Spectacular air battle in skies over Thanet

On 22nd August 1917 Thanet witnessed one of the most spectacular air battles of the war above English soil. About a dozen planes in fan formation appeared from the direction of Ramsgate and the North Foreland at about half past ten in the morning. For nearly half an hour thousands of people watched the German planes struggling to escape from the trap into which they had blundered. A remorseless shrapnel barrage from the land guns greeted the invaders. A squadron of British planes was already up in the air ready to receive the unwelcome visitors and the smoke from the gunfire momentarily obscured the planes from sight.

When one of the raiders was seen to plunge towards the sea the cheer from Margate’s townsfolk nearly droned out the thunder of the guns. Another enemy plane came down in three pieces over Vincent’s Farm at Westgate. The charred bodies of three of the crew were found some distance from the engines. Every rag of clothing had been burnt away. Other crew members drowned in the sea but one man was rescued out of the sea by a Margate fisherman. The rest of the Gothas, their wings peppered with shot, disappeared in the direction of the Thames Estuary.

The German crew were buried next day in Margate Cemetery but were later removed to the German Military Cemetery in Cannock Chase in Staffordshire. In October 1917 relics from the wreckage of the Gotha bombers were sold by the Mayor by auction for war charities at Bobby’s in Margate High Street!!

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