From the beginning
of 1917 it was apparent that the mighty Zeppelins had met
their match in the skies over Britain. Already new machines
of war were waiting in the wings having proved their worth
in bombing raids on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. On
May 25th the first daylight raid on Britain was undertaken
by a force of long range fixed wing bombers. This was followed
on 13th June 1917 by the first daylight raid on London which
resulted in the death of 162 people (46 of them children killed
by a bomb that fell on a school) and the injury of 432 others.
In total 22 raids by these aircraft were made between Spring
1917 and May 1918 before it became apparent that unescorted
raids could not be continued in the face of the determined
and increasingly efficient British Home Defence Squadrons,
including those flying from Suttons Farm. In total 61 of these
bombers were destroyed during these raids.
Although remembered as Gotha's the German bomber force that
raided Britain in 1917 and 1918 was made up of a number of
different types of aircraft which included the Gotha V, and
the biggest plane to have flown in World War I the Zeppelin
Staaken. The latter could carry a phenomenal 2 tons of bombs
which could include a massive single bomb weighing a ton.
In early 1917 these bombers could generally fly higher and
faster than the defending British fighters such as the BE
2c. The bombers also carried a dangerous defensive armament.
However, from late 1917, in the face of British Home Defence
squadrons equipped with the latest British fighters such as
the Sopwith Camel, SE5a and Bristol Fighter the ability of
the German bombers to operate effectively without escort was
seriously in doubt.
Below are statistics for the Gotha G.V which made up the
majority of the German bomber force used against Britain in
1917 – 1918.
Type: Heavy Bomber
Powerplant: 2 x 260 hp Mercedes DIVa
Maximum Speed: c 90 mph
Maximum Altitude: c 21,400 feet
Range c 522 miles
Armament: Up to 3 defensive machine guns and 500 kg of bombs.