Woolwich & Districts
Raider by Morris Freedman
overhalf a century ago a German Zeppelin slipped its moorings
at a secret airship base in Belgium and flew up the Thames on
the first mission of its kind in the history of civilization.
bomb a crowded capital city, the city of London.
was the LZ 38 commanded by Major Erich Linnarz which on 31 May,
1915 dropped high explosives and incendiary bombs around the
city, killing a number of people and damaging houses and business
airship flew at a great height and was apparently not seen because
none of London's guns or searchlights came into action and the
LZ 38 returned to base unharmed.
the first-ever air raid on any city in the world.
first time Woolwich came under direct attack from the air was
on 13 October, 1915, when the Zeppelin L 14, commanded by Kapitanleutnant
Bocker, dropped bombs on Woolwich Common and in the Arsenal.
raid could have been even more disastrous than it was: the L
14 narrowly missed colliding with another Zeppelin on its way
to bomb Croydon.
direct attack on Woolwich came in August, 1916, when bombs also
fell on Plumstead, Eltham, Blackheath and Deptford, and a month
later Woolwich and Plumstead were bombed again but this time
the raider was shot down by a night-fighter pilot from Joyce
Green, Dartford. (This was the L 32 which crashed near Billericay
German High Command hurriedly revised their ideas about the
usefulness of Zeppelins after several of them had been destroyed
by our fighter pilots, and when Commander Mathy, the the greatest
Zeppelin commander of the 1914-18 war, was shot down at Potters
Bar, they switched instead to long-range bombers.
June, 1917, fourteen Gothas made a daring daylight attack on
London, flying in diamond formation from Tottenham to Woolwich,
dropping their bombs indiscriminately, as they flew
raid caused disproportionately heavy casualties because people
stood in the streets to watch the raiders instead of taking
last raid on London of the First World War was on the night
of 20 May, 1918, and lasted several hours.
it is this last big raid which sticks in the minds of people
old enough to remember the 1914 - 18 bombing and makes them
imagine that the arrival of enemy aircraft over Woolwich was
a common, almost nightly occurrence.
fact in the four years of the war, London was attacked only
36 times, 12 times by Zeppelins.
bad were these raids? According to official records something
like 530 people were killed and 1,260 wounded. A total of 9,000
bombs, high explosives and incendiaries, were dropped.
Zeppelins which bombed London were powered by six engines developing
1,000 h.p. with a top speed of 70 m.p.h. They could carry nearly
40 tons of bombs a distance of 3,000 miles and fly up to 12,000
with the 1940 blitz the air attacks of 1914 - 18 were insignificant
but it cannot be denied that they generated a considerable amount
of fear and by 1918 had become a serious menace.