BATTLE OF BRITAIN 1917. The First Heavy Bomber Raids on England.
- In the autumn of 1916 the Germans began to equip with Gotha twin-engine bombers. These revolutionary aircraft could fly at 15,000 feet, well above the maximun height of any British fighter of the time. With a range of 800 km (500 miles) and a bomb load of up to 500 kg (1,100 Ib), Gothas were designed to carry out attacks across the English Channel and North Sea against English Towns and Cities.
A group of four German squadrons was established in Belgium, and they carried out their first bombing raid towards the end of May 1917. A 22 aircraft sortie set out to bomb London but low cloud over the target caused them to divert to new targers along the south coast of Kent. Folkestone bore the brunt of this first type of raid which resulted in 95 deaths. In mid June a force of 18 Gothas successfully attacked London in broad daylight. Over 90 British fighters met them, but not one Gotha was brought down. This bombing raid caused 162 deaths. From mid-September an even larger, more potent bomber joined the Gothas. The Zeppelin-Staaken Riesenflugzeug or 'Giant' bomber was a four-engine aircraft with a wingspan of 42 metres (138feet). It could carry a maximum bomb load of 2,000 kg (4,400Ib). Gotha/Giant night raids continued unmolested throughout 1917, until December when the British began to have success in night interception, production and deployment.
This book looks at the development of the German airborne attacks on England, the airships and aircraft that were specially designed for the purpose and the startled British reaction. It contains first-hand British and German combat reports and detailed accounts of the raids.