The destruction of Italian air ship “Citta’ di Ferrara”

8 June 1915 - the first air ship downed by the Central powers in the WWI was the Cittá di Ferrara.  This special air victory was achieved by lieutenant Gustav Klasing (pilot) and frigate lieutenant Johann Fritsch of Cronewald (navigator). They flew the k. u. k.  war navy seaplane L48. 

Only about 24 hours before an air ship in the air was destroyed for the first time.  More about this later.

The air fight

On June 8, 1915 at 3:00 o’clock, the Italian air ship Citta’ di Ferrara piloted by the air ship lieutenant Castruccio Castracane launched and attack on the Ganz&Co shipyard in Fiume. The attack was looking for a victim but it caused only minor damage. Shortly after the attack the air ship was sighted coming from the north over Veglia (Krk). Klasing and Fritsch boarded their seaplane L48 in the navy flying port in Pola in order to intercept and stop the air ship. Around 5.15 clock, the Cittá di Ferrara was sighted over the island of Asinello and immediately attacked. 

The air ship tries to escape by climbing and using evasive maneuvers to avoid machine gun fire, but Klasing was able to further diminish the distance After all the MG-ammunition was ineffectually used up, they started shooting with two carbines into the air ship using special fire bullets.  When the distance to the opponent was about 100 meters, they opened the fire also using the flair gun. 

The flair gun had finally the desired effect.  A friar was burning on the bow and set the hull of the ship on fire.  The Cittá di Ferrara went into water.  The commander, an officer and 5 crewmen were rescued and took prisoners by the k. u. k.  Torpedoboat 4 while the two crew members in the seaplane were pleased.

Current names:

Pola > Pula
Main warship harbor and base for L48
Fiume > Rijeka
Target of Ferrara
Zara > Zadar

L.Cherso > Cres
L.Veglia > Krk

On June 8, 1915 the K.u.K. seaplane L48 lands safely in Pola after shutting down the Cittá di Ferrara.

S.M. Torpedoboot 4, that made the trip to the crash site to pick up the crew of the Citta’ di Ferrara

Shortly after the fight, frigate lieutenant Fritsch wrote to his brother:

 "On Tuesday I got my hands on the "Citta di Ferrara", as you know she was always coming to me.  I naturally felt a giant joy as it was really beautiful for us two to attack such a substantial object to the end, and then to see the beast burning and then soon disappear.  There I probably made a murderous roar at my arrival and became entirely hoarse, it was really faultless.

The wreck of the Cittá di Ferrara belonged of the k. u. k.  War navy - yet today parts of the air ship are in the war archive.  LschLt.  Klasing was awarded the Order of the Iron Crown 3rd Class for this action.  

Cittá di Ferrara

The Cittá di Ferrara was an Italian airship of the class M.  It was the second of eight airships that were constructed in Forianini at the beginning of the WWI, and carried therefore also the label M-2.  At that time her commander was tenente di Vascello Castruccio Castracane that was considered by the people under his command as a real Gentleman.  The air ship’s operation base, at that time, was Pondenone in Italy.

The pursuit of the Italian airship was the subject of many postcards.

Well known encounters of the Cittá di Ferrara with K. u. K.  military forces:

On the 24 May 1915, the Cittá di Ferrara destroyed SMS Velebit in Ancona.  Its aim was to attack the harbor installations and ships.  Also on 24 May 1915, it is supposed to have also appeared around 5.00 clock in the morning over Pola.  She was fired upon from SMS Habsburg, SMS Arpad and the SMS Tegetthoff with fast fire canons.  As the airplanes took off to attack, the airship quickly left.  Because of lack of speed, the pursuit was called off.  - This probably did not concern the Citta’ di Ferrara, but rather the Cittá di Jesus.  On the 27 May 1915, the Cittá di Ferrara was observed over Sebenico.  Shortly after that it bombed a steamer in the Prokljansee (Albania).  The seaplanes did not reach it on time and so she was able to reach its home harbor.

LschLt. Gustav Klasing

Gustav Klasing was born in Trieste on March 10, 1884.  He was enrolled as a candidate sailor in the K. u. K.  War navy in 1902.  As a sea cadet, he served on the SMS Radetzky, Monarch, Custoza and Tegetthoff - as a signal cadet on the SMS St.  Georg.  He graduated the officer-torpedo course and came on the S. MS.  Torpedoboat Bussard and Krake.  Moreover, he served on the SMS Stephanie and SMS Kronprinz Rudolf.  On the 6 of June 1911, he came to the submarine station at Pola.  In the same year, he became 2nd officer on S. M. U. 3 where he was showered with praise by his superiors. 

Klasing was increasingly interested in the other new types of weapons - the flyers.  In 1913, Klasing took the 3rd flyer course in Viennese new city part.  He received his flyer diploma on the 13 of August  1913.  In October he became nevertheless commander in reserve of S. M. U. 3 and  4.  On the 23 October 1914, he came again to the navy flight station at Pola and then went to the station at Kumbor (bay of Kotor).  He took part in numerous training activities.  Certainly, the highpoint of his career was shutting down [neutralizing] the airship Cittá di Ferrara.  Lines ship lieutenant Klasing became commander of the navy flight station Pola in 1916. 

