Last week was a relatively quiet one for the phantom airships, but today they receive the most press coverage yet. The main reason for this is a cluster of sightings reported from Yorkshire on Friday, along with another sighting from Warwickshire about 100 miles inland. In fact, there are so many reports that no one newspaper covers them all. According to the London Standard (p. 9; above):
It was seen by many observers on Friday night [21 February 1913] in both districts, apparently at about the same time. The fact of its flight may be regarded as well-established. The description of the craft agrees with that of the earlier visitor whose night flights puzzled the authorities.
The sighting featured most prominently is that of C. H. March, a solicitor and a law lecturer for the Leeds Education Committee, and his wife (though her husband does all the talking, apparently). They were returning to their Selby home after attending a lecture about a mile away. He is quoted in the London Daily Mail (p. 7) as saying:
We left at nine precisely and were in Doncaster-road, Selby, at 9.15. We had just passed the houses in Doncaster-road and had our first clear glimpse of the country to the west when I saw two lights in the sky. It was just about half dark, and though it was impossible to judge accurately I should say the lights were about two miles from us to the west.
"One of the lights was big and bright like the head light of a motor-car. I do not think it was a searchlight, because its ray, which we could plainly see, remained horizontal all the time and did not slant upwards or downwards as though it were movable. The other light was small, and it struck me as possible that it might be a tail light. What makes me think that they were head light and tail light respectively is the fact that at times the big head light would eclipse the smaller tail light, and I think the object to which they were attached was not moving to any great extent but was hovering. The lights were too low in the sky and too big and bright to be stars."
The Standard adds (p. 9) that it was first seen in the direction of Hambleton, due west:
He drew his wife's attention to it, and they were astonished to see the light begin to move up and down, and apparently now and then go out. Watching for three-quarters of an hour he observed what he was then certain was a dirigible reconnoitre in different directions for some miles, and then turn at an acute angle, and pass out of view, going towards Leeds.
March 'believes that it was a foreign aircraft attempting to find out the exact position of a Government magazine in the district'. The Mail doesn't attribute this belief to him, though it does note that the area is home to 'Barlby Arsenal, where there is stored a great quantity of army ammunition' (p. 7). The distinction is worth making because despite the apparent availability of a direct statement by one of the witnesses the various accounts disagree in some particulars. Some are easy enough to explain — the Liverpool Echo, for example, says that he first saw the 'large dirigible balloon' when 'looking out from his house on Brayton-road' (p. 7); presumably the Marches didn't stand around on Doncaster Road watching the airship in the cold but continued on their way home and resumed watching it from there. Others are more troubling. Despite March's clear and reasoned statement, as quoted in the Mail, that the airship did not have a searchlight, the Standard says that 'He states that an airship with a powerful searchlight hovered over the town' (p. 9). It could be that there are other accounts available; the Mail's quotation is evidently truncated and perhaps in the full statement March says he saw a searchlight switch later. (The other press references to the Marches' sighting, in the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express, are too brief to help.) Or it could be that the Standard is, possibly inadvertently, making March's airship conform to other accounts.
This post is part of an experiment in post-blogging the scareship wave of January-April 1913. See here for an introduction to the series.