Afrika-Zeppelin

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Adrian Roberts, Jan 13, 2009.

  1. Adrian Roberts Active Member

    Zeppelin L59, the Afrika-Zeppelin or Afrikaschiff, and her sister L57 were the largest Zeppelins to fly during the war, with a length of 741 feet (226m) - a Boeing 747 is about 220 feet long. L57 was destroyed in a storm on a test flight; L59 was rapidly converted to replace her.

    Her mission was to take supplies to the German East African forces of General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, in what is now Tanzania: he spent the entire war fighting a guerilla action against British and Belgian forces, and in the end was the only German general never to be defeated. This was at a time when flying from Germany to Britain on bombing missions was as far as any aircraft ever flew. L59 left Yambol in Bulgaria on 21st November 1917 carrying several tons of supplies (right now I can't find a record of exactly how much). She was intending to go on a one-way trip - on arrival she would be broken up, her aluminium structure would be used for building materials, her engines as generators, and her outer covering (which was cotton instead of the normal linen) for new uniforms.

    She was south of Khartoum when she received a fake radio message from a British agent saying that von Lettow-Vorbeck had surrendered, so she turned and flew all the way back to Yambol. Although the mission itself was a failure, she had flown over 4200 miles, and been airborne 95 hours, in greater extremes of temperature than any airship had experienced before.

    She remained at Yambol and flew reconnaissance missions over the Mediterranean, but on 7th April 1918 she caught fire, for unknown reasons, while attempting to bomb the Grand Harbour in Malta, and was lost with all hands

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