Who's Who - Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin

Ferdinand von Zeppelin Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin (1838-1917) was born in Konstanz, Baden on 8 April 1838 and was the first large-scale builder of the rigid dirigibles which eventually became synonymous with his name.

Count von Zeppelin's military career was somewhat varied.  During a leave of absence from the Prussian army in 1863 he served with the Union army during the U.S. Civil War.  More conventionally he served with the Prussian army in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, during which he was commended for bravery.

He married, in 1869, to Isaballa Freiin von Wolff from Livonia; they had a daughter, Hella, born in Ulm in 1879.

Zeppelin first conducted balloon trials whilst in the U.S. as a military observer during the 1860s.  He subsequently founded an airship factory at Friedrichshafen using his own funds, retiring from the army in 1891 with the position of lieutenant-general.  Zeppelin proceeded to devote the remainder of his life to the design and construction of engine-powered dirigibles.

The first successful trial of one of his airships took place on 2 July 1900.  Eight years later Zeppelins were making routine commercial mail and passenger flights over Germany, with a remarkable safety record despite the risks in using highly flammable hydrogen gas to inflate the airships.

Zeppelin successfully persuaded the German military of the potential of using airships during wartime.  Consequently Zeppelin's LZ-3 model was accepted into German army service in March 1909 as the Zeppelin Luftschiff 1.  In the event, during the First World War, the German military deployed 115 Zeppelins for a variety of missions including reconnaissance and bombing, despite their vulnerability to attack and bad weather.

Zeppelin aircraft were effectively removed from front line service at Verdun in 1916, as improved Allied aircraft succeeded in achieving a higher destruction rate.  Even so, newer models were introduced that could fly higher and higher, although this impacted their bombing accuracy.  Their use was more or less discontinued in 1917 as Allied bombers demonstrated a consistent ability to destroy the airships.

Ferdinand von Zeppelin died on 8 March 1917 in Berlin.

Both British and German fleets had around 45 submarines available at the time of the Battle of Jutland, but none were put to use.

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