CHAPTER XIII. The Zeppelin and Gotha Raids
No less than six raids took place on London before the end of the month, but the greatest number of killed in any one of the raids was eleven, while on September 28 the raiders were driven off before they could claim any victims. The establishment of a close barrage of aerial guns did much to discourage the raiders, and gradually London, from being the most vulnerable spot in the British Isles, began to enjoy comparative immunity from attack.
Paris, too, during the Great War has had to suffer bombardment from the air, but not nearly to the same extent as London. The comparative immunity of Paris from air raids is due partly to the prompt measures which were taken to defend the capital. The French did not wait, as did the British, until the populace was goaded to the last point of exasperation, but quickly instituted the barrage system, in which we afterwards followed their lead. Moreover, the French were much more prompt in adopting retaliatory tactics. They hit back without having to wade through long moral and philosophical disquisitions upon the ethics of "reprisals". On the other hand, it must be remembered that Paris, from the aerial standpoint, is a much more difficult objective than London. The enemy airman has to cross the French lines, which, like his own, stretch for miles in the rear. Practically he is in hostile country all the time, and he has to get back across the same dangerous air zones. It is a far easier task to dodge a few sea-planes over the wide seas en route to London. And on reaching the coast the airman has to evade or fight scattered local defences, instead of penetrating the close barriers which confront him all the way to Paris.
Since the first Zeppelin attack on Paris on March 21, 1915, when two of the air-ships reached the suburbs, killing 23 persons and injuring 30, there have been many raids and attempted raids, but mostly by single machines. The first air raid in force upon the French capital took place on January 31, 1918, when a squadron of Gothas crossed the lines north of Compiegne. Two hospitals were hit, and the casualties from the raid amounted to 20 killed and 50 wounded.
After the Italian set-back in the winter of 1917, the Venetian plain lay open to aerial bombardment by the Germans, who had given substantial military aid to their Austrian allies. This was an opportunity not to be lost by Germany, and Venice and other towns of the plain were subject to systematic bombardment.
At the time of writing, Germany is beginning to suffer some of the annoyances she is so ready to inflict upon others. The recently constituted Air Ministry have just published figures relating to the air raids into Germany from December 1, 1917, to February 19, 1918 inclusive. During these eleven weeks no fewer than thirty-five raids have taken place upon a variety of towns, railways, works, and barracks. In the list figure such important towns as Mannheim (pop. 20,000) and Metz (pop. 100,000). The average weight of bombs dropped at each raid works out about 1000 lbs. This welcome official report is but one of many signs which point the way to the growing supremacy of the Allies in the air.