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L64 - LZ 109 "V" Class Super Zeppelin

A final WW1 raider Zeppelin which was handed over to the UK as part of the war repatriations.

How the British obtained 2 of the finest War Zeppelins.

At the end of WW1 the Allied powers quickly decided to dismantle whatever was left of the German war machine. They required the Germans to surrender all remaining instruments of war, among which were 21 Zeppelins.

The Allies worked out a plan to divide these amongst themselves. After a careful survey, seven were declared obsolete and dismantled, seven destroyed by the German Crews, the rest divided up between the British, French Italian and Japanese Governments. Following the post war agreements on reparations, it was agreed that these would be handed over to the Allies and restrictions were put on the German Government on the construction of future airships.

Built
Staken 1918
Volume

1,997,360cft

Length
644 m
Diameter
78.5 m
Power
1225 hp
max speed
66 mph
Max height
20,000ft - Dynamic Ceiling

The L64 was built in 1918, and had it's first flight on 11th March 1918, and commissioned 2 days later. The ship was quickly put in to service and involved in a raid on the North of England on the evening of the 12th April 1918. The L64, along with the fleet consisting of L60, L61 L62 and the L63 raided the towns of Leeds, Grimsby and Hull. Some 6,600lbs of high explosive bombs were dropped. The ships returned safely after causing extensive damage. The ship was then involved in another raid on 2nd August 1918 but as the ship was crossing the English Channel, it was intercepted by British Naval Flying Boat and attacked. The ship was damaged by fire but survived and struggled back to base at Alhorn, Northern Germany. It was damaged upon landing as it landed "heavy" due to the loss of gas from the attack. The ship was put in to the shed and repairs undertaken. The repairs were completed and the ship then was brought out of the shed on 5th September. The L 64 was then required to participate in scouting missions in the run up to the long dark nights in further winter raids. However this was not to happen.

With the end of the war, the German crews were ordered back to their bases on 9th November 1918. The ground crews were segregated from their officers, and the ground crews then ordered to deflate their ships and leave them suspended from the roofs of the airship sheds, as was the normal procedures for large rigid airships. When the lifting gas was valved off the weight of the ships was taken by large slings in the forms of loops which suspended the craft from the roof, and thus preventing the ships control and engine gondola's being crushed under the weight of the framework above.

History : Work flights : 2
Scouting : 15
Raids : 1
Navy Flights : 24
Total Flights - 26
The crews who flew the Zeppelins remained loyal to their country in spite of defeat. At the same time their waterborne comrades were scuttling their vessels in Scarpa Flow, the crews stealthily entered the sheds at Nordholz and Wittmundhavn on 23rd June 1919, released the straps and allowed the ships to crash down on the hanger floors. Irreparable damage was done to them which prevented the craft being handed over to the Allies. At Alhorn air station, however no action was taken by the crews and the L-64 and L-71 remained intact.
It was then agreed that the British should receive the L-64 and L-71 as part of the German repatriations.It took more than 18 months from the end of the war in 1918 before the final agreement for the ships were handed over. The L64 was the first ship to be flown over to the UK and arrived at Pulham Airship Station on 22nd June 1920.

The ship was expertly flow in and landed by the German crews and it was remembered by local people watching this, that there was resentment seen by the German crews in handing over the ship. As the British Airship Programme had been put on "hold" since the end of the war, it was agreed to retain the ship in the hanger. It was never to fly again.

Final Days

Almost a year had past since the L 64 had landed in the UK, as on the 21st June 1921, the R36 was returning to Pulham after a local flight. Upon approaching the airfield, the R36 was snagged on her forward mooring cables and when Captain Scott overran the mooring tower. The strain was too much for the bow of the ship and the forward two gas bags deflated. As the ship was unmanageable with the loss of lift in the forward section, it was decided that the R36 must be put in to the shed. However the shed at Pulham was already full with the L64 and L71. It was suggested that the R36 be moved off to Howden but this was too dangerous a flight. She was lowered to the ground, and Captain Scott took the decision to sacrifice the two German ships. With the benefit of hindsight, both of the German ships were now some 3 years old and technology was moving on fast. Radical decisions to scrap ships had happened throughout the whole of the British Airship Programme due to costs and so it cannot be seen as quite so wasteful to get rid of these ships, which were now deemed obsolete considering the move to create more "commercial" ships.

However, Captain Scott had to get over the problem that the L64 refused to be moved from her berth in the shed. In desperation a cable was passed through the centre of the ship, and a tractor was hitched to one end of the cable. However when forward gear applied, the tractor was unable to move the ship. The Zeppelin remained immovable.

Stronger measures were therefore require and the Zeppelin was lowered to the shed floor, and the crew set about with axes and saws, cutting up the ship. Bits of the ship were dragged out, to make room for the R36 to be housed. At 2 am the following morning, thus ended the life of a "super" Zeppelin which had been built intended to bomb New York.

 

 

Related ships: L 71, R33, R34, R36

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