Zeppelin

British First World War poster of a Zeppelin above London at night

A Zeppelin was a type of rigid airship named after the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin who pioneered rigid airship development at the beginning of the 20th century. Zeppelin's notions were first formulated in 1874 and developed in detail in 1893. They were patented in Germany in 1895 and in the United States in 1899. After the outstanding success of the Zeppelin design, the word zeppelin came to be commonly used to refer to all rigid airships. Zeppelins were first flown commercially in 1910 by Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-AG (DELAG), the world's first airline in revenue service. By mid-1914, DELAG had carried over 10,000 fare-paying passengers on over 1,500 flights. During the First World War the German military made extensive use of Zeppelins as bombers and scouts, killing over 500 people in bombing raids in Britain. The defeat of Germany in 1918 temporarily slowed down the airship business. Although DELAG established a scheduled daily service between Berlin, Munich, and Friedrichshafen in 1919, the airships built for this service eventually had to be surrendered under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which also prohibited Germany from building large airships.

At the beginning of the conflict the German command had high hopes for the airships, which were considerably more capable than contemporary light fixed-wing machines: they were almost as fast, could carry multiple machine guns, and had enormously greater bomb-load range and endurance. Contrary to expectation, it was not easy to ignite the hydrogen using standard bullets and shrapnel. The Allies only started to exploit the Zeppelin's great vulnerability to fire when a combination of explosive and incendiary ammunition was introduced during 1916. The British had been concerned over the threat posed by Zeppelins since 1909, and attacked the Zeppelin bases early in the war. LZ 25 was destroyed in its hangar at Düsseldorf on 8 October 1914 by bombs dropped by Flight Lieut. Reginald Marix, RNAS, and the sheds at Cologne as well as the Zeppelin works in Friedrichshafen were also attacked. These raids were followed by the Cuxhaven Raid on Christmas Day 1914, one of the first operations carried out by ship-launched aeroplanes.

Airship raids on Great Britain were approved by the Kaiser on 7 January 1915, although he excluded London as a target and further demanded that no attacks be made on historic buildings. The raids were intended to target only military sites on the east coast and around the Thames estuary, but bombing accuracy was poor owing to the height at which the airships flew and navigation was problematic. The airships relied largely on dead reckoning, supplemented by a radio direction-finding system of limited accuracy. After blackouts became widespread, many bombs fell at random on uninhabited countryside.[1]

See also: Zepp.

Chronological events[edit]

Chronological events pertaining to Zeppelin airships.

See also[edit]

Glossary of terms and customs[edit]

This page forms part of our glossary of words and phrases of the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom of Great Britain during the Great War, which also includes: technicalities, trench slang, expressions in everyday use, nicknames, sobriquets, the titles and origins of British and Commonwealth Regiments, and warfare in general. Please feel free to help expand and improve this content.
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References / notes[edit]

This chronological event forms part of our "On this Day" project. We need your help to expand and improve upon this content.
Source: Lord Edward Gleichen (1918–1920). Chronology of the War. Volumes I, II & III. Constable & Company, London. (Copyright expired)

  1. Zeppelin. Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. Accessed 22 April, 2017.