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Remembered Today:

L32 Raid approx 2-3 September 1916


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Hi all,

Just wondering if anyone has any more info (more than on the net) about L32's raid on this night.

I work in Swanley and I heard it dropped bombs around here and would really like to know where the bombs fell.

I've asked the local heritage centre and they have no idea.

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Hi all,

Just wondering if anyone has any more info (more than on the net) about L32's raid on this night.

Welcome to the Forum,

Here is an account which includes L32's raid on Swanley :-

" On July 28–29 the first 'Super Zeppelin', the 650 ft M-class L.31, appeared in English skies. Powered by six engines and capable of operating at 13000 ft (3,962.4 m), (with another 5000 ft (1,524 m) to its maximum ceiling), while carrying up to four tonnes of bombs. Part of a ten-Zeppelin raid that achieved very little, four returned home early and the rest wandered over a fog-shrouded landscape before giving up. Adverse weather dispersed the next raid on July 30–31 and again on August 2–3. On August 8–9 two M-class Zeppelins were part of a nine craft raid that did much damage to Hull.

The sixth successful London raid was on August 24–25, thirteen Navy Zeppelins were launched and Heinrich Mathy's L.31 reached London, flying above low cloud, thirty-six bombs were dropped in ten minutes on West Ferry Road, Deptford Dry Dock, the station at Norway Street and homes in Greenwich, Eltham and Plumstead.

9 people were killed, 40 injured and £130,000 of damage was caused. L.31 suffered no damage in the attack but several weeks of repair-work was needed following a rough landing.

The biggest raid so far was launched on September 2–3, twelve Navy craft and four rigid airships from the Army took part. A combination of rain and snowstorms scattered the craft while they were still over the North Sea. None of the Naval craft reached London. Only the Army's LZ.98 and the newly commissioned Schütte-Lanz.

Schütte-Lanz is the name of a series of rigid airships designed and built by the Luftschiffbau Schütte-Lanz company from 1909 until the last LS22 was delivered in 1917.

SL.11 achieved their objective. SL.11 came in over Foulness with the intention of looping around and attacking the capital from the north-west. The craft dropped a few bombs over London Colney and South Mimms.

At about 01:50 it was picked up by a searchlight over Hornsey and subjected to an intense but ineffective barrage. Sl.11 was lost in cloud over Wood Green but rediscovered by the searchlights at Waltham Abbey.

At around 02:15 one of the three aircraft in the sky that night finally came into range – a BE2c piloted by Lt. William Leefe Robinson flying from Suttons Farm. Robinson fired three drums of ammunition from his Lewis gun, one on each of three passes. After emptying the third drum the airship began burning from the stern and was quickly enveloped in flames. It fell to the ground near Cuffley. There were no survivors.

Four Naval Zeppelins which had regrouped over Hertfordshire saw the fate of SL.11 and quietly slipped away.

For the first rigid airship downed on British soil and the first 'night fighter' victory Leefe Robinson received the Victoria Cross. The pieces of SL.11 were gathered up and sold by the Red Cross to raise money for wounded soldiers.

The loss of SL.11 ended the Army's interest in raids on Britain. The Navy remained aggressive and a twelve Zeppelin raid was launched on September 23–24, eight older craft bombing targets in the Midlands and four M-class Zeppelins (L.30, L.31, L.32, and L.33) attacking London. L.30 did not even cross the coast, dropping its bombs at sea.

L.31 approached London from the south, dropped a few bombs on Kenley and Mitcham, and was picked up by a number of searchlights. Forty-one devices were then dropped in rapid succession over Streatham, killing 7 and wounding 27. More bombs were dropped on Brixton before crossing the river and dropping ten bombs on Leyton, killing another 8 people and injuring 30. L.31 then headed home.

Also coming in from the south was L.32, running late due to engine problems, it dropped a few bombs on Sevenoaks, and Swanley before crossing Purfleet at about 01:00. The Zeppelin then came under anti-aircraft fire as it dropped bombs on Aveley and South Ockendon.

Shortly thereafter, at 01:10, a BE2c piloted by 2nd Lieutenant Frederick Sowrey engaged L.32. He fired three drums of incendiaries and succeeded in starting a blaze which quickly covered the entire craft. The Zeppelin crashed to earth at Snail's Hall Farm, Great Burstead.

The entire crew was killed, with some, including the commander Oberleutnant-zur-See Werner Peterson, chosing to jump rather than burn.

