LZ 59s Return

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Reichskolonialamt
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LZ 59s Return

Post by Reichskolonialamt » 23 Nov 2005 10:11

In yesterdays german TV documentary was told, that Kapitänleutnant Bockholt turned his airship over the Sudan because of a "pessimistic" radio message of the german admirality ("Lettow had surrendered"). As far as I know, the cause was a false message from the british army (secret service?). After the war they proudly announced this succesful trick.
Does anyone got other informations?

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Post by Scarlett » 23 Nov 2005 12:05

The best contemporary sources are:

Wolfgang Meighörner-Schardt
Wegbereiter des Weltluftverkehrs wider Willen
Die Geschichte des Zeppelin-Luftschifftyps "w"
Friedrichshafen 1992

and

Douglas H. Robinson
The Zeppelin in combat
A History of the German Naval Airship Division
Atglen, PA 1994

Meighörner, director of the Zeppelin-Museum in Friedrichshafen, gives the details as follows:

On November 21, 1917 at 08.35 a.m. L 59 took off at Jamboli.
On November 23 at 12.45 a.m. the War Diary of L 59 records the following message by Admiralstab:
"Break off operation, return. Enemy has seized greater part of Makonde Highlands, already holds Kitangari,
Portuguese are attacking remainder of Schutztruppe from south."

The reason for this message is given as follows.
Reichskolonialamt regularly analyzed all British reports from the East-African campaign.
On October 2 and October 3 Reichskolonialamt gave British reports to the Admiralstab
and recommended that situation with regard to the flight had not changed significantly,
as in spite of the enemy advance still an area sufficiently large for the landing of L 59 was available.
About October 10 the situation had deteriorated as the area controlled by the Schutztruppe
shrank more and more.
On November 22 Reichkolonialamt wrote to Reichs-Marine-Amt, that they had got British reports of
November 18. After analyzing these reports Reichskolonialamt had concluded, that
a safe and secure landing of L 59 in an area controlled by Schutztruppe was impossible.
Reichskolonialamt could no longer be responsible for the operation.
Therefore Reichskolonialamt had agreed with Admiralstab, that the flight should be
abandoned. The same day Admiralstab sent a memorandum to Reichs-Marine-Amt stating,
that L 59 had taken off before receiving the message from Admiralstab, that the project
had been abandoned. "Admiralstab is trying to call the ship back by wireless."
The chief of Admiralstab, von Holtzendorff, had ordered the airship-station Jamboli to call L 59 back.
After some hours Jamboli reported:" L 59 can no longer be reached from here,
request she be recalled from Nauen."
The powerful station at Nauen called up the ship several times, but due to a thnderstorm, which L 59 was passing,
the antennas had been retracted and she could not receive messages. So the repeated message
was received not before the ship was near Khartoum.

The decision to call the ship back was realistic and neccessary. Lettow-Vorbeck even doubted.
that Bockholt could have found him on arrival. On November 25 the remainder of the Schutztruppe
crossed the Rovuma and in Mocambique on the first two days found more supplies than they would have got from L 59.

The very efficient British Naval Intelligence Unit nevertheless was, despite most stringent secrecy, fully aware
of the mission. British forces in East-Africa had been advised, that an airship might arrive about November 20, and airplanes
were standing by to attack her.
But that the British Intelligence caused the recall by wrong reports about the situation or even
called the ship back is a legend, formerly far distributed, but a legend still.

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Post by Reichskolonialamt » 23 Nov 2005 14:01

Dear Scarlett, you just killed an "urban legend" in my mind ;-)
Amazing news. Thanks a lot.

German TV isn´t as bad as I thought....

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Post by Scarlett » 23 Nov 2005 17:17

Thank you for the flowers, Reichskolonialamt.

By the way, it was not LZ 59, which was the Navy Ship L 20.
This ship on May 3, 1916 made a forced landing in Norway after a raid on England.

The Africa Ship was the Navy Ship L 59, which was LZ 104

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Post by Chris Dale » 23 Nov 2005 21:34

Hi Scarlett,
Like Reichskolonialamt, I was under the impression it was trick of the British Secret Service. Thank you for putting that right for me.
Cheers
Chris

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Post by Scarlett » 24 Nov 2005 18:13

