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Avro 504s before Freidrickshaven raid ©Fleet Air Arm Museum

On this day 21 November 1914

Published: 21 Nov 2014

On this day 21 November 1914 First strategic air raid in history

Three RNAS Avro 504s from Belfort, France attack Zeppelin sheds at Friedrichshaven. The first strategic air raid in history. It was planned and prepared for in utmost secrecy and when the three pilots took off, none of them had ever dropped a bomb before and it was the maiden flight for their aircraft.

No. 873, was flown by Squadron Commander Edward Featherstone Briggs; No. 875, by Flight Commander John Babington, and No. 874, by Flight Lieutenant Sydney Sippe.

The three aircraft took off from Belfort on the 250-mile round trip which involved flying over the 3,500-foot mountains of the Black Forest. The lead Avro was shot down and its pilot, Squadron Commander Edward Briggs, became a prisoner-of-war. 

Minimal damage was caused at Friedrichshafen but the raid convinced the Germans to build another Zeppelin construction base at Potsdam, beyond the range of British aircraft. The three pilots were each awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the French Légion d’Honneur.


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