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This is the German naval airship L57, Zeppelin Build Number LZ102, and forerunner of L59 the "Africa" 'ship.
She was a Navy L53 Class airship especially extended by two 15 metre gas bays and commissioned to fly urgently needed supplies to General von Lettow-Vorbech's troops fighting in East Africa. Built in the No 1 Shed at the Zeppelin Friedrichshafen works, she was then the biggest airship ever built and first flew on September 26 1917. Very sadly she was completely wrecked and burned in a storm at Jüterbog during trials on October 8 1917. Within 48 hours the Admiralty sponsors resolved to continue with the enterprise and ordered that Zeppelin LZ104 (Navy L59), then building in the Staaken South Shed, be lengthened in the same way as L57. L59 left the shed for her first flight on October 25 1917
Just days later in November 1917 L59 made a 4225 mile non-stop flight from Jambol in Bulgaria to just west of Khartum in Africa and back to Jambol, carrying 14 tons of freight in 95 hours - distance and duration world records that stood for several years.
L57 was essentially identical to L59 except that she had the distinctive "chamfered end" rudders of the Friedrichshafen factory. L59 from the Staaken shed, had rectangular rudders, parallel sided over their entire length.
The L53 Class were termed "Type V" by Zeppelin and the extended L57 and L59 became "Type W". Both had unpainted fabric coverings in the expectation that, had one of them reached east Africa, it would not have returned. Instead all of the parts and materials would have been cannibalised for use locally. Doped and painted fabric would not have been half so useful as untreated, for which there would have been countless potential uses.
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