Killing Zeppelin L-53 & thereafter the Royal Naval Air Service
(Page 230) But the L 53 annoyed Colonel Samson, D.S.O., who at this time was Officer Commanding No. 4 Group, E/.A.F., and he had a thirty- foot deck made to fit on one of the towing lighters, and on this, held in place with a quick release gear, he put a Camel aeroplane, a single-seated fighter land-machine with great speed and climb.
(Page 233) The flotilla then cruised off Terschelling until fifteen minutes after eight o'clock, when the flagship signalled to the destroyer towing the Camel lighter that the L 53 had been sighted. Immediately Cully saw the Zeppelin glistening in the sunlight. It was about thirty miles away, at a height of ten thousand feet. It looked about as big as his little finger.
He climbed into the cockpit of his machine. The propeller was swung. He tested the rotary engine. When the towing destroyer had got up to thirty knots, he ran his engine full out, slipped the quick release, ran along the lighter deck only five feet, and took to the air.
At forty -one minutes after eight o'clock he started to climb towards Commander Proells' airship at a speed of fifty-two miles an hour.
(Page 235) Commander Proells had also been climbing, and he was still above Cully. His airship was of the type known as the height-climbing 50's, the last word in construction, six hundred and forty feet long, with five engines, and containing two million cubic feet of inflammable gas.
The L 53 had all this time been broadside on to Cully. He now saw her turn end on. He thought that he had been sighted by her crew, and that her Commander had turned out to sea away from him. He swung the nose of the Camel directly towards her and continued to...
(Page 236) ... But the crew of the great Zeppelin apparently did not see the tiny midge in the sun, for they held on their course at the same height. At forty-one minutes after nine o'clock, one hour after Cully had left the lighter in the Camel, the two machines met head on, the airship only two hundred feet above the aeroplane.
Cully pulled back his controls and stalled his machine until the Camel was almost standing on its tail. As the bow of the Zeppelin came into his sight he started both Lewis guns....
(Page 238) The aluminium skeleton of the bow of the Zeppelin was now fully exposed. But the fabric of the tail was still smoking and burning. She was standing vertically upright, nose down, and was falling rapidly below him with ever increasing momentum.
It was a small service that had done great things. But its work was not appreciated, as it followed the traditions of its parent, and adopted, not without a struggle it is true, the virtue of silence. And now its people were asked to give up the legends about the mighty pilots who had created the service, the traditions which had accumulated so rapidly in war time, the uniform and routine which so well fitted their work, the comradeship which had permeated the personnel owing to its limited number, and the name which numberless brave men had laid down their lives to make honourable.
And bitterest pill of all, the Navy, our natural parent, was willing we should be put under the guardianship of an unknown and alien stepmother.