Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Ray Rimell's Zeppelin Series
Reviewed by Terrence Finnegan


Zeppelins at War! 1914–1915 
Albatros Productions, Ltd., 2014 


The Last Flight of the L31   
Albatros Productions, Ltd., 2016 


The Last Flight of the L32 
Albatros Productions, Ltd., 2016 


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Ray Rimell and Albatros Productions have packaged traditional history with a series of publications on zeppelins. His extensive research over the years has given impetus to capturing history through an extensive array of outstanding art work, detailed graphics, and original photographs. Zeppelins at War! 1914–1915, published in 2014, is a handy guide to the first zeppelins in combat. Rimell applies the research of his seven books to telling insightful stories of aircrew, missions, and new applications to aviation technology with torpedo glider-airborne guided missile test beds. The book is designed to acquaint a novice of aviation in the Great War to take interest and remain an advocate. 

Rimell and Albatros use modern graphics combined with ample research to give the reader comprehensive access to the history of the airship and assorted operational insight. A case in point is the story of zeppelin ZV (LZ20). One of two airships employed by the 8th Armee to provide aerial reconnaissance and aerial bombardment of Russian forces in the opening days of the war, ZV was shot down on 25 August during a daytime sortie. Rimell’s research on the captured aircrew reveals only one was able to make it back to Germany. The rest died in Siberia.  

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Airship employment on the Western Front also met with challenges from artillery fire. Zeppelins ZVII (LZ22) and ZVIII (LZ23) were both shot down during daylight missions on 23 August 1914.The three zeppelin losses prompted the German Armee Airship Division to reconsider zeppelin roles for daylight aerial reconnaissance. Rimell assesses zeppelin missions which now covered aerial bombardment functions in support of strategic objectives.  

The subsequent Windsock Datafile Specials The Last Flight of the L31 and The Last Flight of the L32 were published in 2016 to appeal to interest from the centenarian commemorations. The Last Flight of the L31 covers Kapit√§nleutnant Heinrich Mathy’s last sortie over England. An extensive biography of the German aviator is provided, giving the reader a very comprehensive understanding of the lesser known German Naval Airship Division and aviators. To make the monograph even more appealing, the other side of the story is given detailing the life of the Royal Flying Corp aviator, 2/Lt. Wulstan Joseph Tempest, flying a BE2c (4556) and shooting the airship down with incendiary bullets “pumping lead into her for all I was worth.” Likewise, The Last Flight of the L32, follows the same format as L31 with Oberleutnant zur See Werner Peterson and aircrew being shot down by 2/Lt. Frederick Sowrey, a member of the legendary Sowrey family flying for the Royal Air Force in the 20th century.

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Despite Rimell accessing an extensive body of work on zeppelins for his work, a major oversight has been in not reviewing probably the most definitive work, Heinz Urban’s Zeppeline der kaiserlichen Marine, 1914–1918. This rarely seen book published by the Zeppelinmuseum Meersburg in 2008, has a bounty of photographs covering all aspects of the airship and operations. Urban’s book has never been translated into English, which accounts for limited public awareness.  Access to a library copy is sadly limited in the United States via WorldCat. Present listings on the web show a purchase price of hundreds of euros.  

Ray Rimell’s and Albatros Production’s work is a credit to reliving military history through innovative applications of graphics and art design. It is a nice complement to the body of work telling the important story of the zeppelin’s contribution to aviation

Terrence Finnegan

2 comments:

  1. Fine review Terry, thanks.
    Pete Belmonte

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  2. Terry,

    How detailed his coverage for early August 191? I mean far before ZVII (LZ22) and ZVIII (LZ23)on the 23rd. Any coverage of aerial photography? Our analysis is showing that despite the stated strategic reconnaissance role during the time of concentration, there was never a single flight on the Western front. A couple of bombing missions, but no reconnaissance. Maybe I should just buy the book.

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