17 February – Today in German History

1855

  • Birth of Otto Liman von Sanders in Stolp, Germany. In 1913 Liman, a German general was appointed the head of the German military mission in Turkey with the purpose of reorganizing and building the Turkish army. His major victory was at the head of the Turkish 5th Army which forced the British and Australian troops out of the Dardanelles in World War I.

1912

  • Death of Graf Lexa von Aehrenthal in Vienna. He was the Austro-Hungarian foreign minister at the time of the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908.

1915

After encountering a severe snowstorm on the evening of February 17, 1915, the German zeppelin L-4 crash-lands in the North Sea near the Danish coastal town of Varde. The L-4‘s captain, Count Platen-Hallermund, and a crew of 14 men had completed a routine scouting mission off the Norwegian coast in search of Allied merchant vessels and were returning to their base in Hamburg, Germany, when the snowstorm flared up, bombarding the airship with gale-force winds. Unable to control the zeppelin in the face of such strong winds, the crew steered toward the Danish coast for an emergency landing but was unable to reach the shore before crashing into the North Sea. The Danish coast guard rescued 11 members of the crew who had abandoned ship and jumped into the sea prior to the crash; they were brought to Odense as prisoners to be interrogated. Four members of the crew were believed drowned and their bodies were never recovered. One month earlier, the L-4 had taken part in the first-ever air raid on Britain in January 1915, when it and two other zeppelins dropped bombs on the towns of Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn on the eastern coast of England. Four civilians were killed in the raid, two in each town. Zeppelins would continue to wreak destruction on Germany’s enemies throughout the next several years of war–by May 1916, 550 British civilians had been killed by aerial bombs.

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