14 April 1915 the KDM [Kaiserliche Deutsche Marine] Zeppelin L-9 commanded by Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Mathy, was scouting over the North Sea, about 100 miles off Flamborough Head. There was no sign of any warships but with good weather and a load of ten (HE) bombs and 40 incendiaries, Mathy sought and received permission by wireless to launch a raid over the NE.
Below: A postcard artists impression of L-9 passing over Blyth. His interpretation of the tail assembly is based on imagination. Also the incident took place at night.
At 19:45 L-9 made landfall at Blyth. As she passed over Cambois, men of 1st Battalion Northern Cyclists took pot shots at her in the dark. She then dropped bombs on West Sleekburn. it was only the second time bombs had been dropped on England. L-9 now turned on a course over Choppington, Bedlington and Cramlington where a line of bombs marked her progress, all falling in open country. L-9 altered course for Wallsend.
Below: the track of L-9. Each black dot represents a bomb dropped. Source ‘War in the Air’
Another nine bombs fell on a line from Seaton Burn, Dudley, Annitsford, Killingworth, Forest Hall and Longbenton. Over Wallsend one bomb resulted in the only casualties of the night, injuring a woman and a child. The Zeppelin then turned southeast, bombed Hebburn and crossed the coast at Marsden (two more bombs dropped) before heading back out to sea.
The lighting restrictions in force in the area seem to have contributed to Mathy’s inability to make an effective attack. And the Tynemouth garrison was virtually impotent as the area had no anti-aircraft guns but shortly afterwards a 3-inch gun transferred there from Portsmouth. More followed. One aircraft took off from RNAS Whitley Bay but without any searchlights in the area, it proved fruitless.
Below: L-9 carried armament of sorts:
Below: photographs of the bomb crater at Bedlington were made into post cards
Mathy went on to be the most famous Zeppelin Commander of all. He was feted in the same way that fighter aces would be later on.
Mathy did not life to enjoy his new found fame. The zeppelins of Nordholz would return to bring terror to the streets of the North East but Heinrich Mathy did not come back. He died in October 1916 when his Zeppelin L-31 was shot down at Blackheath, London. Like many airmen Mathy chose to jump rather than burn and his falling body left the imprint below.
This was later published in the form of a postcard. War was hardening the British people
Sources: ‘The German Air Raids on Great Britain’ by J. Morris 1925
Raleigh and Jones. ‘The War in the Air: Being the story of the part played in the Great War by the Royal Air Force’, Oxford; 1922
‘Der Krieg zur See, 1914-1918 – Der Krieg in der Nordsee’, Groos, Mittler