First Full-Scale British Air-raid

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History on 17th October

First Full-Scale British Air-raid

The 17th of October 1917 AD

Germany had used Zeppelin airships to attack mainland Britain since 1915, the first such raid on Great Yarmouth on January 19 that year causing two deaths, but leading to great unease in the civilian population. London was first raided by Zeppelins on May 31 1915 , with five killed but far greater panic caused, and such raids continued until a deadlier threat was developed by the Germans: the Gotha bomber. On May 23 1917 in a trial raid 21 of the huge machines (triple-engined, their wingspan nearly 80 feet) bombed Folkestone , killing 95 but having a far more significant effect on British morale. On June 13 1917 14 of the same aircraft bombed London, the start of a month long campaign. Britain had to retaliate to placate the outraged public.
Two solo planes – Sopwith Tabloids - were used on October 8 1917 to attack targets in Cologne and Dusseldorf. But the first mass air-raid on Germany by the Royal Naval Air Service (the RAF only being formed on April 1 1918 ) came on October 17 1917: a wing of the force had been dedicated to the task of bombing at the start of that month; this included 55 Squadron, whose Airco DH.4 two-seater biplanes were able to carry a bomb-load of up to 460lb, in the form of two 230lb devices or four of 112lb each. Eleven of the DH.4s were used in a daylight raid to hit a factory in Saarbrucken, the British command still seemingly unwilling to follow the German lead and deliberately attack wholly civilian targets.

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