Over the next few weeks I will be publishing a number of blogs on the Zeppelin raids over Norfolk on the night of 19th/20th January 1915. On this night two Zeppelins bombed Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn along with other targets along the way. There are also inaccuracies in where the first bombs fell which I be looking at as well. The first part will look at how we got to the point of Zeppelins L3 and L4 appearing off the coast of Norfolk.
Norfolk cannot lay claim to it being the first place that a Zeppelin dropped its bombs. The first Zeppelin raid of WW1 occurred on 6th August 1914. Here Zeppelin LZ-21 attacked Belgian forts during the Battle of Liege. This ended in failure when the Zeppelin was hit by ground fire and had to limp back home where it crashed near Bonn. The first Zeppelin Raid on civilian targets was on Antwerp on 24th August 1914 here Zeppelin LZ-24 bombed the town killing & wounding 26 people.
Norfolk cannot lay claim to it being the first target to be bombed in the UK in WW1. This accolade falls on Dover.
On 21st December 1914 a Friedrichshafen FF.29 flew over Dover and dropped two bombs which fell in the sea. But on Christmas Eve 1914, Lieutenant von Prondzynski flew across the Channel and from a height of around 5,000 feet tried to bomb Dover Castle.
The bomb fell 400 yards short of the target and landed in the garden adjoining St James’Rectory, making a crater about four or five feet deep, and the blast caused some damage to the Rectory and knocked the gardener, Mr James Banks, out of a tree he was pruning. A third air raid targeted the docks in London on Christmas Day but this did not end up with any damage or casualties.
But as a result of the Kaiser’s sanction – at the beginning of 1915 – of the bombing of military and industrial targets along the British coast and in the area around the Thames Estuary (though not London itself) Peter Stasser set about planning his first raid on England by Zeppelins.
And so on 19th January 1915 three Zeppelins, L3, L4 and L6 took off from their bases in Germany, each with 16 men, armed with 8x 110Ib high explosive and 11x 25Ib incendiary bombs, and headed for England.
All of the airships were the new M Class Zeppelins which had Maybach engines which could give them a top speed of 50 mph and they could reach a height of 5,000 feet. L3 was commanded by Kaptain Leutnant Hans Fritz, L4 was in the command of Kapitanleutnant Count von Platen-Hallermund and L6, although in the command of Captain Oberleutnant Freiherr von Buttlar, was also graced with the presence of Peter Strasser. This was due to the fact that Strasser liked to accompany junior commanders on raids. However, due to engine trouble, Strasser would not get a chance to bomb the Thames Estuary because they had to turn back.
Zeppelins L3 and L4 were supposed to bomb north-east coastal towns and fly up the River Humber. But it was not to be and both Zeppelins ended up off the coast of Norfolk arriving roughly at the same time. It is not known for sure how they were 70 miles off course but it was either through weather conditions or navigation errors that they ended up roughly off the coast between Bacton and Horsey but it would then lead to a series of events that would see the first Zeppelin bombs falling on England.
Tomorrow we will look at the raids on Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn.