final WW1 raider Zeppelin which was handed over to the UK as
part of the war repatriations.
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
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
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
History : Work flights : 2
Scouting : 15
Raids : 1
Navy Flights : 24
Total Flights - 26
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 at Pulham
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
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.