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Schütte-Lanz SL2 in the Great War - The Wartime Memories Project -

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Schütte-Lanz SL2

28th February 1914 Schütte-Lanz Airship.  

SL2 Bombing Warsaw.

Schütte-Lanz SL2

  • First Flight: 28th February 1914
  • Length: 144 metres (472 ft) (156 metres (512 ft) after rebuild)
  • Diameter: 18.2 metres (60 ft) (18.2 metres (60 ft) after rebuild)
  • Gas Capacity: 25,000 cubic meters (27,500 cubic meters after rebuild)
  • Performance: 88.2 km/h (89.3 km/h after rebuild)
  • Payload: 8 tonnes (10.4 tonnes after rebuild)
  • Engines: 4 Maybach 720 hp/537 kW total (840 hp/626 kW total after rebuild)

The Schütte-Lanz airship SL2 surpassed the contemporary Zeppelin airships in performance. It adopted the Zeppelin ring-girder construction method, but retained the streamlined shape and plywood construction of the SL1. The SL2 was also the most significant airship to date in that it laid down two vital design innovations that were copied in almost all subsequent rigid airships. The first was the cruciform tail plane, with a single pair of rudders and elevators. The second was the location of the engines in separate streamlined gondolas or cars. A third innovation, for war service, was the mounting of heavy machine guns for defense against attacking aircraft in each of the engine cars.

SL2 was built between January and May 1914 and transferred to Austrian military control. It carried out six missions in the first year of the war over Poland and France. After being enlarged in summer 1915, several more missions were carried out before SL2 was stranded at Luckenwalde on the 10th January 1916 after running out of fuel and was decommissioned.

The SL2 was a perfect example why the advanced technology of Schütte-Lanz, and the advantages of wood in compression as opposed to tension allowed the Schütte-Lanz type of airship to be technically superior until a certain size had been reached.

7th September 1915 Zeppelin raids on London  Two Army Zeppelins successfully bombed London on the night of the 7th of September. SL 2 dropped bombs on the Isle of Dogs, Deptford, Greenwich and Woolwich, and LZ 74 was forced to drop weight on its approach and scattered 39 bombs over Cheshunt, before heading on to London and dropped devices on Bermondsey, Rotherhithe and New Cross,one lone incendiary bomb dropped onto a shop on Fenchurch Street in London. Eighteen people were killed and 28 injured, property damage totalled £9,616. Fog and mist prevented any aircraft taking off, but anti-aircraft guns fired at LZ 74 with no effect. Although these raids had no significant military impact, the psychological effect was considerable.

The Zeppelins attacked between ten and eleven o’clock, when the streets were full of people. An American writer wrote “Traffic is at a standstill. A million quiet cries make a subdued roar. Seven million people of the biggest city in the world stand gazing into the sky from the darkened streets. Among the autumn stars floats a long, gaunt Zeppelin. It is dull yellow—the colour of the harvest moon. The long fingers of searchlights, reaching up from the roofs of the city, are touching all sides of the death messenger with their white tips. Great booming sounds shake the city. They are Zeppelin bombs—falling, killing, burning. Lesser noises—of shooting—are nearer at hand, the noise of aerial guns sending shrapnel into the sky. If the men up there think they are terrifying London, they are wrong. They are only making England white-hot mad.”

The writer D.H. Lawrence described the raid in a letter to Lady Ottoline Morrell, "Then we saw the Zeppelin above us, just ahead, amid a gleaming of clouds: high up, like a bright golden finger, quite small (...) Then there was flashes near the ground — and the shaking noise. It was like Milton — then there was war in heaven. (...) I cannot get over it, that the moon is not Queen of the sky by night, and the stars the lesser lights. It seems the Zeppelin is in the zenith of the night, golden like a moon, having taken control of the sky; and the bursting shells are the lesser lights." Eighteen people were killed in the raid, and 28 were wounded. Property damage totalled £9,616. The SL-2 suffered engine failure on the return trip home and had to crash land in Germany. Shortly after this raid Admiral Sir Percy Scott was placed in charge of the air defenses around London.

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