Speaker Secretary Ian Rutter reports:
It was early in the morning, at 7.30am, that David Skillen and Lynn, (his wife, co-driver and business manager), left their home in Belper, Derbyshire, to drive the 170 miles to Guildford to lunch with us and for David to speak to us about Zeppelins.
Eschewing the use of written notes, David’s smooth, professional commentary to his fully illustrated presentation held everyone’s attention throughout.
He was not averse to throwing in the odd controversy from time to time. Was Leefe Robinson the first British pilot to shoot down a Zeppelin during WW1 as most people believe? Well, no, because he shot down a Schütte-Lanz airship, not a Zeppelin. (Not all vacuum cleaners are Hoovers and not all German airships are Zeppelins!).
David also told us about Count von Zeppelin’s initial designs for an airship in 1874 and how, by 1910, it was being flown commercially. During WW1, of course, the German military made extensive use of Zeppelins as reconnaissance and bombing aircraft. However, few survived the war, because very large, slow-moving objects, containing huge amounts of highly inflammable hydrogen gas, became sitting ducks for The Royal Flying Corps’ B.E.2c and Camel aeroplanes armed with incendiary bullets.
Of the 84 Zeppelins built during the war, over 60 were lost to enemy action, the weather or accidents and most that survived were then deliberately destroyed by their crews in 1919. A small number of Zeppelins have been constructed since then for commercial purposes, the most modern of which now contain the inert gas, helium, instead of hydrogen.
At the end of the presentation, Club members had many questions to ask, before Past Speaker Secretary, Ian Bull, gave the very well deserved vote of thanks.