According to German reports a Gotha dropped the 1st ever German bombs on the United Kingdom just short of 3 months after hostilities commenced. It was the 26th of October 1914 and the aircraft was a 100hp bird shaped Taube monoplane built by Gothaer Waggonfabrik, the bombs dropped harmlessly on Dover and, as the event went completely unnoticed by the British, no one was harmed. But the next significant bombing raid on the UK by Gotha aircraft would cause considerable loss of life, widespread panic, disruption to the British war effort and an effect on moral out of all proportion to their actual military effectiveness. This time it was the 25th of May 1917 and the bombs were delivered by twenty three 520hp Gotha G.IV bombers of Kagohl 3, purpose built for attacking mainland Great Britain and capable of carrying a 600kg bomb load (although most carried just 300kg on this raid).
The Gotha G.IV (Grossflugzeug type 4) was part of a progressive development of bombers built by Gothaer Waggonfabrik which started with the G.II in late 1915. The G.II fuselage was of a conventional wooden frame construction with a linen covered rear portion but plywood skinned from the pilot’s seat forward. The wings were conventionally constructed from wooden spars and ribs and completely covered in linen. Ailerons were located on the upper wings only and were, along with the entire tailplane, constructed from welded steel tubes and covered with linen. Power was supplied by 2 Daimler-Mercedes D.IV 8 cylinder in-line engines delivering 220hp each. The prototype made it maiden flight in March of 1916 and after several improvements went into limited production the following month with a total of just 10 aircraft built. In October 1916 the improved G.III started to appear which featured improved Daimler-Mercedes D.IVa 6 cylinder engines delivering 260hp each and a small opening in the lower rear fuselage for a downwards firing machine gun. A total of 25 Gotha G.III were produced which had all been retired from front line service by September 1917.
Several design features introduced with the G.IV made it eminently suitable to replace the cumbersome and staggeringly expensive Zeppelin as the weapon of choice for bringing the war to the British homeland. The G.IV fuselage was now completely skinned in plywood with a ‘gun tunnel’ built into it for improved underside protection and the bottom of the nose area was angled downwards to blend more aerodynamically with the leading edge of the lower wing. Ailerons were added to the lower wings very early in production to improve maneuverability, possibly after just the 2nd aircraft manufactured (402/16). An initial order of 52 G.IVs to be manufactured by Gotha (Gothaer Waggonfabrik) was supplemented by orders for 100 to be built by LVG (Luft-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft) and 80 by SSW (Siemens-Schuckert-Werke). A total of 232 Gotha G.IV were built, although their number in front line service never exceeded the peak of 36 achieved in June 1917. By the end of 1917 they were being replaced by the improved G.V model which started to arrive in August that year. Any history of this aircraft here is of necessity very brief so we encourage you to seek out any, or all, of the references listed below for a more thorough understanding of this important aircraft.