Zeppelin L4, under the command of Kapitanleutnant Count Magnus von Platen-Hallermund, navigated the Norfolk coast and dropped a flare and 2 incendiary bombs on Sheringham which caused a lot of damage but no casualties.
Having flown back out to sea L4 then reappeared where it dropped another incendiary in a field between Brancaster Staithe and Hunstanton. A fourth incendiary was then dropped close to Brancaster church which landed in a road close to the Red Cross hospital. The Zeppelin flew onwards and the fifth bomb is reported to have been a high explosive bomb aimed at the wireless station at Hunstanton. However, there are conflicting reports over this bomb, and it is suggested that this may not have even been dropped.
Therefore the next two confirmed bombs to fall landed at Heacham, one exploded in Lord’s Lane where a number of people had narrow escapes and the seventh bomb failed to explode and was found in a field where it was eventually taken to the Woolwich Arsenal.
‘Towards the end of January I was woken one night by what sounded like twenty motor cycles charging down a neighbouring hill, but proved to be the first Zeppelin raid on England. The airship, flying very low, crossed the coast at our village, giving Heacham the distinction of receiving the first bomb ever dropped on English soil. It was an incendiary and appropriately dropped into a washerwoman’s soft water butt. What she said about “Them there Jarmans” might have stopped the war had the Kaiser heard it. The second bomb was a 50 kilo H.E. which did not explode.‘
Bomb number nine landed at Snettisham, near the church which, it was believed, was the actual target. The Zeppelin flew between Wolferton and Sandringham before flying over Dersingham. What is interesting about this aspect of the raid is that there was the belief that the intended target was the Royal Family.
Zeppelin L4 did not target the house and there is no evidence to show that they were the targets, but part of the propaganda after the raid was directed at the belief that the sole purpose of the raid was to bomb the house. Queen Alexandra wrote to Lord Fisher and part of the letter actually requests rockets with spikes or hooks to be sent or invented so that Norfolk can be defended! Unfortunately, although attempts were being made to do so, the lights at King’s Lynn were not put out immediately and L4 was able use the railway line to reach the Gaywood District. The first bomb to land fell in a field at the rear of Tennyson Avenue.
The next fell on allotments but the next one caused fatalities when it hit houses on Bentinck Street killing Percy Goate aged 14 and Alice Gazely aged 26. Both are reported to have died from shock. L4 dropped another bomb on some terraced houses where it made a large hole and wrecked a blacksmiths but caused no fatalities. The fifth bomb to fall on King’s Lynn fell in a garden by the docks failing to explode the sixth destroyed an engine at Alexandra Dock.
The last two bombs fell at and around Cresswell Street where the family at No 63 had a lucky escape when an incendiary hit the house causing a fire which was extinguished by neighbours. This final bomb was placed in water by the police and taken into their care. In total the raid on King’s Lynn led to two fatalities and thirteen injured. After the raid L4 headed east and actually flew past Norwich, which was luckily shrouded in fog and had its lights out and then was seen to pass Acle and then flew out to sea to the north of Great Yarmouth.
Of all the accounts I have read on the opinion of the raid the most outspoken has to be the Borough Coroner J Tolver Waters, who although cited that the raid on Great Yarmouth was murder, knew this could not be the verdict given by the jury, but in his closing summary he stated,
‘The unfortunate man and woman were victims of so-called warfare, but I do not call it so. It is the offspring of German culture. It is contrary to International Law to attack any unfortified place, such as Yarmouth is. But the Germans are past masters of regarding anything in the form of writing as a mere ‘scrap of paper’
In the next part of this series we will look at these victims and where they now rest.