Tuesday, 25 May 1909

The phantom airship scare appears to be dying. Today, only the Globe has any articles relating to it. The first is from the front page humour column:

Some more "dark, cigar-shaped objects" have been seen. They were in the mouths of some German gentlemen, and emitted a dull red light and a strong odour. It is not known what they were.

And the second may not be about phantom airships at all. It is a report on 'The balloon scare in Belgium' (p. 9):

The "Belge Militaire" speaks in strong terms of the great danger involved in Belgium in the frequent visits that are being paid to Belgium by German airships in all directions; these balloons are in every case manned by German officers who have taken photographs of the most important military and strategic points in Belgium.

The Belge Militaire (obviously a Belgian military journal) says that any German balloon (or airship; the term seems to be used interchangeably here) which comes to ground in Belgium should be treated roughly, any photographic equipment and film being confiscated. It would be no more than Germany does to Belgian balloons which land in its territory.

Frustratingly, there is nothing here about what evidence there is for such visitations. It's not clear if Belgium has been experiencing something like the British scareships or whether the Belgian army routinely detects Zeppelins flying over its borders. Either seems plausible.

Otherwise, the press seems to be reverting to its more usual defence preoccupation: dreadnoughts. German admirals are fulminating about unnecessary British naval construction and the British Navy League wants four more dreadnoughts this year. Business as usual.

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7 thoughts on “Tuesday, 25 May 1909

  1. Erik Lund

    Brett, have you looked at

    The scaremongers : the advocacy of war and rearmament 1896-1914 / A.J.A. Morris. --

    Main Author: Morris, A. J. Anthony.
    Published: London ; Boston : Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984.

    it's a comparative review of the British and German press as they cycle through a series of scares and crises, making many of the points that you're making, especially viz. "the semi-official press" of other countries. Considering that it's a poor man's book (from newspapers rather than archives), it is downright amazing just how much one finds in Morris and nowhere else.
    (Also, thoroughly off tpic, isn't it amazing just how copy and paste unfriendly university library databases can be?)

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  3. Post author

    I have indeed, I relied upon it quite a bit for my honours thesis (which was on the phantom airships). It is indeed invaluable if you're interested in press panics and spy scares, as I am. But if you think it's a 'poor man's book' because of the lack of archival research I shudder to think what you would make of my thesis :)

  4. Erik Lund

    Hey, it's a strong book, and there should be a great deal more like it. Like your thesis, for example. It's much better than the alternative of going to an archive, finding a fonds that collects a contemporary newspaper, and writing your thesis out of it rather than dealing with all the incomprehensible documents. You just have to deal with the diplomatic history snobs that have been to every archive in Europe.

  5. Post author

    I don't think there is any way to deal with those diplomatic history snobs on terms they would accept other than to be one yourself!

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