blackwater estuary to the Latchingdon peninsula, and passed inland over Burnham-on-Crouch at 12.10 a.m.

L-6 went north-west to Maldon, circled over the town at 12.20 a.m., and dropped two HE bombs there and two in the neighbouring village of Heybridge, accompanied by about thirty incendiary bombs in both places. One of the latter failed to ignite, while two others ignited imperfectly. A house was damaged by an HE bomb at Maldon and a fowl house destroyed. The only casualty was a girl who was slightly injured.

The airship then proceeded north-westward, passed over Smith's Green, 4 miles east of Kelvedon, and then turned eastward. It was heard and seen at Tollesbury, was over West Mersea at 12.30 a.m. and at 12.35 a.m. passed over Brightlingsea, where it was fired on by the guard at a camp of field companies, Royal Engineers.

Thence she went north towards Great Bentley and at 12.40 a.m. was over Tendring, turned south-east over Beaumont, swerved north at 12.47 a.m. at Moze Cross and at 12.53 a.m. passed over Harwich going north-east at a height estimated at 5,000ft. Three minutes later she went over Landguard Fort and Felixstowe, attacked by a pom-pom, which fired three rounds, and by rifle fire from Landguard Fort. L-6 dropped no bombs on the fortress.

At 1 a.m. the airship passed over Shingle Street out to sea, reported to be at a height of just 500ft. At 1.10 a.m. L-6 was heard at Orford going north, then she turned south-east and, at 1.22 a.m. passed over the Shipwash, after which she disappeared out to sea.

L-5, under Kapitänleutnant Alois Böcker, was hovering off the Suffolk coast near Southwold as early as 9.40 p.m., but did not cross it until 11.50 p.m. when the Zeppelin came in at Reydon, going west. Landfall was probably given by the easily distinguishable expanse of Easton Broad. A quarter of an hour later she passed Wenhaston, going south-west, and five minutes afterwards Bramfield, where she was fired upon with rifles. She was still going south-west but soon turned north, and at 12.20 a.m. passed Halesworth.

L-5 went east to Henham Hall, where, at 12.25 a.m., she dropped one HE and twenty-three incendiary bombs near the Red Cross Hospital. No damage was done and no casualties were caused. Two minutes later, she dropped another HE and three incendiary bombs at Reydon, which also did no damage. She then circled round south-east to Southwold and, at 12.30 a.m., dropped one incendiary bomb which fell into a truck at the railway station, and another on the seashore close to the pier.

Turning north-west she again passed over the railway station and, at about 12.40 a.m., dropped another incendiary bomb and another HE at Reydon, followed by two incendiary bombs at Easton Bavents, where she was attacked with rifle fire by 6th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment (Cyclists).

L-5 followed the coast northwards, and at 1.05 a.m. approached Lowestoft from the direction of the Herring Market. Arriving over the town, she stopped her propellers, being at a height of about 2,000ft. The siren at the electric power station was now sounded as an alarm. The airship rose to about 5,000–6,000ft, and moved off towards the Central Station and harbour at 1.15 a.m. just as the siren finished. She dropped an HE bomb and then went off along the river to Oulton Broad, dropping two HE and seven incendiary bombs on the way.

Several houses were damaged, and a fire was caused in a timber yard. Two horses were killed and four injured at the railway station; the total damage was estimated at £5,966 10s. There were no human casualties.

The Zeppelin then turned and went out to sea over Lowestoft at 1.25 a.m. A number of parachute flares were dropped by L-9 when over the land, and it would appear that some of these were regarded as incendiary bombs and are counted in the number of the latter mentioned above. How many were actually flares could not be ascertained.

L-7, under Oberleutnant zur See Werner Peterson and carrying Zeppelin chief, Peter Strasser, spent an hour skirting the Norfolk coast in high winds, coming overland at Brancaster at about 1.40 a.m. She passed south-east along the coast, going over Cromer at 2.05 a.m., Haisborough at 2.15 a.m. and passing out to sea at Gorleston at 2.35 a.m. Frustrated by the blacked-out country below, L-7 headed back to Germany without dropping a single bomb on land.

29/30 April 1915

This was the first raid on England to be carried out by a German military airship.

LZ-38 was the single army airship that carried out the raid, under the command of Hauptmann Erich Linnarz. It was first reported from the Galloper lightship as being 30 miles south-east of Harwich, going west, after 11 p.m. on 29 April.

At 11.55 p.m. she crossed the coast at Old Felixstowe and went straight inland, reaching Ipswich at 12.10 a.m. There, she dropped five incendiary bombs in the borough, one of which failed to ignite. One fell on a house in Brookshall Road, setting fire to it and the adjoining house; otherwise no damage was done and no casualties were caused.

Immediately afterwards, five more incendiary bombs fell at Bramford, to no effect. At 12.20 a.m. five explosive and eleven incendiary bombs fell at Nettlestead and Willisham, 7 miles north-west of Ipswich, doing no damage except for crops. The airship eventually reached Bury St Edmunds, and for ten minutes circled over the town, going round two or three times. At 1 a.m. she dropped three HE and forty incendiary bombs on the defenceless town. Luckily, most incendiary bombs simply burnt out causing no damage or were doused by buckets of water.

