Zeppelin Type W


While being built as a Zeppelin Typ V, the L59 (LZ 104) was hurriedly lengthened as the second Zeppelin Type W. This was to replace the L57 which had been chosen for a special mission in November 1917 and, as the LZ102, con-verted from a Typ V to the first Typ W before being damaged in a storm in October. L57 was intended to fly to German East Africa to aid General von Lettow-Vorbecks forces in the theatre by flying out a sizeable quantity of supplies; the vessel was thereafter to be used as a bomber. Together with the best men of his crew (the cream of each usually moved with the commander) Kapitän-leutnant Ludwig Bockholt from L57 took charge of L59 without delay, and such was the urgency of the mission that when a member of the crew was discovered to have sold a large part of the rations and made up the cases with the equivalent weight, there was no time to re-provision and the deficit had to be made up with emergency self-heating foods. Although crews for bombing missions were sometimes reduced to 15 to allow an enlarged offensive load, the full complement of 21 was carried when the vessel set out in November. However, the airship was forced to turn back twice, on the second occasion as a result of damage caused by rifle fire from Turkish railway guards, so that a 32-hour return journey resulted in the next attempt being delayed until suitable weather on 20 November. In point of fact a large portion of von Lettow-Vorbecks forces had been forced to surrender on the same day, the commander escaping with a small party to continue the fight after captur-ing Portuguese supplies, but the recall by radio failed to be picked up in L59. Instead course was set across the Libyan desert where the heat made the vessel difficult to control after gas had been lost through the automatic valves; soon after this one engine began to give trouble. The vessel was beyond the Nile when one of the recall signals was finally heard and the long return trip began. The tropically-kitted crewmen were by now not only exhausted but suffering from the cold at the height where the flight was taking place, but the finaf leg of the journey was successfully completed and rightly hailed as a triumph by the German Naval Airship Service, which was still regarded as experimental with the officers and men undergoing ‘on the ]job’ training. The problem remained what to do with the vessel and after a lengthy discussion it was decided to rebuild her for attacks against targets in the Middle East and Italy, and for these she was back at Jamboli (from which the African trips had begun) in February 1918. It was flying from here on 7 April 1918 that L59 mysteriously blew up not far from the heel of Italy.

L59 (Zeppelin LZ104)
Type: strategic bomber and patrol airship
Powerplant: five l79-kW (240-hp) Maybach HSLu six-cylinder water-cooled piston
Maximum speed 108 km/h (67 mph)
Service ceiling 8200 m (26,903 ft)
Range 8000 km (4,971 miles) Empty weight 27625 kg (60,903 lb)
Useful lift 52100 kg (114,861 lb)
Diameter 23.95 m (78 ft 6.9 in)
Length 226.50 m (743 ft 1.3 in)
Volume 68500 cu.m (2,419,059 cu ft)
Armament: provision for up to 107.92-mm (0.312-in) Maxim machine-guns above hull, plus bombs