Page:EB1922 - Volume 30.djvu/132

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gradually climbing, until they were about 13,000 ft. over Brentwood. The course of the raid ran by Enfield, where the formation turned S., over Edmonton and Tottenham. On the way to the City, St. Pancras and Shoreditch were bombed. The City itself received 26 bombs, one of them starting a small fire in the General Post Office. The German formation was well handled in the way of making it a difficult target for the anti-aircraft guns. The machines flew in two divisions, which drew apart as they came under fire. The majority of the shell fired into the brown of the enemy burst harm- lessly in the interval thus left. Individual machines flew with a switchback movement, alternately diving and climbing in order to make the task of prediction at the guns more difficult. The anti- aircraft guns fired a very large number of rounds, but produced no effect at all on the enemy. The aeroplane defences again showed a lamentable lack of plan. Eighty-seven machines went up, of all sorts and sizes. A few were efficient fighting machines. Many of them, for all the good they could do, need never have left the ground. No scheme existed by which a combined attack could be delivered. In consequence, the enemy were quite well able to beat off such isolated, though gallant, attacks as were made. They brought down two machines. All that the British pilots were able to accomplish was to finish off one lame duck, a machine that was in difficulties from engine trouble. It fell into the sea off the coast of Essex and the crew were drowned. The failure of the defensive arrangements, or rather the complete lack of efficient arrangements, began to cause consider- able agitation in the public mind. The Germans were touching the nerve centre, and the British Government found it necessary to order a complete reorganization. The London Air Defences were to be formed as a separate command. It was to include all the means o{ defence, both from the ground and in the air. General Ashmore was brought from France to take charge. On the formation of this new command several distinct problems presented themselves. Night raids on London by airships, al- though not very likely, were still possible; it was obvious that night raiding by aeroplanes would have to be faced. But the most threatening danger lay, for the moment, in day raiding by aeroplanes in force. To meet this, a line of guns was established to the E. of London some 20 m. out; and inside this line strong patrols of aeroplanes, working in formation, were organized. Careful plans were laid to ensure that the guns and aeroplanes would really cooperate and not interfere with each other. A system of signals and directing arrows on the ground was installed to assist the pilots in finding the enemy. Outer patrols of aeroplanes near the coast could deal with the homeward journey of the raiders. The new arrangements were soon tested; on Aug. 12 a party of nine Gothas made the land near Harwich. After following the coast to the Blackwater, they turned inland for London. The communication system of the defence control worked well, and the squadrons immediately defending London were at the required height in plenty of time to meet the enemy formation. The German commanderj however, would not face the defences of London itself, and turned his formation about before they reached the outer line of guns. A number of bombs were un- loaded on Southend as the enemy made off, and 32 people were killed. The Germans were pursued out to sea, but an exaspe- rating series of gun-jams robbed the British pilots of success, and the only bag was one Gotha that was flying badly and was brought down in the sea by a naval machine. An attempt on Aug. 18 was frustrated by bad weather. Many of the German machines were blown over Holland, where some of the pilots, thinking they were over England, dropped bombs! An abortive attack on the Midlands by eight airships on the night of Aug. 21 was followed by the last day attack on England on Aug. 22, when Capt. Kleine, commander of the 3rd Squadron, started out with 13 Gothas to bomb Sheerness and Dover. A number of naval machines turned the Sheerness bombers from their objective, and the German formation, harassed by the British pilots, wheeled south by Ramsgate. Here the anti-air- craft guns, working with great accuracy, shot down two of the raiders. A third was shot down off Dover. The increased efficiency of the defences, both in machines and guns, decided the Germans to abandon day attacks, and they turned their attention to raiding with aeroplanes by night. Practically no answer had been found at the time to this form of attack, which had been carried on for more than a year on the western front in France. Searchlight staffs, in their then state of training, found great difficulty in picking up or holding an aeroplane in their beams. Gunfire, which could only be aimed roughly in the direction of the enemy, was so inaccurate as to be negligible. It was not thought possible to fly during darkness fast scout machines of sufficient climb and performance. Further- more, it must be remembered that a pilot in the air at night can only see another machine when he is close to it, and that the noise of his own engine deafens him to other sounds. At the time there was no way in which the pilot could receive information from the ground. For these reasons it seemed difficult to find any means on which to base plans of defence against night aeroplane raiding. The first group of night attacks came in the beginning of Sept. 1917, and one of these reached London itself. The raid on Sept. 2 was a quick affair at Dover and of little importance. On the following night, Sept. 3-4, about 10:30, hostile aeroplanes were reported near the North Foreland, and warnings were sent out by the central control a few minutes later when it was clear that they were coming up the Thames. Unfortunately there was serious telephone delay in getting the warning out at Chat- ham, and before cover could be taken a bomb had fallen on a drill hall in which a large number of naval ratings were asleep. No fewer than 130 were killed and 88 wounded. Although on this night the defence was ineffective, certain points emerged which gave hope for the future. Three stout- hearted pilots went up in Camels, fast scout machines, and found that it was by no means impossible to handle them at night. In fact, being small and light, they were even easier to land than heavier machines, which would run on longer on the ground. The idea also was evolved of barrage fire, a curtain of bursting shell to be put up in the path of the raiders. The last raid of this moon period, on Sept. 4, reached London. The attacking machines, between 20 and 30 in number, began to come up to the coast soon after 10 P.M. While isolated attacks were made on Dover and Margate the majority of the raiders made for London. The barrage fire, organized since the previous night, turned some of the pilots, but 10 raiders reached the met- ropolitan area, and bombs were dropped in widely separated localities. The City, Paddington, Stratford, Hornsey, Holloway and Regent's Park, all suffered. One bomb narrowly missed Cleopatra's Needle. Considering the magnitude of the raid, the damage caused was small, and the total casualties for the night included only nine killed. Favourable weather and good moon conditions at the end of Sept. and beginning of Oct. 1917 produced a sustained series of raids, opening on the night of Sept. 24th with an attack on London by aeroplanes, in conjunction with an airship raid on Hull and the north. The first aeroplanes were reported approaching Kent as early as 7 P.M., and by 8:10 P.M. some 21 machines in seven groups had come over the coasts of K,ent, Essex and Suffolk. Dover was heavily attacked, the gas-works were hit and several houses were damaged. Nine at least of the pilots attempted to attack London itself, but considerable improvement had by this time been effected in putting up barrage fire, which was success- ful in turning back all but three of the attackers. Of these three, one dropped bombs about Deptford and Poplar, doing but little damage; the other two passed right over London from north to south. A bomb dropped in Southampton Row killed 13 people who had not taken proper cover; others fell near the Ritz Hotel and into the river opposite the Houses of Parliament. Although 27 English machines went up they failed to find any of the enemy; the gunfire brought down one of the Gothas, which fell in the river near Sheerness. The attack on the north was carried out by 10 airships under Capt. Strasser. After concentrating off Flamborough Head six of them came over land. Although Hull was found, the raid had very little success. This was partly owing to the cloudy