Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin


The recent visit of the Uhrwerk-Ozean (Clockwork Ocean) Zeppelin in Berlin – which we announced on this blog three days ago with enough enthusiasm to keep the machine afloat in the air even if its envelope were to deflate – inspired a short search for the traces of many other zeppelins, or airships, which flew over Berlin in the old days. The most impressive find in the seemingly bottomless treasure trove that the internet proves to be is this short 1918 film, documenting a flight of an R Class Zeppelin (a “super-zeppelin”) over Germany´s capital in what most likely was August 1918.

R-Class Zeppelins were rigid airships (rigid means they had a frame supporting the envelope filled with gas lighter than air – non-rigid airships were basically giant inflated sacks) and thanks to their construction could fly at much higher altitudes than older class machines. That quality made them particularly difficult targets for the air-defence forces of the enemy. Combined with their awe-inspiring size of almost 200 metres in length and 23.9 metres in diameter, it earned them the name of “super-zeppelins“.

The front of the L35 zeppelin (image through Bundesarchiv )

The front of the L35 zeppelin (image through Bundesarchiv )

L35 was a marine airship built 1916 as LZ 80 – LZ stood for Luftschiff Zeppelin (airship built by the Zeppelin wharf). It was one of seventeen such machines constructed by the company for the Imperial German Navy (Marine) and the Imperial Army (Heer). L35 became part of the marine fleet and in December 1916 was transported along with several machines to Wainoden in preparation for the planned air-raid on Sankt Petersburg in Russia. The raid had to be cancelled due to the failure of one of its five Maybach engines as well as because of the extreme cold.

But the airship, built after all as a bomber, was soon deployed again: it was part of the fleet sent to England to run an air-raid on London on the night of March 16-17, 1917. Unexpected high winds as well as low clouds which seriously disturbed communication between the machines heading for Britain´s capital that night, prevented it from reaching that target, too.

Section of the L35 made by Mr Max Pinucci

Section of the L35 made by Mr Max Pinucci

Still, by 1917 L35 took part of five bombing raids, dropping 4,284 kg it carried in its bomb compartments, and performed fourteen reconnaissance flights over the North and the Baltic Seas. It was withdrawn from operations in September 1917 and turned into an experimental airship.

These experiments were of course int he service of war, not science: in the autumn of 1917 L35 carried several torpedo gliders (small planes carrying torpedoes) which were then released from underneath the airship near Jüteborg south of Berlin. The gliders came from the Siemens-Schuckert factory in Berlin-Johannisthal. The idea behind the scheme was to protect the airships against the the British seaplane patrols: hit by missiles, the zeppelins tended to explode immediately. The small gliders´s task was, among others, to attack before the other side could hit the zeppelin.

The crew of L35 in the Bundesarchiv film material from 1918

The crew of L35 in the Bundesarchiv film material from 1918

L35´s last flight was on August 2, 1918 when it carried a 1-tonne heavy biplane glider Albatros D III, also built in Johannisthal by the Albatros Company established there in 1909. It brought the glider to the altitude of 1,500 metres and released it over the Havel River. “The test was a success” (“The V2 and the German, Russian and American Rocket Program” by Claus Reuter).

The film below was made on board of L35 during a what feels like a leisurely flight over Berlin, capturing its most picturesque and famous sights. What starts at (most probably) its shed at the airfield in Staaken, near Berlin, will take you over the Lustgarten, Berlin´s City Palace, Gendarmenmarkt, Postdamer Platz, Nikolaikirche and many, many other – often long-gone – Berlin locations. During the flight you will find yourself inside the steering gondola with the airship´s commander, Hans Flemming, and will have a unique chance to see the world from the zeppelin´s perspective. What better way to spend your Sunday evening in 2016…

Click the image below to enter and Enjoy it!

Capture from L35 film 1918

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