E.S. Turner

  • Dr Eckener’s Dream Machine: The Historic Saga of the Round-the-World Zeppelin by Douglas Botting
    HarperCollins, 356 pp, £17.99, September 2001, ISBN 0 00 257191 9

On a May night in 1936, I saw that mightiest of zeppelins, the Hindenburg, floating above the skyscrapers of New York – a leviathan nearly as long as the Titanic, and as ill-starred. If Dr Goebbels had had his way the Hindenburg would have been called the ‘Hitler’ and would have borne an enormous swastika on its side, but Hugo Eckener, the man who gave substance to the dream of Count Zeppelin, was tough enough to face down the Nazi spin doctor when honour demanded. His undisfigured dirigible, lording it over Gotham, had crossed the Atlantic in two and a half days, whereas the Queen Mary, on whose maiden voyage I had just travelled, had taken nearly twice as long, shore to shore. In both craft the passengers dressed for dinner. The Hindenburg apparently had a priest to conduct Mass; the Queen Mary had a daily newspaper, at least one ship’s gardener, and facilities for Rotarians and Oxford Groupers. Ah, the 1930s!

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