This is a simply dazzling Army Luftschiffer Bataillon leutnant’s leather flying coat. The coat is identified to its original owner. [Both the Army and Navy operated zeppelins at strategic places over continental Europe and against England. (It is not generally known that the Imperial German Army operated the first zeppelins to bomb London). In 1917, due to political pressure (primarily from Navy-favoring Kaiser Wilhelm II), the Army’s zeppelinforces were disbanded. Their equipment and crew were reassigned to the Navy, who continued the bombing missions against England. The actual damage inflicted by German Army and Navy zeppelins was minimal. (The L-38, an Army zeppelin, made five successful bombing raids on England, including the first bombing of London on 31 May 1915). The real effect was psychological, as more of a terror weapon. One could compare the zeppelin barrages to Hitler’s V-1 and V-2 rockets during WW II. They caused some damage, but even greater mental and emotional stress]. This is our most impressive and rare zeppelin item to date. When I first saw this coat, I was blown away. Aviators’ attire and other personal items are rare enough, but to offer a coat that was actually worn by an officer who flew aboard an Army zeppelinprior to the service’s disbanding is a rare privilege!
The coat is a medium-brown leather. (I have seen similar coats used by fixed-wing aviators). It has a double-breasted effect, almost like a Litewka, wherein one row of buttons actually secures the coat, but another row is added to present a neat appearance. The buttons are most unusual, and made of brown wood with notches cut into them. They add a real “pop” to the coat. Three buttons appear on each side, with another single button at the top that secures the collar. (Remember, the coat was designed to keep aviators warm whether in an airplane or a zeppelin). The exterior has two slash pockets where the officer could keep personal or military items. Loops on the reverse allowed him to his service belt through them. The collar is dyed-brown sheep’s wool. The two leutnants’ shoulder boards display the stylized “L” for Luftschiffer. They are of the slip-on variety and attach to the coat in a very easy manner. Each shoulder board has a white underlay. Their look and general feel indicate that they are original to the coat and have not been added to “dress it up.” The leather’s condition is amazing. Certainly, it shows scuffing — it had hard service! The leather itself remains surprisingly supple. Treat it with a leather conditioner (as we have to maintain its moisture), and it will stay in this fine original condition for it NEXT one-hundred-years!
Inside the coat, we see a white sheep’s wool lining. It sports a fine, heavy, tufted-silk, partial liner at the coat’s bottom. (Here is where the coat just gets better and better). As we peel the coat open to really look at the interior, stenciled on one section is the name of the young officer who owned the coat nearly one-hundred years-ago. The name “K. Müller” is very tidily stenciled in white.
As we took the pictures for this coat, its history exuded into our workroom. I am constantly around pieces of history. This is one of those pieces to which we can attach a name. I even asked one of my partners to try it on and see how it looked. While I am sure she is certainly a lot better-looking than was Herr Müller, it gave me a sense of what it looked like when worn. As a matter of fact, I just about had to fight to get her to give it back!
If you are looking for something to really top off your aviation collection, this is it.