QUOTE (gem22 @ Thu, 4 Sep 2003 15:47:19 +0000)
A few years ago I was reading some war time copies of the local paper when I came across an article reporting a bombing raid on our village. I can't remember the year but I think it was '16 or '17. I thought the paper said it was a Zeppelin raid, but Arthur Banks in his Military Atlas of the First World War reported it as a plane raid.
Our village, Littleport, is a fenland farming village with no strategic importance at all. The only possible target would be the railway line from Kings Lynn to Ely. I wonder if any forumite has any more details on this raid.
The airship responsible for the bomb on Littleport, Cambridgeshire was SL8 commanded by Kptlt Guido Wolff and this airship was part of the largest massed airship raid on England, which took place on the night of the 2/3 September 1916. SL8 was one of 16 airships to leave for Southern England on that cold Saturday.
The weather that night was bad, and with solid cloud, the crew of SL8 were not even aware that they were over England. There was a break in the cloud at 00.30 hours, when it was realised that they were over England. London could be seen in the distance, and one (or maybe more?) bomb was dropped at 00.40 hours to see if the anti-aircraft guns would respond (so that the airship crew could work out their position). The crew were convinced that they were further north (near Kings Lynn) and their compass was not working properly.
The lack of response, once the bomb had dropped, meant that they were further south of the coast (where most of the anti-aircraft guns were located), so the airship pushed on to try and pick up ther bearings. When the SL8 reached Ely, the helmsman thought that this was Norwich. SL8 circled around, waiting for the cloud to clear, then using the stars as a reference changed course to the West.
By now there was heavy fall of snow and a strong headwind. The SL8 turned around, just short of Huntingdon, when it was realised just where they were. The original target, London, was then abandoned. It was now that, even with the poor visibility, the crew witnessed the death fall of its sister ship SL11 (as it lit up the sky - some 40 miles away - and crashed, burning, on Cuffley (around 10 miles north of London).
The SL ships were not popular, compared to the Zeppelin-built craft. SL8 was transferred back to the Baltic where it was declared obsolete and broken up in Selim Shed (hangar), Seddin, in November 1917.
To the best of my knowledge, no inland towns in England were ever bombed by aeroplane. All aeroplane missions were directed at coastal targets and areas of London (which was approached from the east, following the Thames) - so only towns in Kent/Essex would have been bombed as the planes made their way to the capital.
I would love to get a copy of this and other air raids from your local newspapers - or other sources, please.