The sources for the report of Wolfgang Meighörner about the recall of L 59
are the following documents in the archive of Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH In Friedrichshafen:
Akte Afrikafahrt L 59 No 1-62 sig. LZA 04/497
> Report Reichskolonialamt to Admiralstab October 2, 1917 --> LZA 04/497 No 23 1917-10-02
including British reports on situation in East-Africa
> Analysis by Reichskolonialamt and recommandation to Reichs-Marineamt October 2, 1917--> LZA 04/497 No 23 1917-10-02
Landing north of Liwale to be foreseen. Copy to commander airship.
> Report Reichskolonialamt to Admiralstab October 6 1917 --> LZA 04/497 No 25 1917-10-06
including new British reports
> Analysis and recommandation to Reichs-Marine-Amt --> LZA 04/497 No 25 1917-10-06
Situation not much changed. Landing north of Liwale still posssible. Copy to commander airship.
> Report Reichskolonialamt to Admiralstab October 11, 1917 --> LZA 04/497 No 28 1917-10-11
including detailed French report on situation
> Analysis and recommandation to Admiralstab October 11, 1917 --> LZA 04/497 No 28 1917-10-11
Situation of Schutztruppe worse. Still possibility of new resistance south or south-east of Mahenge
to keep free a landing-site north of Liwale. Recommandation to continue preparations and wait for
new reports. Copy to commander airship.
> Report Reichskolonialamt to Admiralstab October 22, 1917 --> LZA 94/497 No 44 1917-10-22
New reports on situation as of October 18, 1917.
> Analysis and report to Reichs-Marine-Amt October 22, 1917 --> LZA 94/497 No 44 1917-10-22
Due to worse situation on the battle-field it was agreed with Admiralstab to abandon project.
Further notice will be given what has to happen with the cargo.
> Notice of Admiralstab to Reichs-Marine-Amt October 22, 1917 --> LZA 94/497 No 44 1917-10-22
Before receiving the message from Admiralstab to L 59 about the abandoning of the project
L 59 has taken off. Admiralstab is trying to call her back by wireless.

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Post by Chris Dale » 24 Nov 2005 20:37

Thank you Scarlett again for clearing up the mystery and listing your sources.
Cheers
Chris

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Post by Scarlett » 25 Nov 2005 12:51

From some reactions I got I gather, that it seems to be very difficult for some people to
accept the real facts around the flight of L 59. Hearsay, fiction and fantasy seem to be so much more
absorbing and believable.

So I add some more details.

The version, that the recall-message was sent by British Intelligence was created by the books
Rolf Marben - Ritter der Luft - Zeppelinabenteuer im Weltkrieg - Hamburg 1931
Horst Freiherr Treusch Buttlar von Brandenfels - Zeppeline gegen England - Leipzig 1931
Both were members of the Naval Airship Division, Buttlar even commander of 5 naval airships.
They were not involved in the project, which in Germany was kept secret, until in 1919
the public was informed by an advertisement of the engine-manufacturer for L 59
Maybach Motorenbau GmbH in Friedrichshafen.

The other view, that Reichskolonialamt and Admiralstab were hoodwinked by Admiral
Sir Reginald Hall, Chief of British Naval Intelligence, is taken by a lot of secondary
sources, as far as I see beginning with
Georg Paul Neumann - Die deutschen Luftstreitkräfte im Weltkrieg - Berlin 1920.
After him Beyer-Lehmann, Schmalenbach, Toland and Sinclair among others repeated the version
during the decades. I can't see, that anyone of the authors is basing his statement
on the original sources, the archives of the German Naval Staff.

Douglas Robinson in his excellent book on the history of the German Naval Airship Division bases
on the "Tambach archives", which are in joint custody of the British Admiralty and the US Navy
Department. and include the war diaries of all naval airships and a vast quantity of correspondence
with regard to the airships in the files of the German Admiralty, the Naval Staff and other departments
like the Reichskolonialamt. The archives were captured by British and American forces in 1945.

Meighörner is basing on the archives of Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH in Friedrichshafen.
This company in connection with Admiralstab even before the approval of the project,
the "China Matter" as it was called, by the Kaiser on October 4, 1917, had modified the first ship
for the task, L 57, which was crashed by Kapitänleutnant Bockholt carelessly on October 7, 1917.
(You have to keep in mind, that there was a lot of discussion about who should command the Africa-ship.
It seemed to be certain, that he would not come back, so Peter Strasser, the Fuehrer der Luftschiffe,
denied giving the command to one of his experienced North-Sea-commanders. He chose Bockholt as commander,
because regarded him "a fine airship commander and a skilful officer, but he has not enough
experience of the capabilities of airships", that is, one he would not miss.)
After the desaster with L 57 the company already on October 9 got the order to immediately modify L 59.
Due to the extremely narrow schedule during all the time of the project the Zeppelin company got copies of all correspondence
within the Navy and Reichskolonialamt with regard to the project to keep everybody involved on the
same level of information.
So this archive keeps all approriate primary sources.

