The fatal impact impression of Zeppelin commander Oberleutnant-zur-See Werner Peterson who chose to jump to his death rather than burn up with his ship, the L 32, 1916.
From the Wikipedia Article “Zeppelin“, under the category “History”:
L.31 approached London from the south, dropped a few bombs on Kenley and Mitcham and was picked up by a number of searchlights. Forty-one bombs were then dropped in rapid succession over Streatham, killing seven and wounding 27. More bombs were dropped on Brixton before crossing the river and dropping 10 bombs on Leyton, killing another eight people and injuring 30. L.31 then headed home. Also coming in from the south was L.32, running late due to engine problems, it dropped a few bombs on Sevenoaks and Swanley before crossing Purfleet at about 01:00. The Zeppelin then came under anti-aircraft fire as it dropped bombs on Aveley and South Ockendon. Shortly thereafter, at 01:10, a BE2c piloted by 2nd Lieutenant Frederick Sowrey engaged L.32. He fired three drums of incendiaries and succeeded in starting a blaze which quickly covered the entire airship. The Zeppelin crashed to earth at Snail’s Hall Farm, Great Burstead. The entire crew was killed, with some, including the commander Oberleutnant-zur-See Werner Peterson, choosing to jump rather than burn to death.
German Army and Navy hydrogen filled Airships began their bombing raids over Southern England with varied success on the 19th January 1915. Their bomb load consisted of both high explosive bombs and incendiaries. The incendiaries consisted of simple metal canisters filled with a mix of thermite, tar, and benzol; then being being wrapped in tarred rope and fitted with a simple fuse.
British aerial defences had up until 1916 proved ineffectual. In February 1916 the British Army took over full control of ground defences and a variety of sub 4-inch calibre guns were converted for anti-aircraft use. Searchlights manned by Police were also introduced, initially manned by police. By mid1916 there were 271 anti-aircraft guns and 258 searchlights across England.
Aerial defences against Zeppelins were haphazard, with the Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS) engaging enemy airships approaching the coast and the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) taking responsibility once the enemy had crossed the coastline. Due to the lack of an interrupter gear (to enable machine guns to fire forward) in early fighter aircraft the basic technique for downing Zeppelin airships was to simply drop bombs on them. Initial trials of incendiary bullets in mid-1915 had unfortunately shown unimpressive results.
New BE12 fighters now fitted with interrupter gear and Lewis machine guns firing a mix of explosive, incendiary and tracer rounds were slowly introduced from mid 1916. But the German’s were also further developing their airships. Their new Q-class Zeppelin with an additional 100,000 cubic feet of gas enabled the length to be extended to 585 feet, improving both ceiling limits and bomb-load.
But the turning point came on the night of the 2nd September 1916 when Lt. William Leefe Robinson, firing three drums of bullets from his Lewis gun, managed to set alight German Army Airship SL.11 commanded by Hauptmann Wilhelm Schramm. Built by Luftschiffbau Schütte-Lanz (and therefore not actually classed as a ‘Zeppelin’), it carried four Maybach engines developing an impressive 960 hp capable of propelling the airship at 91.8 kph. The airship, which quickly became enveloped in flames, crashed at Cuffley in Hertfordshire. Propaganda possibly intentionally misidentified the airship as one of the already feared “Zeppelins”. The crew (listed at the bottom of this page) were initially buried at Potters Bar Cemetery but in 1962 were re-interred at Cannock Chase German War Cemetery in Staffordshire.
For downing the first rigid airship on British soil and for the first ‘night fighter’ victory Robinson received the Victoria Cross. Robinson, his health being badly affected during his time as a Prisoner of War in 1917-18, succumbed to Spanish Influenza during the Pandemic and died on the 31st December 1918.
The loss of SL.11 ended the German Army’s interest in Airship warfare over England but the German Navy continued to aggressively pursue this form of aerial combat. On the night of the 23rd September three M-class airships, including L.32, attacked London. L32 was the second of the 650ft M-class “Super Zeppelins”, being powered by six engines and capable of operating at 13,000 ft (with another 5,000 ft to its maximum ceiling) while carrying up to four tons of bombs.
At 1.10am a BE2c fighter plane piloted by 2nd Lieutenent Frederick Sowrey attacked L.32. Despite fire being returned he fired three drums of explosive bullets until a fire finally took hold, possibly helped by a burning petrol tank. Flames swiftly spread throughout the airship, bursting through the outer envelope in several places. An eye-witness recalled that “The flames crept along the back of the Zeppelin, which appeared to light up in sections… until it was burning from end to end.” The great airship finally crashed to the ground near Great Burstead in Essex. Again, there were no survivors, the Commander, Oberleutnant-zur-See Werner Peterson, choosing to jump rather than burn to death in the inferno. Sowrey survived the war and died in 1968.
