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Author Topic: Raid on Folkestone  (Read 2625 times)

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Offline HERB COLLECTOR

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Re: Raid on Folkestone
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2017, 20:20:22 »
Folkestone Air Raid: 100 years on. Town remembers Tontine Street disaster.
http://www.kentonline.co.uk/folkestone/news/a-quiet-spring-day-then-126206/
Includes interactive map: tapping on the buttons shows the names of those who lost their lives.

freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~folkestonefamilies/Tontinestreet.htm gives more details of those who were killed and injured.

http://www.fofc.uk/story25.htm has details on those who were buried in Shorncliffe Military Cemetery.

Folkestone During the War (1914-1919) edited by J C Carlile, has a chapter on the 25th May air raid.
Available as a free e-book @ http://archive.org/stream/folkestoneduring00carliala#page/n5/mode/2up

Highly recommended is A Glint in the Sky. German First World War Air Raids on Folkestone, Dover, Ramsgate, Margate, and other Kentish Towns. By Martin Easdown with Thomas Genth.
Has a very detailed account of the raid of 25th May 1917.


Offline HERB COLLECTOR

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Re: Raid on Folkestone
« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2017, 20:54:43 »
Link to taped interview with Ada May Kyle, who, as a schoolgirl, was a witness to the Folkestone air raid of 25 May 1917.
http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80008979 Air raid 04.00 to 14.22.

Content description

Reel 1
Background in Folkestone, Kent, 1909-1917: family; education; reaction to outbreak of war, 4/Aug/1914; father's service with army. Recollections of air raid by German Gotha bombers on Folkestone, 25/May1917: description of damage to buildings and casualties in Tontine Road area; memory of mother helping treat injured man; looting from shops; story of visiting grandmother; damage to shops including Stokes & Co; number of bombs dropped; story of seeing aerial combat over Dover; relations with Canadian soldiers at Shorncliffe Camp; story of house being searched for escaped Canadian prisoners; awareness of war; attitude to Germans; story of children being given cheap sweets after bombing; memories of daily life in Folkestone.

Reel 2
Continues: food shortages and rationing; queuing for food; time of air raid; effects of war on daily life; memories of Armistice celebrations, 11/1918.

Offline peterchall

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Re: Raid on Folkestone
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2014, 20:52:35 »
An outstanding feature of that raid seems to be how meticulously it was planned, even for attacking secondary targets.

Normally aircraft in formation would all release their bombs at the same time with the leader doing the aiming and the others releasing their bombs on some signal, probably just seeing his bombs start to fall. For each to aim their own bombs would entail breaking formation, with the risk of collision, especially if all aimed at the same part of the target.

Yet in this case bombs were dropped on several targets between the Maidstone area and the coast, apparently in numbers appropriate to the importance of the target, and by different aircraft. There was no radio communication, so who bombed what and with how many bombs must have been pre-arranged. To get room for manoeuvre for individual bomb-aiming the  planes must have flown in a loose ‘gaggle’ rather than a tight formation – one version suggests the leader was followed by two separate lines of aircraft.

I found an account of how a British pilot, ferrying a Bristol Fighter to France, and therefore unarmed, broke cloud to find himself among a group of Gothas who used him for target practice. Why he was at 14,000 feet on a ferry flight was not explained – 10,000 fet is normally considered  ‘oxygen height’.
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Offline peterchall

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Raid on Folkestone
« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2014, 14:35:46 »
Compiled from various sources:
On the afternoon of 25th May 1917, 23 of the new Gotha IV’s left their base in Flanders to attack London as the first raid of Operation Turkenkreuz. Two of them turned back with engine trouble but the remaining 21 continued over Essex, carrying a mix of 50kg (110lb) and 12.5kg (27.5lb) bombs totalling up to 300kg (660lb) each. Upon seeing that London was cloud-covered the formation leader decided to attack secondary targets and fired a flare to instruct the formation accordingly, and it crossed the Thames into Kent at Gravesend.

The reported size of the formation varied widely as it was seen through gaps in the clouds, and the dire state of our communications was revealed when Constable A.S. Lyons tried to report a formation of 7 over Coxheath but found the telephone line engaged!

2 bombs were dropped near Meopham and 2 more south of Maidstone. Then apparently following the SE&CR, 4 bombs were dropped at Marden and others at Pluckley. Bombs dropped in the vicinity of the railway works at Ashford killed 18 year-old Gladys Sparkes – perhaps the first British civilian victim of a Gotha bomber – and injured 4 others.