Why so much speculation?
Well, for the British it is a nice thought to have hoodwinked the Germans.
And for the Germans?
It seems, that some people needed their special "Dolchstoßlegende" for the Naval Airships, stabbed in the back by
the perfidious enemy.

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Post by Utrecht » 10 Mar 2007 15:53

Like - obviously - many others I always thought the L59 returned to Europe after a false British message. Had never heard of this explanation. But, still it could be that a false Britsh radio message was the course of the order for the L59 to return!!

The British were aware of the attempt of resupplying the Schutztruppe by using a zeppelin. The British also knew the Germans were analyzing their radio traffic. They send out the message about 'von Lettows surrender' with the intention that the Reichskolonialamt received this false news and would as a consequence order the L59 to abandon the mission. And indeed did happen what the British hoped for.

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Post by Scarlett » 11 Mar 2007 12:57

Utrecht wrote:. But, still it could be that a false Britsh radio message was the course of the order for the L59 to return!!

The British were aware of the attempt of resupplying the Schutztruppe by using a zeppelin. The British also knew the Germans were analyzing their radio traffic. They send out the message about 'von Lettows surrender' with the intention that the Reichskolonialamt received this false news and would as a consequence order the L59 to abandon the mission. And indeed did happen what the British hoped for.


There could have been such a false British radio message, but there was no such message, actually..

Admiralstab and Reichskolonialamt based their decision on British press reports on the situation as of November 18, which reached Kommando der Schutztruppen on November 21, 1917. In these reports it was not mentioned, that Lettow-Vorbeck had surrendered. It was, correctly, stated, that the British had occupied a German camp - without any fight - and taken prisoner 20 officers, 242 white NCOs and men and 700 askaris and that the remains of the Schutztruppe had left. These men were the part of the Schutztruppe Lettow-Vorbeck left behind. It comprised the wounded, the ill and all those men, that the doctors didn't declare fit for the long and strenuous marches of the next months.
After the battle of Mahiwa Lettow-Vorbeck had decided, that he could not take with him the wounded and ill, as they needed a lot of pharmaceuticals he didn't have anymore. Furthermore he didn't want his march slowed by men not fully capable of marching. So he ordered, in agreement with Governor Schnee, his doctors to check each and every man for his fitness. The doctors had to report by name only the men fully capable for long marches. With these 278 Germans and 1600 askaris Lettow-Vorbeck marched south and left the rest behind in British custody.

But this detail was not the reason for calling back L59. From the reports Kommando der Schutztruppen gathered they could conclude that the area foreseen for the landing of L 59 was not controlled the Schutztruppe anymore. Just to find Lettow and the Schutztruppe was considered the most difficult task for L 59 by all involved in the project. As now the last region, south of Liwale, judged suitable for a landing was occupied by the Allies, it seemed irresponsible to carry on. After the war Lettow-Vorbeck was of the opinion, that it would have been most improbable that L 59 had found the Schutztruppe, even when the Liwale area had still been controlled by the Schutztruppe, as nobody knew on the German side in DOA, that an airship was on her way. Had L 59 continued her flight the ship would have been in Mahenge on the same date Lettow-Vorbeck crossed far more south the Rovuma to Portuguese East Africa.

A detailed report about the calling back of L 59 you can find (inGerman) at
http://www.traditionsverband.de/.
Go to the Magazin-section on the left hand side and click on
Aspekte zur Afrika-Fahrt des Marine Luftschiffs L 59 (101.567 KByte) von Dr. Karl-Wilhelm Schäfer
http://www.traditionsverband.de/downloa ... afrika.pdf
Last edited by Scarlett on 11 Mar 2007 17:25, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Chris Dale » 11 Mar 2007 13:24

Thank you Scarlett for clearing up any doubt here.... and for backing it up with so many facts.
Cheers
Chris

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Post by Utrecht » 11 Mar 2007 15:14

Thank you Scarlett. Aparrantly this myth has come into existence due to the German books you've mentioned before. I thought my theory could be a reasonable explanation for the creation of this myth. But, it is not.

Maybe there are more misunderstandings about the L59. So, why not discuss further about the subject. The story:

The man who proposed to resupply von Lettows troops was dr. Zuspitza. He was taken prisoner in East-Africa by the British. But released due to a prisoner exchange. His plans were refused several times. Eventually the 'Marine-ministerium' gave the green light for his plans and preparations started. The influence of temperature, rain, and the burning desert sun on the zeppeling during the almost 6000 km. long journey had to be investigated.