The same night L.33, despite being at 13,000 feet, was hit by anti-aircraft fire, thereafter being forced to the ground, landing near Little Wigborough. The crew set the Zeppelin alight but sufficient of the wreckage remained to be of valuable use to the British in their own rigid airship research.
There were a total of 23 Zeppelin raids in 1916 in which 125 tons of ordnance were dropped, killing 293 people and injuring 691. British anti-aircraft defences were becoming tougher but still new Zeppelins were introduced with an increased operating altitude of 16,500 feet and a maximum ceiling of 21,000 feet. Airships raids continued to be feared and to do great damage. It was only by 1918 that Zeppelin raids markedly decreased, primarily as a result of supply issues and the allied bombing of Zeppelin production lines and sheds in Germany.
The Zeppelin attacks had a profound psychological impact on the Allies. In total there were 159 Zeppelin attacks against England during World War I which resulted in the deaths of 557 people, mainly civilians. Under the Treaty of Versailles Germany was ordered to hand over all their airships, but as with their Navy, the crews attempted to destroy as many of them as they could.
The Zeppelin’s greatest achievements were undoubtedly to tie up numerous squadrons in home defence and for their psychological value but as an effective weapon of war they proved themselves unsatisfactory and were ultimately not a military success. Of the 115 Zeppelin Airships employed by the Germans, 53 were destroyed and a further 24 were too badly damaged to effectively carry out their missions. The Airship crews suffered a 40% loss rate. Additionally, the cost of constructing those 115 Zeppelins Airships was approximately five times the cost of the actual damage they inflicted.
The crew of both SL.11 and L.32 (listed below) are now buried at Cannock Chase German War Cemetery in Staffordshire, England.
The Crew of SL.11
Wilhelm SCHRAMM Hauptmann
Jakob BAUMANN Obermaschinist
Hans GEITEL Leutnant
Rudolf GOLTZ Vizefeldwebel
Karl HASSENMULLER Feldwebel-Leutnant
Bernhard JEZIORSKI Gefreiter
Fritz JOURDAN Untermaschinist
Karl KACHELE Untermaschinist
Fritz KOPISCHKE Obersteuermann
Friedrich MODINGER Obermaschinist
Reinhold PORATH Obermaschinist
Rudolf SENDZICK Obersteuermann
Heinrich SCHLICHTING Unteroffizier
Anton TRISTRAM Unteroffizier
Wilhelm VOHDIN Oberleutnant
Hans WINKLER Untermaschinist
The Crew of L.32
Werner PETERSON Oberleutnant Zur See
Adolf BLEY Obersignalmaat
Albin BOCKSCH Obermaschinistmaat
Karl BORTSCHELLER Funkentelegrafieobermaat
Wilhelm BROCKHAUS Oberheizer
Karl BRODRUCK Leutnant Zur See
Paul DORFMULLER Maschinistenmaat
Richard FANKHANEL Obermaschinistenmaat
Georg HAGEDORN Obermaschinistenmaat
Friedrich HEIDER Oberbootsmannsmaat
Robert KLISCH Funkentelegrafieobergast
Herman MAEGDLFRAU Obermaschinistenmaat
Bernhard MOHR Obersegelmachersgast
August MULLER Matrose
Friedrich PASCHE Bootsmannsmaat
Karl PAUST Obermaschinistenmaat
Ewald PICARD Obersignalmaat
Walter PRUSS Maschinistenmaat
Paul SCHIERING Obermatrose
Bernhard SCHREIBMULLER Steuermann
Karl VOLKER Obermaschinistenmaat
Alfred ZOPEL Oberbootsmannsmaat
“The important thing to remember about this photo is that the Cold War was, by its very nature, a war of technological advances and propaganda. Literally, this was about who could spend more money to out-bullshit the other. Everything was about bullshit. Who could spin bigger bullshit, grander bullshit, in what ways could we trip up the other side? This is why, for a while, there were SEAL Teams 1, 2, and 6. Its the old Greased Pig Senior Prank, done with lethal commandos. The reason the Stealth was labelled as a Fighter, and not a Bomber. Misdirection, chaos, confusion. Not only can our soldiers jump out of planes over urban areas, but they can do it while maintaining a perfect salute, without losing their beret. Lets see those capitalist pigs out-do that!” – My friend Mikhail
Crossroads Baker nuclear explosion of July 25, 1946, test fired at 27m underwater. Photo taken from a tower on Bikini Island, 3.5 mi (5.6 km) away.
