BULLETIN 137  -  part II

December 2005

Zeppelin Mail

ByFilip van der Haegen

From time to time, auction houses offer Zeppelin covers from the Belgian Congo . The price paid for such items is generally far higher than similar covers from the Netherlands or even Belgium - the reason being that between 1932 and 1939 only 15 flights carried mail originating from the Congo .

LZ 127  Graf Zeppelin

The LZ 127 ‘Graf Zeppelin’ was arguably the most popular and successful of the Zeppelins.

 The maiden voyage took place 18th September 1928 and the last on the 26th of April 1937, having achieved 590 successful flights.

 It has been established that mail from the Belgian Congo and Ruanda-Urundi was carried on five of its flights as listed below.


 Length:  236.60 m. / 776 feet

 Diameter:  30.48m / 100 feet

 Volumetric capacity: 105,000 m³

 Powered by: 5x 12 (550hp) cylinder Maybach engines

 Maximum speed: 110 kph hour / 70mph

Internal flights in the Netherlands                                18-19th June 1932 (cancelled Enschede or Groningen )

           1st South-American flight                                  6-9th of May 1933

           2nd South American flight                                 3-6th of June 1933                   

           3rd South American ( Argentina ) flight                23-26th of June 1934               

           11th South American flight                                27-30th of October 1934

           12th South American flight                                8-12th of December 1934  (Christmas flight)

2nd S. America flight - 3-6th June 1933

LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin

3rd S. America - Argentina flight - 23-26th June 1934

11th S. America flight - 27-30th Oct. 1934

12th S. America - ‘Christmas’ flight - 8-12th Dec. 1934

LZ 129  Hindenburg

The ‘Hindenburg’ was the largest Zeppelin ever to fly. Its maiden flight took place 4th of March 1936 but her service ended tragically at Lakehurst ( USA ) 6th of May 1937.  

According to the Michel catalogue, the Hindenburg’ carried mail from the Belgian Congo on the following four flights.


 Length: 245 m. / 804 feet

 Diameter:  41.2 m / 135 feet

 Volumetric capacity: 200,000 cm³

 Powered by: 4 Daimler Benz engines

 Maximum speed: 130 kmph / 82 mph

1st North American flight                  6-14th May 1936

9th South American flight                 20-24th July 1936

9th North American flight                26-29th September 1936

10th North American flight               5-12th October 1936

1st N. America flight6-14th May 1936

9th S. America flight -   20-24th July 1936

9th N. America flight - 26-29th Sept. 1936

LZ 130  Graf Zeppelin II

The ‘LZ 130’ was the last of a dying breed in difficult times and the last of the largest ever air liners.

 In design she was an improved version of the ‘LZ 127’ with forward facing engines.

 The first flight took place on 14th September 1938 but that to Zwickau and Koningsberg scheduled for 26th August 1939 was cancelled because of the German invasion of Poland .


Length: 245 m. / 804 feet

Diameter: 46.8 m / 135 feet

Volumetric capacity: 200,000 m³

Powered by: 4 (1200 hp) Daimler Benz engines

Maximum speed: 130 kmph / 81 mph

In total five flights are known to have carried mail originating from the Belgian Congo :  

      2-3rd December 1938       Flight to Sudetenland (German territory adjacent to Czechoslovakia )

      30th July 1939                  Internal flight to Kassel

      6th August 1939                Internal flight to Würzburg  (Not recorded in Michel)

      16th August 1939              Internal flight to Eger

      26th August 1939              Internal flight to Zwickau and Koningsberg (Flight cancelled)

Carried on the internal flight to Würzburg. 6th August 1939

In addition to mail carried by Zeppelins, there was of course a normal airmail service to South America . An example of this is the illustrated cover from Elisabethville to Recife in Brazil , posted on 15th of February 1935.

Normal Airmail service

The route was as follows:

Elisabethville → Broken-Hill by the Société de Transport Aérien du Katanga (STAK)

Broken Hill → London via Imperial Airways 213th flight – arriving 24th February

London Stuttgart where a special red circular canceller was applied: DEUTSCHE LUFTPOST ☼ EUROPA SUDAMERIKA ☼

Stuttgart Recife . Heinkel flight 33 of the weekly service.