Experimentation started with the L57, but in a test flight under commander Ludwig Bockholt it broke in 2 and burst in flames. Despite Ludendorff was against the 'Zeppelin plan' the 'Kriegsministerium' offered a new air ship for the mission: the L59, also under command of Bockholt. 2 November flew the L59 (with Hugo Eckener aboard) to Jambul, Bulgaria. From there it departed 2 weeks later, but (after Turkish troops had shoot at it) it came in heavy weather and (after dropping its load) had to return. 21 November a new attempt was undertaken. On the way the ship had to take of its antenna through which it didn't receive the first messages from Nauen.

In the next days many of the 22 crewmembers felt sick and had headaches due to the circumstances; the fierce light in particular. Other problems occurred; an engine fell out and due to the changing temperature 2000 kg. of ballast had to be thrown overboard. Near Khartoum the L59 received the massage to return. Flying back the zeppelin had to deal with the well-known problems. Above the Mediterranean Bockholt found out that the message about a German surrender was not right, but it was to late to change course again. After the ship had arrived in Jambul (25 november) plans were made for a new mission to East-Africa. All the plans were rejected.

The ‘Africa tour’ the L59 had made was the first intercontinental airship flight in history. The ship had covered 6,757 km. in a non-stop flight of 96 hours.

Later the L59 was converted into a bomber zeppelin and used against Italian targets and British targets in the Mediterranean. On April 7, 1918 the story of the L59 ends. That day it exploded on a mission above the Adriatic. It is speculated that the explosion was caused by fire from a German U-boat while German reports credited the enemy for shooting down the zeppelin. The theory of a technical mishap is a more likely explanation for the explosion.

Any supplements and/or corrections?

See also the following articles in:
Dutch
English
German

And

Specifications

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Post by Utrecht » 10 Jun 2007 15:43

Probably intelligence officer Richard Meinertzhagen contributed to the myth of the British false message to the L59.

Meinertzhagen - at that time on service in Egypt - recalls in one of his books that he send the message to the ship from the top of the pyramid of Cheops. To his surprise the Germans believed his message and eventually returned.

The following doesn't confirm Meinertzhagen's story:

After the war, British intelligence officer Richard Meinertzhagen claimed that she had actually turned around due to a “dirty trick,” but the mesage recorded in L.59’s war diary is that authorized by Adm. Henning Von Holtzendorff, the Admitralty chief of staff.
http://www.avalanchepress.com/L59.php

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Post by Chris Dale » 10 Jun 2007 23:54

Utrecht wrote:Probably intelligence officer Richard Meinertzhagen contributed to the myth of the British false message to the L59. Meinertzhagen - at that time on service in Egypt - recalls in one of his books that he send the message to the ship from the top of the pyramid of Cheops.


Ah, Meinerhertahagen is behind it is he? He made up many stories about his heroics. See this review of a recent biography, "The Legend of Col Richard Meinertzhagen"-

"Tall, handsome, charming Col. Richard Meinertzhagen (1878-1967) was an acclaimed British war hero, a secret agent, and a dean of international ornithology. His exploits inspired three biographies, movies have been based on his life, and a square in Jerusalem is dedicated to his memory. Meinertzhagen was trusted by Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, Chaim Weizmann, David Ben Gurion, T. E. Lawrence, Elspeth Huxley, and a great many others.

He bamboozled them all. Meinertzhagen was a fraud. Many of the adventures recorded in his celebrated diaries were imaginary, including a meeting with Hitler while he had a loaded pistol in his pocket, an attempt to rescue the Russian royal family in 1918, and a shoot-out with Arabs in Haifa when he was seventy years old. True, he was a key player in Middle Eastern events after World War I, and during the 1930s he represented Zionism's interests in negotiations with Germany. But he also set up Nazi front organizations in England, committed a half-century of major and costly scientific fraud, and -- oddly -- may have been innocent of many killings to which he confessed (e.g., the murder of his own polo groom -- a crime of which he cheerfully boasted, although the evidence suggests it never occurred at all), while he may have been guilty of at least one homicide of which he professed innocence. "

http://www.amazon.com/Warrior-Legend-Co ... 40-2480660

I would guess that defeating a Zeppelin from the top of the great pyramid would count alongside attempts to rescue the Russian royal family and so on. Apparently Ian Fleming based the character of James Bond on Meinertzhagen's tales.

Cheers
Chris

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Post by Utrecht » 13 Jun 2007 16:49

So Meinertzhagen his status is mostly based on myths?

Meinertzhagen also served against von Lettow in DOA. According to some sources there was an incident (in the days after 'Tanga') whereby Von Lettow and Meinertzhagen shot at each other. They find this out after the war when both men were close friends.

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