This is a picture from the 1946 detonation of a 23 kiloton nuclear bomb (same device design that was used to bomb Nagasaki) during operation Crossroads in Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. This tests was designated Baker denoting that it was the second in the series of 3 planned tests (but only two were carried out. The first being Able). It was the 3rd nuclear test ever conducted, and the 5th nuclear explosion in history.
The bomb was detonated 90 feet underwater amidst a fleet of decommissioned US and seized Japanese vessels. It was meant to simulate and document the effects of nuclear weapons in naval warfare.
In August 1961, two young girls speak with their grandparents in East Germany over a barbed wire fence, a barricade which later became the Berlin Wall.
Australian 11th (Western Australia) Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade, Australian Imperial Force posing on the Great Pyramid of Giza on 10 January 1915
Group portrait of the Australian 11th (Western Australia) Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade, Australian Imperial Force posing on the Great Pyramid of Giza on 10 January 1915, prior to the landing at Gallipoli. The 11th Battalion did much of their war training in Egypt and would be amongst the first to land at Anzac Cove on April 25 1915. In the five days following the landing, the battalion suffered 378 casualties, over one third of its strength.
His wild heart beats with painful sobs,
His strin’d hands clench an ice-cold rifle,
His aching jaws grip a hot parch’d tongue,
His wide eyes search unconsciously.
He cannot shriek.
Dribbles down his shapeless jacket.
I saw him stab
And stab again
A well-killed Boche.
This is the happy warrior,
This is he…
A century later, the Imagist poet Herbert Read wrote a bitterly ironic reply to Wordsworth that has been deservedly praised. Read’s poem, “The Happy Warrior” contracts the reality of fear directly against the literary myth of Wordsworth’s “Character pf the Happy Warrior.” This prototype of what “every man in arms should wish to be” is governed by reason, and even in “the head of conflict” he controls and subdues those necessary companions of the soldier, pain and fear. “This is the happy warrior” it concludes; “this is he/ Whom every man in arms should wish to be.”
Read shows instead a man driven by fear far beyond the reach of reason: “I saw him stab, and stab again. A well-killed Boche.” To reinforce his point, Read ends his poem with Wordsworth’s own words- “This is the Happy Warrior,/ This is he.”
In 1960s Greenland during Project Iceworm the American government tried to create a nuclear ice base, aka Hoth Base
Discharging radioactive waste into ice used to be considered a viable method of waste storage.
With the half life it would basically be non-radioactive long before it ever exposed to anything other than ice.
With the current rate of ice melting it’s no longer viewed as a very reliable method. That being said it all depends on location. If the liquid was dumped in an area that isn’t going to melt for hundreds/thousands of years then it’s perfectly safe.
You can even put the waste into large concrete disposal tanks and set them on the surface of ice. The heat generated by the radioactive materials will melt the ice below the tank and it will slowly sink into the ice and soon be completely covered where it can finish it’s lifetime safely stored in a vault of concrete and ice. But like I said it depends on the rate of ice melting.
FUN FACT: The US also offered to buy Greenland for 100 million dollars.
A hypnotizing old documentary about the construction of the nuclear powered research center built by the US Army Corps of Engineers under the icy surface of Greenland
Early in the war, physicians began to handle cases of psychological breakdown, paralysis, and disturbing, uncontrolled physical behavior among men who had been in combat. C.S. Myers was one of the first to coin the term “shell shock,” as doctors assumed that artillery fire and the like had had caused concussion-like damage and possibly physical legions somewhere in the brain. Other doctors saw the same thing, but Myers discovered that many men experiencing these symptoms hadn’t been near artillery bombardments and so he tried to withdraw the term, but it stuck. The condition was called “soldier’s heart” in the American Civil War and “combat fatigue” in the Second World War, and now we call it PTSD. It’s not until 1980 that PTSD gets into the medical handbook as a legitimate syndrome, which means that doctors can treat it and that those who suffer from it can receive a pension.
- Why was it so difficult to pin down a definition for “shell shock?”