The crew of L.32 were buried at Cannock Chase, and consisted of :-

Werner PETERSON Oberleutnant Zur See

Adolf BLEY Obersignalmaat

Albin BOCKSCH Obermaschinistmaat

Karl BORTSCHELLER Funkentelegrafieobermaat

Wilhelm BROCKHAUS Oberheizer

Karl BRODRUCK Leutnant Zur See

Paul DORFMULLER Maschinistenmaat

Richard FANKHANEL Obermaschinistenmaat

Georg HAGEDORN Obermaschinistenmaat

Friedrich HEIDER Oberbootsmannsmaat

Robert KLISCH Funkentelegrafieobergast

Herman MAEGDLFRAU Obermaschinistenmaat

Bernhard MOHR Obersegelmachersgast

August MULLER Matrose

Friedrich PASCHE Bootsmannsmaat

Karl PAUST Obermaschinistenmaat

Ewald PICARD Obersignalmaat

Walter PRUSS Maschinistenmaat

Paul SCHIERING Obermatrose

Bernhard SCHREIBMULLER Steuermann

Karl VOLKER Obermaschinistenmaat

Alfred ZOPEL Oberbootsmannsmaat


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For the attack on, and the downing of the German Zeppelin L32, Second Lieutenant Frederick Sowrey received the Distinguished Service Order ( DSO ). He later received the Military Cross, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Frederick Sowrey was one of three sons of John Sowrey, Deputy Chief Inspector of Inland Revenue. Young Frederick was home schooled until he was thirteen. He then won a scholarship to King's College School, Wimbledon. He earned a BS degree there, and was completing his graduate study when World War I began. He immediately volunteered for military service; on 31 August 1914 he was appointed as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers. He went to France as an infantry officer, and was wounded at the Battle of Loos in 1915. After three months in hospital, he was invalided out, turned around, and joined the Royal Flying Corps in December 1915.

He was posted to 39 Squadron on 17 June 1916; he was duly appointed a Flying Officer. It was during this assignment that he scored his first and most notable victory. On the evening of 23 September 1916, Second Lieutenant Sowrey launched from Sutton Farm at 2330 hours in a Royal Aircraft Factory BE.2c to patrol toward Joyce Green. Flying at 13,000 feet, he spotted Zeppelin L32 at about 0110 hours and closed with it. He fired three drums of incendiary ammunition into the belly of the gasbag before it exploded into flame. There were no survivors from the aircrew; most of the bodies recovered were charred and burned. The burning wreckage at Billericay drew enormous crowds.

Sowrey received the Distinguished Service Order for his feat, which was gazetted on 4 October 1916. That same day, Temporary Second Lieutenant Sowrey was nominated for a regular commission in the Fusiliers. Shortly thereafter, on 1 December 1916, he was appointed a Flight Commander with the accompanying rank of Temporary Captain. Sometime in late 1916, he transferred to 37 Home Defence Squadron.

Sowrey went on liaison duty to France, and while there transferred to 19 Squadron on 14 June 1917 and resumed his success in combat. In the four months between 17 June and 15 October 1917, he scored a dozen times, both by himself and teamed with aces Alexander Pentland, John Candy, and Richard Alexander Hewat, as well as three other pilots. His final summary for the twelve victories other than the L32 tallied six enemy airplanes destroyed and six driven down out of control.

On 1 January 1918, Sowrey was promoted from Flight Commander to Squadron Leader; He assumed command of 143 Squadron until war's end.


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L32's Commander - Oberleutnant Werner Peterson, and the grave of the L32's crew at Cannock Chase.



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Thank you for all that info! Superb stuff!

There was another report specifically regarding any damage in Swanley, which appeared to be very light.

" As Peterson approached Swanley, a searchlight illuminated his ship and to distract the light, he dropped 7 explosive bombs which only succeeded in smashing a number of windows. "


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More photographs of the two brave airmen, 2nd. Lt. Frederick Sowery and Oberleutnant Werner Peterson.



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Photograph of troops at the site of impact from one of the dead crew members of L32 falling to the ground from the burning Zeppelin.


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Here 2 photos published in French Magazine "La Guerre aerienne illustrée" in 1917

about Zeppelins Killers

Lieutenants Robinson and Sowrey


Lieutenant Brandon


Tueurs de Zeppelins (Zeppelins Killers)




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