Zeppelin raid over Elmswell, 29-30 April 1915
(A footnote in history)
On the night of 29 – 30 April 1915 the German Army launched its first Zeppelin air raid on England. Zeppelin number LZ 38 commanded by Hauptman Erich Linnarz crossed over the English coast at Felixstowe at about midnight. This airship was newly commissioned into the German Army, and had four Maybach engines and a million cubic feet of hydrogen gas to take it airborne.
The Zeppelin began attacking targets at random. It bombed Ipswich at approximately 00:10 hours and then moved on to Bury St Edmunds where it dropped more bombs at about 01:00 hours. The craft eventually flew out over the coast at Aldborough at around 02:00 hours. The authorities estimated the amount of damage caused on the night was £9,010.
It was during this raid that a bomb was dropped on Elmswell. According to local reports -:
‘The German airship passed over the parishes of Elmswell and Woolpit during the early hours of Friday morning, and it dropped a bomb in a field on the boundary of the two parishes. The bomb made a hole in the ground some twenty feet in diameter, and between nine and ten feet in depth. Fragments of the explosive were picked up three hundred yards away from the spot where the explosion took place. It was a merciful escape from sudden death – for, if the bomb had fallen two hundred yards to the north it must have caused considerable havoc amongst the houses in Elmswell. But thank God, it fell in a ploughed field and injured no-one. The noise of the explosion was terrific, and the windows of the houses in the vicinity vibrated for upwards of half a minute after the occurrence. The congregation attending Elmswell Church on Sunday night sang the Te Deum at the end of the service as an act of gratitude to Almighty God for protecting them in their hour of imminent danger.
At the time Air Defence of Britain was primarily the responsibility of the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS) at Yarmouth sent up four sorties that morning (30 April) in an attempt to intercept the Zeppelin, however the take offs were delayed by thick mist and the missions were not successful.
New Home Defence aerodrome – Elmwell
The state of Britain’s air defences was poor in 1915, the following year a much needed reorganisation resulted in prime responsibility for air defence shifting to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and a string of new home defence aerodromes were built across the South East of England. One such aerodrome constructed in 1917 was at Elmswell where 75 Squadron RFC was headquartered. The squadron remained at Elmswell until after the war.
The fate of Airship LZ 38
Hauptman Linnarz in LZ 38 flew the first bombing raid over London on 31 May 1915. This raid resulted in 7 killed (including one RNAS pilot), 35 injured and £18,596 of damage. The raid sparked a violent reaction in the East End of London against property and people of supposed German origin. Winston Churchill, First Lord of The Admiralty stung by this escalation in the air war ordered retaliatory action. On 7 June two RNAS seaplanes attacked the shed housing LZ 38 at Bruxelles-Evere and destroyed the airship.
The Air Defence of Great Britain 1914-1918 (Cole & Cheesman)
The Zeppelin in Combat (Douglas H Robinson)