Then 19 bombs were dropped on Lympne airfield – with no serious damage, 19 at Hythe (killing Daniel Stringer, verger of St Leonard’s Church, and Amy Parker, a housewife), 2 at Sandgate, 16 at Cheriton (killing a man and a 6 year-old boy), and 18 at the military camps at St Martin's Plain, Dibgate and Shorncliffe. At Shorncliffe a total of 18 soldiers (16 Canadians) were killed and 90 were wounded (86 Canadians). The raiders flew at about 14,000 feet, dropping bombs on the west end of Folkestone itself, around Central Station and Bouverie Road East, causing a few casualties, and then made their way to the town centre.

It was the Friday before the Whit-Monday Bank Holiday and the shops in Tontine Street were still doing a brisk trade, with many wives purchasing extra provisions for the long weekend, although it was nearly 6pm. Mothers chatted as they queued for the greengrocer or fruiterer, while their children played in the sunshine. An aeroplane circled overhead but few were alarmed, as most thought it was 'one of ours' from Dover. There was a series of crashes in the distance but again it was thought to be gun practice from one of the army camps in the vicinity. So the shoppers were taken completely by surprise when a 50kg bomb fell outside Stokes' Brothers greengrocers in Tontine Street. (One version has it that the circling aeroplane was actually one of the Gothas and it “swooped down” to drop the bomb).

Nearly 60 were killed instantly, others died later from wounds, and over 100 were wounded. For those who witnessed it the carnage could never be forgotten. The Rev J.C. Carlile wrote “The sight which met the gaze of those who hastened to the grim task of removing the bodies and succouring the wounded defied description. Human trunks were cleft in two or more, heads were blown from bodies and the identification of limbs was more a matter of surmise than anything else”. Limbs were on the roof of the Brewery Tap pub and the head of a child lay on the step of the Saloon Bar door. A fractured gas main ignited and sent a jet of flame 50ft into the air, and horses lay dead between the shafts of the carts they were pulling. Mrs Adelaide Moore was shopping in Gosnold’s drapery store and, as a member of St. John Ambulance Brigade, gave help to the wounded even though herself suffering from severe cuts to the face and head and burns to her back - she was awarded the Brigade’s Silver Medal.

The Fire Brigade, Red Cross, Ambulance Corps, and Police were swamped by calls for help, and the Canadian Army Medical Corps was brought in. The Royal Victoria Hospital was overwhelmed and the military hospitals at Westcliffe and Shorncliffe were also used for the injured.

The total number of fatalities was 71 - 16 men, 28 women and 27 children. The total number injured was 96, excluding those with minor injuries not treated in hospital.

The raiders carried on towards Dover where, according to one source, their approach had been recorded over an hour earlier. The shore AA guns and naval vessels in the harbour put up a barrage so, on a signal from their leader, the bombers turned for home. It was the first opposition they had met, although a total of 37 RFC and RNAS aircraft took to the air but were unable to climb quickly enough to reach the height at which the Gothas flew. However, 9 RNAS Sopwith Pups managed to get ahead of them and were waiting near the Belgian coast as the raiders descended towards their base, shooting one down.

The reporting of news items liable to cause public alarm or aid the enemy was an offence, and the official government bulletin stated only “Large squadrons of enemy aircraft attacked SE England between 5:15 and 6:30pm yesterday. Bombs were dropped in a number of places but nearly all the damage was in one town, where bombs fell into the streets and caused considerable casualties”. The Times on Monday 28th May reported little more than “Daylight air raid on SE England by 17 aeroplanes – 76 killed and 74 injured”. This caused public anxiety throughout the country regarding the fate of relatives, and on 30th May the press was allowed to name the town as Folkestone, a German bulletin naming the targets having already been widely published elsewhere, including Canada.

Public anger was probably fuelled by the verdict of the first inquest: “Death by bombs from hostile aircraft, Great Britain being in a state of war, but the deceased being at the time a non-combatant”. Mobs took to the streets and attacked firms suspected of having German connections. Anger was also directed at the government for the lack of warning and investigation suggested that the military authorities were tracking the raiders but did not warn the civil authorities. A ‘shake-up’ of the organisation followed.

In mitigation it has to be said that 14,000ft was an unprecedented height from which to drop bombs, many of which fell near the strategically vital SE&CR line, and from where the bomb fell in Tontine Street it is only 400yards (360m) to Folkestone Harbour, through which vast numbers of troops passed on their way to France.

The official report after the war stated that 163 bombs totalling 9257lb (4208kg) fell, causing £19,405 of damage. Apart from the incidents in Tontine Street and Shornecliffe Camp the number of casualties seems remarkably low, perhaps partly due to many bombs failing to explode or exploding in the air.

A plaque now marks the site of the Tontine Street tragedy, next to the Brewery Tap pub.
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