Gibraltar Zeppelin Mail

"England joined the Zeppelin Air Mail Service to South America in March 1932. Zeppelin mail from England, Ireland and other British Territories (including Gibraltar), was collected in London and forwarded to Berlin, from where it was transported by special connecting plane to Friedrichshafen, where it was loaded onboard the Graf Zeppelin for its journey to Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil, South America. This route is confirmed by the manuscript endorsements on Zeppelin mail “Pour dirigible Graf Zeppelin via London/Overland” or “via Friedrichshafen (Allemagne)”.

Gibraltar mail to Great Britain was sent in ‘Closed Mail’ (sealed) bags, which were not opened until they reached London. They were handled as ‘Intact Bags,’ handed over to the Spanish Post Office at the border town of La Linea. From here they travelled overland to the railhead at Algeciras, thence onto Madrid and Paris. Surface mail from Paris was transported to London via the Channel port of Calais (usually), but also via Bologne. There is no way of knowing which route was used on any particular occasion. In 1935 there was no direct airmail service between Gibraltar and London.

Between April and June 1935 Zeppelin flights occurred every two weeks, alternating the weekly mail service to South America with Deutsche Lufthansa (DLH) Catapult mail services. Zeppelin Flights were directly between Friedrichshafen and Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil via Larache, Spanish Morocco, where connection was made with DLH flights carrying late airmail from Berlin and Stuttgart. From July 1st 1935 DLH became the exclusive German carrier of letter mail on the South Atlantic route as it had proved both faster and more reliable than the Zeppelin service, while at the same time, DLH and Air France began cooperative twice-weekly airmail service on the South Atlantic route (DLH from Stuttgart on Thursday, Air France from Paris on Sunday). Zeppelin continued to provide only a non-letter mail services (Trans-Atlantic flights 8 to 14) except on those occasions where refitting of the catapult supply ships restricted trans-Atlantic flights. The non-letter airmail included printed matter, business and printed papers, samples, packets and parcels.

In late October 1935 the DLH catapult supply ships were withdrawn for servicing. The Graf Zeppelin was again used for regular South trans-Atlantic mail delivery. For the Germany-South America flights 15 and 16 the Graf Zeppelin also picked up mail that was delivered via DLH to Larache. Between flights 15 and 16 there was one further DLH flight to South America (Departure from Stuttgart 31st October, arrival 2nd November). For the period 15th – 30th November the LZ-127 made three return flights from Recife to Bathurst, Gambia delivering northbound mail to the DLH and picking up southbound mail from DLH. These flights, known as “pendelfahrten” (pendulum) or shuttle flights, involved picking up the mail in Bathurst in special wire baskets dropped from the airship." [E.Chambers, N.Donen].

1933 Zeppelin Flights to South America

2nd South America flight

2nd South America flight 1933, registered letter from Gibraltar to Santos, Brazil, posted 25.5.1933, via Berlin with connecting flight to FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, arrival 7.6.1933. Sold at Felzmann Auction in 2008 for 200 Euro plus buyer's premium.

3rd South America Flight 1933, registered letter from Gibraltar 22. 6., via Berlin with connection flight to Friedrichshafen, arrival Santos 6. 7. Sold at Felzmann Auction in 2011 for 225 Euro plus buyer's premium.

1934 Zeppelin Flights to South America

1934 (Dec 8-19), 12th South America Flight (Christmas Flight), registered cover (printed mater) via Berlin to Rio de Janeiro, Sieger 286. Sold at Harmers Auction SA in 2012 for 260 CHF plus buyer's premium.

Registered cover from 17. May 1934 from Gibraltar franked by KGV 1s. and 1d. via London and Stuttgart to Friedrichshafen, and per LZ 127 to Curitiba in Brazil.

1935 Zeppelin Flights to South America

1935: 14th South America Flight, postcard (Zeppelin in hangar) to Pernambuco with 1935 Silver Jubilee 2d. ultramarine and grey-black (2), 6d. green and indigo used in a spectacular mixed franking with Bechuanaland 2d. (1 shilling franking), posted "12 OC 35", with postmark "Gibraltar Double thick arc/25" and endorsement "Pour dirigable Graf Zeppelin / via Friedrichshafen (Allemagne) / via London/Overland", German "Berlin C" arrival stamp (double circle with two horizontal bars date-stamp) dated 16.10.35, with cachet "e" (Stuttgart) and receiver’s stamp "Pernambuco-5A Seccao-Manha" (double circle date-stamp) dated 3.XI.35, addressed to Se. Albert Thasler, Pernambuco, Brazil. This postcard was sold at Grosvenor Auction in 2007 for ?450 and later in 2008 for ?160 and 2011 for ?420 (plus buyer's premium).


  1. “Zeppelin Mail from Gibraltar, 1929 – 1936” by Edmund Chambers, The Gibraltar Study Circle Study Paper No. 20, 2010
  2. “Gibraltar Zeppelin Mail: a Survey” by Edmund Chambers & Neil Donen, The Gibraltar Study Circle Study Paper No. 18, 2008