The Last Flight of The L48 (Windsock Datafile Special)
By J.M. Bruce
Publisher: Albatros Productions Ltd 1993 28 Pages
PDF 20 MB
IT is a warm June morning and a beautiful summer's day is in prospect. To 26 year old Heinrich Ellerkamm the scene before him is idyllic, one of perfect tranquillity. He is standing on a vast airfield in Northern Germany. Nordholz (literally Northwood), lies a few miles South of the Elbe estuary near the port of Cuxhaven amidst forests of tall pines and mature birches. It is no ordinary aerodrome for its skyline is dominated by six enormous hangars spread out over the field, sunlight flashing off their yellow-tinted roof panes.
Suddenly Heinrich's reverie is rudely shattered by the raucous wail of a siren; three times its ear-splitting shrieks shatter the dreamy atmosphere and Heinrich loses little time in joining scores of men now rapidly swarming from nearby barracks. As they head towards one of the massive sheds beyond, its huge doors are even now being slowly winched apart and deep within the cavernous interior comes the low rumble of powerful motors coughing into life.
Grabbing long, trailing ropes the station groundcrew take the strain and the awesome denizens of the hangar are gradually revealed. Two monstrous Zeppelin airships, black-hued and bearing the iron cross of Germany on their broad flanks, emerge to gleam in the sunshine. Heinrich looks on approvingly as the sweating rope handlers begin hauling one of the Zeppelins clear of the shed doors, the legend L48 marked in outsize white characters on her bows. This is Heinrich's new ship. He serves aboard her as a mechanic's mate and will soon be tending one of the engines in preparation for the long flight to England. Already L48's belly is laden with bombs; bombs, yes, for this is June 1917. The World has been locked in brutal conflict for over three bloody years and Germany's airships have taken the war to the very doorstep of their enemies. Young Heinrich is no stranger to air raids having already taken part in nearly a dozen, but he has lost many good friends over recent months as their ships are shot down in flames by British flyers. Today, however, it will be very different. Today, Heinrich and his 18 comrades are to set sail in a new airship of revolutionary design, one of the most modern in the Navy's fleet. Their airframes drastically lightened, L48 and her sisters can fly higher than any previous Zeppelin, safely out of reach of tenacious Allied pilots and beyond the range of gun batteries.
When Heinrich clambers aboard to make his way amidships, he is blissfully unaware of the fateful chain of events that await him the following morning. Events so terrifying, so cataclysmic, that they are to remain seared in his memory forever...