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Artist's impression of the raid

The Cuxhaven Raid was a Britishmarker ship-based air-raid on the German naval forces at Cuxhaven mounted on Christmas Day, 1914.

Aircraft of the Royal Naval Air Service were carried to within striking distance by seaplane tenders of the Royal Navy, supported by both surface ships and submarines. The aircraft flew over the Cuxhaven area and dropped their bombs, causing damage to shore installations.

It was described at the time as an "air reconnaissance of the Heligoland Bight, including Cuxhavenmarker, Heligolandmarker and Wilhelmshavenmarker ... by naval seaplanes" during which "the opportunity was taken of attacking with bombs points of military importance" in northern Imperial Germanymarker.


The Zeppelin sheds in Cuxhaven were out of range of UK-based aircraft, so a plan was developed for three seaplane tenders (HMS Engadine, Riviera and Empress), supported by the Harwich Force, a group of cruisers, destroyers and submarines commanded by Commodore Reginald Yorke Tyrwhitt, to launch three seaplanes each from their station near Helgolandmarker in the German Bightmarker. The objective was to reconnoitre military installations in the area and, if possible, bomb the Zeppelin sheds at Cuxhaven. Lieutenant Erskine Childers RNVR, the yachtsman and author of Riddle of the Sands, who had sailed the area before the war, provided the navigational briefing and accompanied Flight Commander Cecil Francis Kilner as navigator and observer.


On Christmas Day, 1914, the first combined sea and air strike was executed by the Royal Navy, aimed at locating and if possible bombing the dirigible sheds housing German 'Zeppelin' airships, in a pre-emptive strike to prevent the airships from attacking the United Kingdom.The air temperature was just above 0°C and of the nine seaplanes lowered to the water, only seven (three 100 hp Mono-Gnome Short Improved Type 74 "Folder", two 160 hp Short Type 81 Folders and two further 'Folders', the 135 hp Short Type 135 and the 200 hp Short Type 135, all carrying three 20-pound bombs) were able to start their engines and take off. Those unable to take part, a Short Type 81 (serial no. 122) and a Short 'Improved Type 74' (serial no. 812), were winched back on board.

Fog, low cloud and anti-aircraft fire prevented the raid from being a complete success, although several sites were attacked. Nevertheless the raid demonstrated the feasibility of attack by ship-borne aircraft and showed the strategic importance of this new weapon. According to a telegram dated 7 January 1915, held in the "Churchill Archives Centre", at Churchill Collegemarker, Cambridgemarker, the "Admiralty Chief Censor intercepted message from Hartvig, Kjobenhaven to the Daily Mail, reporting that the British aerial raid on Cuxhaven [Germany] had forced the German Admiralty to remove the greater part of the High Seas Fleet from Cuxhaven to various places on the Kiel Canal."

It is worth noting that the crews of all seven aircraft survived the raid, having been airborne for over three hours. Three aircraft, a 100 hp Short 'Improved Type 74' (RNAS serial no. 811, flown by Flt. Lt. C. H. K. Edmonds)Flight Magazine Global Archive: The Short Seaplanes Part 2 by J.M.Bruce, a 160 hp Short Admiralty Type 81 (RNAS serial no. 119, Flt. Cdr. R. P. Ross), and a Short Admiralty Type 135 (RNAS serial no. 136, Flt. Cdr. C. F. Kilner with Lt. Erskine Childers as his observer), regained their tenders and were recovered; three others (one 'Admiralty Type 81', RNAS serial no. 120, Flt. Lt. A. J. Miley, and two 100 hp Short 'Improved Type 74' folders, RNAS serial nos. 814 (Flt. Sub-Lt. V. Gaskell-Blackburn) and 815 (Flt. Cdr. D. A. Oliver)) landed off the East Friesian island of Norderneymarker and their crews were taken on board the submarine E11, under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Martin Nasmith (the aircraft being scuttled to prevent them from falling into enemy hands); the seventh aircraft, a Short Admiralty Type 135 (RNAS serial no. 135) piloted by Flt. Lt. Francis E.T. Hewlett, suffered engine problems and was seen to ditch into the sea some 8 miles off Helgolandmarker. Hewlett was posted as missing, but he was found by the Dutch trawler Marta van Hattem, which took him on board and returned him to the port of Ymuidenmarker in Holland, where he disembarked on 2 January 1915Flight Magazine Global Archive: The Rescue of Flight Commander Hewlett from whence he made his way back to England.

Decorations ensuing from the action

For their part in the Cuxhaven Raid, Cecil Kilner and Flight Lieutenant Charles Humphrey Kingsman Edmonds, R.N. were awarded the DSO; Chief Petty Officer Mechanic James William Bell and Chief Petty Officer Mechanic Gilbert Howard William Budds were awarded the DSM.

See also


  1. London Gazette, 19 February, 1915, p. 1720
  2. Sources differ as to the identity of at least some of these aircraft; the record of Flt. Lt. Edmonds' career[1] reports him as flying a Type 74 with RNAS serial number '811'; however Barnes and James (Appendix F, p.527) assigns this serial number to a later type with folding wings, also with a 100 hp Gnome engine, known by the Admiralty as the "Short Improved Type 74" (bearing RNAS serial numbers 811-818) which were all assigned to the Engadine, Riviera and Empress. 811, 814 and 815 took part in the action. A further 'Improved Type 74' bearing the RNAS serial no. 812 was one of those which were unable to start their engines.
  3. "Admiralty telegrams - Home Waters"
  4. The Cuxhaven Raid, 1914
  5. Barnes and James, p. 98
  6. A Parisian Citizen's Journal of the 1914 War

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