The German Zeppelin L.32 (production designation of "LZ-74") served the Imperial German Navy (German Naval Airship Division) during World War 1 (1914-1918). She first flew on August 4th, 1916 and was formally commissioned a short time later on August 7th. Her war record included a total of eleven missions with three air raids against Britain. She dropped a total of 15,124lbs of ordnance during her service life and took part in the September 23rd, 1916 raid that included sister ships L.31, L.33 and L.34.
Her end came on the night of September 24th, 1916 when she fell to a British BE.2c interceptor of 39 Home Defence Squadron near Great Burstead, Essex, this after having been engaged by ground-based anti-aircraft fire. The resulting crash killed her entire crew. L.33 was lost in the same raid and marked a rethinking of strategy concerning bomber Zeppelins for the Germans. The Army gave up use of the expensive aircraft in 1917 while the Navy continued operations into 1918 - their value primarily being reconnaissance over water.
The L.32 was recognized as one of Germany's "Super Zeppelins" of the R-class. She was powered by 6 x Maybach HSLu engines developing 240 horsepower each allowing for a maximum speed of 60 miles per hour. Her range was listed at 4,600 miles with an operating ceiling of 13,100 feet. Her dimensions included a length of 650 feet, a diameter of 78.5 feet and a height of 90 feet. Her complete crew numbered 22 personnel. Armed with up to 10 x machine guns, the aircraft could carry up to 9,250lbs of drop ordnance providing both offensive- and defensive-minded capabilities.
Outwardly, L.32 exhibited the traditional tapered "cigar" shape common to Zeppelins of the period. This included a rounded nose and a finned tail with a tubular fuselage body. Engines were held out on a network of struts in individual nacelles with several crew compartment slung under the design. Zeppelins of the period were recognized as "rigid" airships for their duralumin skeletal understructures and gas bags containing the required hydrogen filling. While the hydrogen provided the lift needed, the engines provided the propulsion. The filling was highly flammable and this proved exceeding notable with increased enemy use of incendiary ammunition.
While not entirely accurate as a bombing platform (particularly at night), Zeppelins held some psychological value against civilian populations in warfare. They were both slow and ponderous in the skies and susceptible to enemy fighters if located in time. Their flammable quality was also a persistent danger. Beyond their machine gun self-defense armament, Zeppelins could out climb a pursuer if spotted early and outdistance themselves from ground-based fire. They strengths were in altitude and endurance and, thusly, proved critical in reconnaissance missions during the war.