Deadliest WWI Raid on London
The WWI German High Command had great confidence in the effectiveness of air raids on civilian targets: not only would they damage morale, but they would disrupt production. Initially Zeppelins were used in a somewhat sporadic fashion, the first raid hitting Great Yarmouth and other East Anglian towns in January 1915 ; London followed in May that year. Zeppelins were soon easily dealt with by the British, so at the end of 1916 a new campaign was planned: Operation Turkenkreuz (Turkish Cross).
Gotha heavy bombers were deployed in numbers, flying from occupied Belgium. Their first sortie to London on May 23 1917 hit bad weather, diverting them to attack Folkestone instead: 95 died there. On June 13th 18 Gothas hit the capital in daylight: 162 were killed and more than 400 injured. Tragically 46 of the dead were children in an infants’ school in Poplar. The raids were deadly because few precautions were taken by civilians – many ran to the streets to observe events – plus the Gotha G.IV could fly too high for the few British fighters kept for home defence to engage them in time.
Eventually the Sopwith Camel enabled the Royal Flying Corps to make the raids costly for the Imperial German Airforce; and the public demanded not capitulation but revenge: on October 17 1917 DH.4 bombers of the Royal Naval Air Service were sent to attack Saarbrucken in the first full-scale British raid on Germany.
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