In the count down to take-off, the Zeppelin ground staff hurry along the hull in felt shoes, avoiding any fatal sparks from hobtail boots against the metal work. Stores are loaded, hot drinks and sandwiches for the crew gondolas, hoses are filling the giant hydrogen gas cells and water filling the ballast sacks. The engines are being revved by the engineers – with the propellers disengaged – while highly trained ears listen to the roar for any hint of anything unusual. The officers are everywhere, checking every last detail. Now, from the bomb proof storage sheds across the grass on small carts, are dragged the incendiaries and the fat explosive bombs for hoisting into the Zeppelin’s bomb bay amid ships.
Now water ballast splashes onto the hanger floor and the huge ship lifts a few centimeters clear of the padded trestles on which it is parked. The pilot climbs into the cockpit and a workman of equal weight steps out to preserve balance, then the 150 strong ground crew start to push and pull the great war dragon out of her hanger. The ship lifts a little more and the crew climb aboard, as the band strikes up the traditional air – The Captain’s On His Horse. Finally the engines are pushed to full power and the ground crew at the front of the Zeppelin manhandle the nose up into the air. Slowly, the vast 500ft long war machine begins its heavily-laden climb into the afternoon sky. Ten minutes later, at 2000 feet, the Zeppelin settles down to cross the North Sea at its cruising speed of 45 miles per hour. Ahead to the west, as yet unseen, lies night and the coast of England.