First Aircraft Bombs to be dropped on Britain

They seemed to drop slowly, a little like the parachutes with which we were to become familiar later, but in a fairly straight line. They almost floated, certainly slowly enough for us children to watch them from our ‘grandstand’ of The Long Bridge at Faversham, that mid-day of April 16 1915.

Myra Higgins, the girl next door in Preston Avenue, and I were on our way home from the
Mixed Infants’ Department of the District Schools, Orchard Place, for dinner, so we’d have been on the bridge by about 12.15. It was a mile and a quarter’s walk from school, and we did it from the age of four.

The sight of a single aeroplane was interesting, for they were still new and rare, but we felt no reason to be afraid, although we’d already learned that the strange cigar-shaped Zeppelins were dangerous. When things began to fall from the ‘plane’ it was even more interesting, and we stopped and put our heads through the ironwork for a better view.

Then our anti-aircraft guns began to fire, and we thought better of it, hurrying home into the welcoming arms of anxious mothers who talked about the dangers from falling shrapnel. This was a hazard in the area. Faversham, with its gunpowder works, shipbuilding and busy railway junction was surrounded by guns. There was a big one at the top of our road and it had already been in action at night, when it was said there had been a Zeppelin flying around, and the sky was criss-crossed with searchlights.

The plane flew over the Isle of Sheppey, Milton, Sittingbourne and Faversham, dropping bombs at Grovehurst, Borden, Gore Park and Sittingbourne as well as Faversham itself, here they dropped on the Mount Cricket ground, just west of the railway station; the Ashford Road; in Mr. Ratcliff’s market garden at Preston village, near my home; among fruit trees at Macknade Farm; and in the Colkins hop gardens, where fencing and some hop poles were set alight. That small fire was the only reported damage. The metal-cased bombs, which made craters three to four feet wide, seem to have been what we now call ‘incendiaries.’

A dead bird was afterwards found in the area and its picture put into a souvenir postcard as The Only Victim’ of this first air-raid. The card was sold by Faversham stationers Voile and Robertson, of Preston Street. On my copy of an illustration of parts of one of the bombs which was found, taken by local photographer W. Hargrave, someone has written ‘First Bombs on England 1915. April 16.’

For most of my life I thought that was the case, and that we had, in fact, seen the first bombs ever dropped on this country. Recently, however, I did some research and found that there had been earlier bombs dropped on this country, but released from Zeppelins, the earliest form of air-raiders over here. The first was over Norfolk on January 19 1915, followed by raids over the Tyne and Southend. London wasn’t bombed until May of that year.

Aircraft soon replaced Zeppelins, and the bombs which we saw from Faversham Long Bridge on April 16 1915 may well have been the first dropped on this country from an aeroplane. Just a few light bombs, floating down from a single aircraft in daylight, observed by two-five year olds – but how ominous for the future.

The Rev. Sydney Clark