The most significant damage was suffered by four business premises on the Butter Market, where Day's Boot Makers and adjoining shops were gutted, and burned until morning. By some miracle, there was only one casualty – a collie dog belonging to a Mrs Wise.

The airship had now left the area of coast fog; the sky was quite clear and moonlit at Bury St Edmunds, and the LZ-38 was plainly visible at a height of about 3,000ft. She therefore hastened to return to the protection of the fog before she could be attacked, and went off eastward at high speed, dropping a single HE bomb as she went. No damage was done in either case.

At 1.15 a.m., she reached Creeting St Mary, 16 miles east-south-east of Bury St Edmunds, and dropped an incendiary bomb there, followed by another at Otley; neither causing any harm. At 1.27 a.m. another fell at Bredfield, 10 miles east-south-east of Creeting St Mary, and at 1.30 a.m. another at Melton, 2 miles from Bredfield, with the same result. The last bomb, also an incendiary, was harmlessly thrown at Bromeswell, and the airship proceeded out to sea near Orfordness at about 1.50 a.m.

After turning north along the coast, at 2 a.m. she passed over Aldeburgh and was last heard of at sea at 2.20 a.m., still going in the same direction. No action was taken against the Zeppelin; the mobile guns of the RNAS reached Bury St Edmunds at 1.45 a.m., three quarters of an hour after the raid, and it was by then too foggy on the coast for aircraft to go up.

10 May 1915

LZ-38, again commanded by Hauptmann Linnarz, was this time first spotted at 2.45 a.m. over the SS Royal Edward which was moored off Southend as a prisoner of war hulk. The raider dropped an incendiary bomb close to the port side of the ship, the flames leaping up to a height 10–12ft and lasting half a minute. The LZ-38 was travelling towards Southend and dropped two more bombs in the water between the ship and the shore.

She passed over Southend east–west at 2.50 a.m., dropping four HE and a large number of incendiary bombs on the town as she went. Two of the HE bombs failed to explode. After leaving Southend the airship went over Leigh to Canvey Island where, at 3.05 a.m., the Zeppelin came under fire of the AA (antiaircraft) guns at Thames Haven and at Curtis & Harvey's Explosive Works, in Cliffe. There were 3in guns mounted at Cliffe and their fire, the volume of which was probably unexpected, straightaway turned the LZ-38, which appeared to be hit – although not vitally.

The Zeppelin went back over Southend, dropping more incendiary bombs there at 3.10 a.m. She headed north-east towards Burnham, and went out to sea near the mouth of the Crouch. At 4.18 a.m. she passed the Kentish Knock light vessel, heading east. She passed near Sunk at 4.30 a.m. and by 5.15 a.m. she had moved south of the Shipwash, after which she headed towards the Outer Gabbard and out to sea. On returning to Belgium, she was found to have been holed twice aft by AA (anti-aircraft) fire, a shell having gone through her stern.

A large number of incendiary bombs, estimated to be about ninety, were dropped on Southend but, owing to the energy of the fire brigade surprisingly little damage was done. A timber yard was burnt out and a number of small fires were started, all of which were brought under control, except for one in a dwelling house which was completely burnt out. A woman was killed and a man injured in this house. A private of the 10th Border Regiment was also injured in the town.

The very heavy load of incendiary bombs carried by the airship was remarkable, as is the time at which the raid was carried out, just before dawn. As this time was not again chosen for a further raid, it was evidently deemed unsuitable for some reason. The height of the airship was unusual for this period, being estimated at 9,000–10,000ft, which is much higher than previously.

During the raid a message was dropped on the town, written on a piece of cardboard in blue pencil: 'You English. We have come and will come again soon. Kill or Cure. German.'

17 May 1915

LZ-38, with Hauptmann Linnarz, was spotted again seven days later at 12.30 a.m. hovering off North Foreland for some time, and appeared to have dropped some bombs in the sea. She then approached Ramsgate. On being fired at from drifters at sea, she first went east and then northwards and was off the Tongue lightship shortly after 1 a.m. At 1.40 a.m. she came overland again at Margate and flew across Thanet, reaching Ramsgate at 1.50 a.m.

She dropped a number of bombs, apparently four HE and about sixteen incendiaries, on the town. One HE bomb struck the Bull and George Hotel, penetrating to the basement and blowing out the whole front of the building. A man and a woman who were on the second floor were seriously injured and died three days later; another woman was slightly injured. No other casualties were caused, though bombs fell all over the town and in the harbour. A few buildings and some fishing smacks were damaged. After throwing the bombs, the airship went out to sea under hot rifle fire and disappeared in the clouds.

She then proceeded down the coast, and came inland again about 2.10 a.m. at Deal, where she hovered for a short time with propellers stopped. At 2.25 a.m., LZ-38 approached Dover and was engaged by the AA guns of the garrison. In all, five rounds of 6-pdr and twenty-eight rounds of 1-pdr ammunition were fired. On being caught by the searchlights and fired at, the airship at once rose to a height of at least 7,000ft, dropping bombs as she did so, and emitted a dense cloud of vapour in which she disappeared (this was a discharge of water ballast).


Excerpted from Zeppelin Blitz by Neil R. Storey. Copyright © 2015 Neil R. Storey. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


Author's Foreword,
ONE 1915,
TWO 1916,
THREE 1917,
FOUR 1918,
Appendix 1,
Appendix 2,
Appendix 3,

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