The medical profession of the time was conservative and relatively endogenous. Many of them thought that shell shock was a license for cowardice or a renunciation of “manliness,” which made it partly a problem of gender. It’s important to understand that although we usually think of PTSD as a psychological disability, it often manifests itself in physical ways. At the time, the conversion of mental symptoms to physical ones was called hysteria – a term reserved for women. This meant that men suffering from “hysteria” were transgressing Victorian gender norms, and we can see the stigma of this diagnosis clash with social conventions – only enlisted men were diagnosed with hysteria, while officers were diagnosed with “nervous breakdown.” The difference in diagnosis was paralleled by differences in treatment – treatment for enlisted men was largely punitive and coercive, while treatment for officers was based more on persuasion, sometimes through psychotherapy. Lest you think officers were in a better position, remember that the casualty rate for them was almost double that of enlisted men. Diagnosis and treatment were further complicated by the difficulty in identifying who legitimately had a problem and who was just trying to get away from the front. For some physicians, the solution was to make treatments more painful than returning to the front. For example, electric shock therapy could be used on mutes to try and stimulate the tongue so that they would make noise. In Austria, future Nobel Prize winner Julius Wagner Jauregg was accused of torturing his patients because he used electroconvulsive shock treatment to discourage malingering. In general, the war tore up the Hippocratic Oath because doctors became servants of armies that needed men to return to the front as soon as possible. Thus, the principal aim of doctors was to heal the injured enough to send them back to the front. This meant that if a soldier had a physical wound in addition to psychological symptoms, doctors would often treat the wound and then send the soldier back. Treatments were thus largely coercive in nature – there’s a famous French story in which an army doctor told a soldier “Yes, you are going to get this.” The enlisted man responded, “No, I’m not.” “Yes you are, I’m your officer, I gave you an order.” The exchange continued back and forth until the doctor moved to put the electrodes on his forehead and the enlisted man knocked him out. The soldier was then court-martialed, found guilty, fined one franc, and dismissed from the army without a war pension. This is the sort of thing that contributed to desertion, especially from men who felt they had no way out. As you can see, there were numerous problems with the medical profession’s approach to the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of shell shock. Consequently, we really don’t know how many suffered from it. The British Army recorded 80,000 cases, but this likely underestimates the actual number. Regardless, we can be sure that a significant number of those that went through artillery barrages and trench warfare experienced something like it at some point. While the number is significant, it’s important to remember that a minority of soldiers suffered shell shock, and consequently it does fit into the spectrum of individual refusal.
- What about executions?
In the late 90s there was a movement in England to apologize to those that refused to continue fighting in the war. There were 306 men that had been shot for cowardice or desertion and although the British government refused to make a formal apology, one of Tony Blair’s last acts as prime minister was to posthumously pardon them. The problem here should be obvious – it’s unclear how many were shell shocked and convicted of cowardice or desertion when they really were insane. There’s serious doubt as to how many men actually thought it through and decided that they couldn’t fight anymore and were going to leave. In the French case there was a terrible period at the beginning of the war when there were many summary executions. It’s a perfect example of what happened when officials and the professional army feared the effects that desertion might have on the rest of the men that had been mobilized at the start of the war. The French CiC, Joffre, felt that if offensives didn’t proceed because people were “allowed to act as cowards,” the rest of the mobilized army, made up of millions of reservists, would be contaminated. The upshot was the summary executions of numerous soldiers. The French parliament set up a special tribunal in 1932 to reexamine many of the cases, and a number of those who had been executed were subsequently pardoned, some on grounds that they had originally been denied the right of appeal despite being citizens. There is an important distinction to make here – French soldiers had the vote and could appeal to their representatives for better legal treatment, while millions of British soldiers could not since they were subjects of the crown. By the end of the war, every capital sentence required the approval of the French president.
- Why do we think PTSD began with “shell shock?”
World War I was the first to really introduce mental illness to mass society. The notion of traumatic memory that was brought back home and reappeared in literature helped normalize mental illness in the absence of consensus by the medical profession as to what it was. Although PTSD existed long before the First World War, the circumstances of the war pushed hundreds of thousands of men beyond the limits of human endurance. They faced weapons that denied any chance for heroism or courage or even military skill because the artillery weapons that caused 60 percent of all casualties were miles away from the battlefield. The enthusiastic men that signed up in 1914 were loyal, patriotic, and genuinely believed that they were fighting to defend their homeland. While they consented to national defense, it’s not clear that they consented to fight an industrialized assembly-line murderous war that emerged after 1914. Unlike previous wars, there was no beginning, middle, and end. Trench warfare was seen as a prelude to a breakout, but those breakouts never really occurred. Many men withdrew from the reality of the war into their own minds, and in this sense shell shock can be seen as a mutiny against the war. PTSD has numerous symptoms, but among them is the sense that the war the soldier lived had escaped from human control. This is why many PTSD sufferers are constantly reliving the trauma – the horror of combat never goes away and time has no hold over it. There’s a wonderful autobiography by Robert Graves called Good-Bye to All That; it’s one of the most famous World War I memoirs. Of course, the great irony is that he can’t say good-bye to all that – his life is constantly affected by his war experience, even 10 years after the war ended. There are so many great World War I memoirs, but I’d highly recommend the following: The Secret Battle by A.P. Herbert and The Case of Sergeant Grischa by Arnold Zweig Both deal with executions and the perversion of military justice during the war. I would also recommend The Legacy of the Great War and Remembering War. Both are by Jay Winter, who specializes in historical memory and World War I. (When he was teaching at Cambridge in the late 70s and early 80s, he traveled to Warwick hospital to study some of the records of patients that had been institutionalized there during the war for shell shock. When he went there, he discovered that there were still several men that had been kept in the asylum without treatment since the Great War. Once enthusiastic young men, psychologically crippled by the war, had spent the next 70 years constantly reliving their trauma, locked away from a society that didn’t understand what was wrong with them. I can’t think of a more horrible fate.)
