Conceived from the outset with an alternative construction to rival the metal Zeppelins, the SLs with their rigid ply framework were claimed to be lighter and more flexible than met-al-framed airships, and most of those in German military service were oper-ated by the army.
The Navy, responsi-ble for most of the raids against the British Isles, rightly claimed that wooden vessels were incapable of lift-ing a sufficiently large bomb load as their weight would be increased by moisture absorbed while crossing the sea.
Wire-braced wooden structures had been used by the Schütte-Lanz company since the design stages of their initial SL 1 that had first flown on 17 October 1911.
SL 11 was accepted by the army in June 1916, and after trials was sent to its operational base at Spich in August. Armament was two 7.92-mm (0.312-in) Parabellum machine-guns on free mountings in single gun position above forward hull, plus bombs. At the end of the month its initial oper-ational sortie proved abortive because of the weather. The attack at the beginning of September was its first and last, such a brief career resulting in the airship having only one com-mander, Hauptmann Wilhelm Schramm, who had gained experience in charge of three earlier rigids, all of Zeppelin design.
On the night of the SLll’s destruction, when Schramm died with all his crew, both incendiary and explosive bombs were dropped. The airship’s chief claim to fame lies in that it was the first enemy aircraft of any kind to be brought down on British soil. SL11 was brought down by William Leefe Robinson on the night of 3 September 1916. In recog-nition Robinson was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Type: bombing airship
Engines: four l79-kW (240-hp) Maybach HSLu six-cylinder water-cooled piston
Maximum speed 95 kph (59 mph)
Service ceiling 5400 m (17,717 ft)
Range 3700 km (2,299 miles)
Useful lift 21500 kg (47,399 lb)
Diameter 20.09 m (65 ft 10.9 in)
Length 173.98 m (570 ft 9.6 in)
Volume 31900 cu.m (1,126,540 cu ft)
Armament: two 7.92-mm (0.312-in) Parabellum machine-guns