He was considered by his superiors to be very gifted, and was described as someone who quietly, prudently, and cheerfully performed his duties.  According to his list of qualifications, in addition to German he also spoke Italian, Serbo-Croatian, French and English.

On the 6 of November 1916, he took a test flight with the new and large military aircraft G5.  In the preparation for the landing the airplane went out of control and crashed and burned in the canal of Fasana.  Gustav Klasing lost his life. Guests at his funeral were his flyer comrades, plus admiral Anton Haus and the harbor commander admiral von Chmelarz (a detailed description of his career is published in form of a The Modeller typeset).  A navy flyer circled over the cemetery and dipped his wings twice as a symbol of sorrow.  Gustav Klasing was buried in Trieste.  

Above: The big 3-engine seaplane G5 the OEFFAG had a crew of four men and reached the speed of 118km/h. The armament consisted of a stern-MG, 800kg bombs, and a 7cm gun L20.

Right: The wreck of the G5 near the house of Fragiacomo in the canal near Fasana.

FrgtLt. Johann Fritsch von Cronewald

The navigator during the activities on the 8 June 1915 was frigate lieutenant Johann Fritsch von Cronewald.  He was born in Salzburg on April 3, 1895.  Fritsch also died in an airplane accident.  He crashed on April 22, 1917 with a seaplane type K204 in a test flight at the height of 800 meters in cape Laghi (Durazzo/Durres-Albania). 

The seaplane L48

L48 was a type ‘T’ Lohner-seaplane, similar to type 'L' that was introduced by the K.u.K. War navy.  Type T was developed by Karl Paulal, Ing. , Leopold Bauer and some navy engineers.  The seaplane L48 came out of the 1st Reich’s combined L42, L46, L47, L48 and L43 machine series. It was ordered on January 19, 1915 under the order number AE. 097 and placed in service on May 20, 1915.  Four days later the plane was simulating dog fighting.

On September 5, 1915, L48 with Wiktorin and August on board went on reconnaissance of the mouth of river Po and were hit by have defense battery fire.  The pilot had to ditch the plane into Adriatic.  L48 was destroyed by the crew.  Wiktorin and August became captured.

Technical Data


Lohner Seeflugzeug Typ T


Aeroplan and Karosseriewerke Jakob Lohner & Co, Wien Floridsdorf


1 Pilot, 1 navigator


length: 10,85m / wing span: 16,20m /
height: 3,50m


1x 150 HP Hiero 6-cylinder Reihenmotor with water cooling. Stiff 2-blade wood propeller. 230kg fuel.

Maximum speed

105 km/h

Climbing rate

15 min auf 1.000m

Maximum height

2.000 m


650 km / about 6,5 hours of flight

Empty weight

895 kg

Max takeoff weight

1.325 kg


1x 8mm machinegun


17.000 Kronen (1915)

From the same construction lot came L47. The picture of the plane is taken near Grado on April 18, 1916.

Die Besatzung geriet in Gefangenschaft. Das Flugzeug wurde erbeutet

On May 27, 1915 the Lohner seaplane L40 had to ditch into the sea because of engine damage during an attack on Venice. The plane was retrieved intact by the Italians before the crew could destroy the plane.

Soon afterwards, the firm “Societa Anonmia Nieuport-Macchi” constructed an identical plane.  Only the motors (Isotta-Franchini, 150PS) and armament (6,5mm Revelli-MG of Fiat) differed from that of the Austria-Hungarian airplanes.  Altogether 150 L1-planes were constructed.  The series L2 and L3 were also based also on this prototype.

The first air victory over an air ship

To recognize out of the above-mentioned description, the launching of an airship was at that time a difficult venture.  The air victory first came in the night to June 7, 1915 - about 24 hours before. 

The Canadian Sub-Lieutenant Reg.  Warneford of the Royal Naval Air service bombed the German zeppelin LZ-37 with fire bombs after it had its total carbine-ammunition already exhausted. 

 Actually the 20-year old  Canadian bombed a zeppelin factory in Belgium.  That is the first night flight of the inexperienced pilot. 

For that he had 9kg fire bombs next to an Belgian carbines.  He starts at midnight and shortly loses the contact to his unit.

Yet before he found his actual goal, he discovers a gigantic airship that was climbing and was firing on the little airplane.  Warneford follows the LZ long almost 160m-37 to its destination Ghent (Belgium)  There he goes higher and succeeds to come over the air ship.  He throws off all his bombs and ignites therewith the Ungetüm.  Warneford received the Victoria Cross for this psychologically important success.  He died only 10 days after this historic victory in a plane crash near Paris.

"The Italian airship Cittŕ di Ferrara was destroyed on its return from Fiume on July 8, 1915 by the Austrian seaplane."

Rudolf A. Höger; 1915 Öl/mural  50x38,5 cm German army historical  Museum, Berlin DHM, Berlin Gm 94/4

From 1914 to 1918 five air ships were brought down by the K.u.K. navy fliers.