On the 19th January 1915, two German Zeppelin airships known as L3 and L4 dropped bombs on the Norfolk towns of Great Yarmouth and Kings Lynn in Britain’s first experience of an air raid. Four people died in the attacks, all of them civilians, in an event that highlighted the changing nature of warfare in the 20th Century.
Concerned about the safety of the British Royal Family, to whom he was related, the German Kaiser Wilhelm II granted permission for aerial attacks on military and industrial buildings in Humberside. Consequently, at around 11am on the morning of the 19th January, three airships departed Germany. One of them – L6 – was forced to turn back after experiencing engine trouble, leaving L3 and L4 to continue their mission. Having performed reconnaissance over the North Sea prior to nightfall, they headed towards the English coast but were forced to change course from their intended targets in Humberside due to bad weather. They consequently crossed over Norfolk shortly after 8.30pm.
Using incendiary bombs and flares to help them navigate in the darkness, L3 turned towards Great Yarmouth while L4 headed along the coast towards Kings Lynn. L3 dropped ten 110lb bombs and seven incendiary devices on the densely packed housing of St Peter’s Plain in Great Yarmouth, killing two people. Meanwhile, L4 dropped eleven bombs on Sheringham and King’s Lynn killing another two. The youngest victim was fourteen year old Percy Goate. In an inquest report his mother reported seeing the bomb drop through a skylight and on to the pillow where he was sleeping.