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Issue Date: 25/05/2017
Issue Name: The First Daylight Bombing of WW1
Producer: Buckingham Covers
On the 25th May 1917, Folkestone was struck by an air raid which was the first daylight bombing of WWI. This beautiful cover marks the centenary and features an image of the WWI memorial arch in Folkestone, and has a 2016 1st class poppy stamp along with a Road of Remembrance, Folkestone postmark and a special cachet.
Daylight Bombing 1917
The main bombing campaign against England started in January 1915 using airships. Weather and night flying conditions made airship navigation and bombing accuracy difficult. Bombs often being dropped miles off target. The civilian casualties made the Zeppelins an object of hatred, and they were dubbed “baby-killers”. In late 1916 the German Air Force formed an ‘England Squadron’ commanded by Captain Ernest Brandenburg.
Germany wanted a plane that could travel a long way and carry many bombs. Their new Gotha bomber was a biplane too, but it could fly higher than any of Britain's aircraft. Its wingspan was almost 24 metres.
The first Gotha attack was in May 1917. Kagohl 3 received the first Gotha G.IV aircraft in March, and on 25 May, the squadron commenced Operation Turkenkreuz, sending 23 Gothas to bomb London. Two were forced to turn back over the North Sea due to mechanical problems but the remaining 21 planes headed for London. Cloudy skies over the city forced the German pilots to turn back and divert to secondary targets at the Channel port of Folkestone and nearby Shorncliffe Army Camp.
The raid resulted in 95 deaths and 195 injuries, mostly in Folkestone. In Shorncliffe, 18 soldiers (16 Canadian and two British) were killed and 90
wounded. Nine Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) Sopwith Pups engaged the bombers near the Belgian coast as they returned, shooting one down. This was the beginning of a 12-month campaign designed to break the morale of the British people. The squadron’s Gotha G.IV and R.VI Giant bombers conducted 52 raids across the country, killing over 800 people and wounding almost 2000.
This first daylight bombing is remembered with a simple plaque as part of the larger World War I Memorial Arch that was erected in 2014 at the top of Folkestone’s Road of Remembrance. Prince Harry unveiled the monument at the top of the hill leading down to the harbour where, in World War I, boats awaited the troops on their journey to France and to the trenches of the Western Front.