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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 21201
Last updated: 24 September 2021
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Date:23-DEC-1923
Time:02:27 LT
Type:Zeppelin Dixmunde
Owner/operator:Aéronavale
Registration: L-72
MSN: LZ.114
Fatalities:Fatalities: 52 / Occupants: 52
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Mediterranean Sea, off Sciacca, Sicily -   France
Phase: En route
Nature:Military
Departure airport:Cuers-Pierrefeu, France
Destination airport:Barakai Airfield, Algiers, Algeria
Narrative:
The L 72 was the third and final Zeppelin of the X class built for the Imperial German Navy. Incomplete at the end of the war, the L 72 was originally built with the intention to bomb New York City. The Zeppelin made its first flight on 9 July 1920 and was surrendered to the French authorities four days later, when it was flown by a German civilian crew from Friedrichshafen to Maubeuge and was recommissioned as the Dixmude in honour of the French marines who had died in the defence of Dixmude in 1914. Under the command of lieutenant Jean du Plessis de Grenédan it was then flown across France to the naval air base at Cuers-Pierrefeu near Toulon.

Dixmude was grounded for the next three years. An attempt was made to reinflate it in 1921, revealing that the original gasbags had deteriorated too much for this to be possible. Although new gasbags could have soon been supplied by the Zeppelin company, the French preferred to have their own made in France, resulting in a two-year delay while the technique of using gold beater's skin was mastered. These were delivered in June 1923 and proved less than satisfactory; many small tears appeared, possibly due to the use of an inferior quality of cotton

On 18 December 1923, Dixmude left Cuers with the intention of making a return flight to In Salah, an oasis deep in the Sahara, carrying a crew of 40 and 10 passengers. Salah was reached at 4 pm on the 19th; the airship did not land, but dropped a bag of mail from the crew. The intention had been to make a stop at the Baraki airfield near Algiers; a north-west headwind caused du Plessis to alter course to the east, and was seen crossing Tunisia on the evening of the 20th. The last radio message received from Dixmude was sent at 02:08, the airship reporting that it was reeling in its radio antenna due to a thunderstorm.

Railway workers in Sciacca, Sicily, were preparing to take out a train due to leave at 02:30 when they saw the sky to the west light up, the glow then sinking out of sight behind a hill, while a hunter on the seashore, watching the thunderstorm, saw a flash of lightning strike a cloud, followed by a red glare inside the cloud and four burning objects falling from the cloud. In the morning two aluminium fuel tanks were washed up, bearing the numbers "75 L-72" and "S-2-48 LZ-113" and various other debris, including charred scraps of fabric and even fragments of the duralumin girders.

However, news of these events did not reach the outside world for several days; the French government, unwilling to admit the possibility of the airship's loss for political reasons, apparently suppressed these reports and issued its own series of false reports of rumoured sightings of Dixmude, suggesting that it had been blown inland over Africa. It was not until 26 December, when fishermen found a body, identified as du Plessis by documents found in the pockets, that the loss of Dixmude was acknowledged. His watch was stopped at 02:27.

Sources:

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dixmude_(airship)
2. https://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?230834
3. http://www.avalanchepress.com/FrenchAirship.php
4. List of the 52 fatalities: http://c.i.e.l.pagesperso-orange.fr/dixmude.htm

Media:

Zeppelin L-72 (c/no. LZ 114) named Dixmude LZ 114

Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
18-Jun-2008 11:05 harro Added
23-Apr-2015 17:48 TB Updated [Time, Operator, Location, Nature, Source, Narrative]
08-Apr-2019 21:50 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Cn, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Embed code, Narrative]

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