Graff Zeppelin

Discussion in 'General' started by Grounded, Oct 15, 2008.

  1. Grounded

    Grounded Junior Member

    Can any one tell me which German airship cruised down the British isles in 1938 or 39 trying to determine the purpose of those radar towers? I saw it but cannot remember the details, it was about half an hour before sunset travelling south down the centre of Lincolnshire
  2. Mace

    Mace ex-rock ape

    Hi there,

    Hope the following helps:

    General Wolfgang Martini (Luftwaffe) arranged for Graf Zeppelin (LZ130), a sister of the original Graf to be employed as a flying radio laboratory with the gondola being packed with high frequency receivers with an ariel array being fitted below.

    At the end of May 1939, the Graf Zeppelin left Friedrichshafen making landfall just south of Bawdsey and headed north up the coast to northern Scotland before heading home to Germany.

    A second run was made on August 2nd 1939 from Suffolk to the Orkneys, with a third (?) shortly after.

    This information is from "The Bruneval Raid" written by George Millar.

    Best regards

    Bodston likes this.
  3. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    In the BBC book 'The secret War', there is a good description of this particular flight.

    Apparently the Crew radioed their position back to Berlin and it was incorrect as unbeknown to the Zeppelin crew, they had been tracked by radar all the way along the coast, even though out of visual sight.
    The operator was sorely tempted , but under the circumstances decided not to transmit a correction!

    Fortunately for the British, the Germans were searching the wrong wavelengths and as no radar signals were detected on both trips, the conclusion was drawn that the British had no operational Radar warning system.

    At this time the German radar was parabolic and operated between 1.5 metres and 50 cms. The British system worked on the (to the Germans) unbelievable long wavelength of 10 metres.

    You could possibly argue that this was a turning point in the forthcoming Battle of Britain.

  4. Grounded

    Grounded Junior Member

    Thank's Mace, August would be about right, however I am positive th Zep was traveling south so it could have been the second trip.
  5. Mace

    Mace ex-rock ape

    Hi Grounded,

    Have found two pages on the internet that may prove of intrest to you:

    The second page is on wikipedia which does have a bit of a reputation (so I have been told) for not being entirly correct but you never know?

    The wikipedia page goes into more details on the course, and if correct, would provide you with details of the Zeppelin being seen heading south.

    Hoswever none of the pages mention a second or possibly third mission over the UK, as mentioned in the book I originally quoted.

    Has to be a case of taking information at face value I am afraid.

    Hope this helps!

    Best Regards

  6. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin


    I don't know if this of any help to you, but from my source the BBC Book, Secret War, by Brian Johnson.

    There were two recently retired 776 foot Zeppelins, The LZ 127 and
    LZ 130. Both were overhauled and fitted with UHF radio receivers, cathay ray tubes and aerials.

    At the end of May 1939, LZ 130, The Graf Zeppelin slipped her mooring mast at Frankfurt and headed west for the Suffolk coast and the Bawdsley Research Station.

    This is the flight that the navigator sent back an incorrect position, known to the radar station that was tracking the Zeppelin every inch of its journey.

    The second flight was made in August as previously mentioned, but no date in my reference book or which Zeppelin.


  7. boffinstv

    boffinstv Junior Member

    I have made a documentary about the Zeppelin spy mission called The Spies Who Lost the Battle of Britain. There was only one full mission on 3/4th August 1940 - the earlier mission in May often quoted was abandoned mid North Sea.

    The documentary tells the full story of Martini's spy mission and explains the reasons behind the biggest inteligence blunder of the war.

    See clips at Boffins TV | The Spies Who Lost The Battle of Britain

  8. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Hi Brian and welcome to the forum.

    That looks a very interesting/well put together documentary. Is it going to be aired?

  9. Vitesse

    Vitesse Senior Member

    I was looking at these missions a while ago. Understandably, I could find very little press coverage - it was mentioned very briefly in The Times - but there's a wonderfully dry comment in Flight:

    There is, of course, no reason why a German airship should not fly over the North Sea.
    1939 | 1- - 0445 | Flight Archive
  10. Oldman

    Oldman Very Senior Member

    They are also mentioned in The Narrow Margin in a similar vein to Smudgers #3 post
    they did not gain any information at all.
  11. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin


    Hello and welcome to the forum.

    It was indeed fortunate that the Germans were searching the wrong frequencies.

  12. boffinstv

    boffinstv Junior Member

    Thanks for your interest. I work in TV but to date I've not been able to get a broadcaster interested. I’ve completed the DVD entirely using my own resources.

    I may be able to clear up a few points from my own researches and the considerable expertise of Colin Latham who was Marconi’s Chief Radar Engineer after the war and is now a radar historian.

    The airship was the LZ130 Graf Zeppelin II often confused with the earlier Graf the LZ127. The LZ130 was completed after the Hindenburg disaster but never flown commercially. It made several spy flights on the Sudetenland and Polish borders. There was only one full North Sea spy mission Flight 24 – the Spionagefahrt of 2/4th August 1939.

    Thanks for the reference in Aeroplane it was also reported in several newspapers. There is a comprehensive description of all of the flights in Manfred Bauer’s (son the LZ130 navigator) history of the LZ130 airship. Secret War (entirely brilliant in all other respects) does seem to be the source for most of the requoted inaccuracies. The LZ127 as shown in the Secret War TV series made no spy flights – it was grounded in 1937 and became a museum.

    The RLM and Luftwaffe wireless experts onboard the LZ130 would have had no problem finding the CH transmissions – each of the 18 stations was pumping out 500kW pulses on 12m. In fact according to Colin Latham that’s all they may have been able to detect. In a paper for RUSI he describes how the powerful CH pulses would have been re-radiated by the airships aluminium structure. This together with the considerable harmonics produced by CH would have likely to have swamped any sensitive receiver searching in the high HF or low VHF ranges.

    With CH blaring from their headphones the huge mistake the Germans made was in the actual interpretation of the signals. Their conclusion (please watch my programme) was remarkable but understandable given the nature of CH.

    The appearance of the Zeppelin had Fighter Command reeling in horror – their greatest secret was surely compromised. The range of measures that were subsequently put into place had major consequences for the security of CH during the Battle of Britain.
  13. Vitesse

    Vitesse Senior Member

    The LZ127 as shown in the Secret War TV series made no spy flights – it was grounded in 1937 and became a museum.
    Don't think so - both Graf Zeppelins were present in the skies over the German Grand Prix in July 1939.
  14. boffinstv

    boffinstv Junior Member

    Interesting - I have the last flight of the LZ127 as June 18th 1937 please quote your sources. The fantastic pathe newsreel of the '39 GP shows only the LZ130 and the camera also gets onboard. The commentary however describes what was the most advanced airship in the world as the "old" Zeppelin. The LZ 130 was less than a year old at the time!

    Even US intelligence seems to have got it facts wrong

    I checked all of my Zeppelin facts with the late great airship historian John Duggan. He also assured me that there was only one spy flight made by the LZ130 on 3rd Aug 1939 and Martini was not onboard. His co-author on many Zeppelin books was the German expert Manfred Bauer and son of the LZ130 navigator. Manfred has studied the log book and passenger manifests of the LZ130 in the Friedrichshafen museum.

    Some online airship histories I would trust are

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