Several members of the Franz Joseph’s entourage recorded that the aged emperor was upset with the course of the war and its future implications for the future of the Habsburg empire. According to a note passed to the Germans by the Austro-Hungarian representative to the German Supreme Headquarters, Alois Klepsch-Kloth von Roden, in 1915, the Habsburg emperor did not desire war in 1914:
I am a constitutional monarch, not an absolute ruler, and for this reason could not act otherwise! From the beginning, I had all the influential advisers to the crown against me; for a full three weeks, I vehemently defended myself against any aggravation that might lead to war – in vain! They would not be persuaded, and after three weeks of fruitless effort, I was forced to give in.
In July 1916, he reportedly told his military adjutant Albert von Margutti that:
Things are going badly with us, perhaps worse than we suspect. The starving people can’t stand much more. It remains to be seen whether and how we shall get through the winter. I mean to end the war next spring whatever happens. I can’t let my empire go to hopeless ruin!
Of course these claims have to be taken with a significant grain of salt. Von Roden’s narrative of the Emperor’s actions does not quite match the actual timing of the Austro-Hungarian decision making process in 1914. Like the famous “Nicky-Willy” telegrams between the Kaiser Wilhelm II and Emperor Nicholas II of 1914, this type of correspondence was not an apolitical personal communique but a document laden with political overtones. Von Margutti’s postwar reminiscences about his former master also necessitates some skepticism as he was a loyal servitor of the Habsburgs and was interested in presenting his master in the best possible light.
One thing that is clear about the wartime years of Franz Joseph is that he was quite aged and increasingly fatalistic. Although he kept to his near-robotic regimen of structured work habits even in his last years, the Emperor was hermetically sealed off by an entourage who was almost as elderly as Franz Joseph. Much of this entourage busied themselves with ensuring that Franz Joseph kept to his routine rather than exercising personal authority over the war effort. Many of them did note that Franz Joseph’s health was deteriorating and the Emperor was less capable of performing his duties. The escalating crisis with Italy pushed Franz Joseph to his breaking point, Ferdinand Freiherr von Marterer’s diary recorded the Emperor exclaiming after Italy had delivered its ultimatum that “In this way shall we go under,” and weeping in the ante-chamber of the palace. Von Marterer would also note that after the Italian entry, that “The Emperor frequently nods off during reports, we are lacking the strong central force, uniform action everywhere.”
Although Franz Joseph had some signs of increased activity, such as supporting the appointment of the reformist Ernest Koerber as Prime Minister after the assassination of Count Stürgkh and renewed energy in confronting the Italians, despite his obvious age. The Emperor also remained a popular figure for a number within the Empire as evidenced by a considerable upswing in personal appeals sent to him by his subjects suffering under wartime pressures. But there was little Franz Joseph could do to rectify the dire situation the Dual Monarchy had found itself in. Franz Joseph increasingly devoted himself to the execution of his last will. He sought to ensure that his personal finances would be able to provide for his heirs’ financial well-being.
That the Emperor devoted such attention to this matter in his last remaining months was typical of Franz Joseph’s somewhat curious amalgamation of a diligent bourgeois mentality within an imperial context. Yet the fact that he was clearly concerned whether or not the members of the Habsburg family would be financially secure after his death also speaks volumes about what he possibly felt about the prospects for the Dual Monarchy in the immediate future.
Beller, Steven. Francis Joseph. London: Longman, 1996.
Healy, Maureen. Vienna and the Fall of the Habsburg Empire: Total War and Everyday Life in World War I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Rauchensteiner, Manfried. The First World War and the End of the Habsburg Monarchy, 1914 – 1918. Vienna: Böhlau, 2014.