Monday, 31 May 1909

This post is part of a series post-blogging the phantom airship scare of 1909. See here for an introduction to the series, and here for a conclusion.

No scareships today. But the Standard carries a short article (p. 3) which shows how the airship menace could lie at the nexus of propaganda, advertising and entertainment. This summer's weekly Brock's Benefits, a free fireworks display produced by Brock's Fireworks at the Crystal Palace, will present 'a scene of an invasion drama of a novel kind'.

The scenery is a thousand feet in length, and represents a peaceful English village. Territorials are seen drilling with a newly invented gun which, it is claimed, will put an end to any likelihood of invasion by airships. A spy is captured, but he escapes and signals to the enemy. Airships are then seen hovering around, and eventually foreign troops are landed, and a desperate fight ensues, involving the partial destruction of the village. The British troops emerge triumphant.

Invasion, spies, airships, explosions, destruction and a British victory. What more could you ask for?

There's also a long report (p. 5) on the record-breaking flight by the new Zeppelin II (LZ5):

The greatest feat in the history of aerial navigation has been accomplished by Count Zeppelin to-day in his new aerial warship, Zeppelin II., by a flight from Manzell, on the Lake of Constance, to Bitterfeld, a distance of about 300 miles as the crow flies.

It stayed aloft for an incredible 24 hours (which is important to remember when people like me tell you that the the first night flights were not carried out until the following year), though it didn't quite make it to Berlin as was rumoured. Interestingly, given the description of the phantom airships in Britain, the Zeppelin is described as carrying searchlights:

From various telegrams received in Berlin from different towns along the route describing the excitement caused by the appearance of the airship with its searchlights, it became evident that the rumour was not without foundation.

Impressive as this flight is, a distance of 300 miles would not nearly be enough to fly from Germany to Britain (even setting aside the fact that Zeppelin II's first flight was only a few days ago). But the Count is getting there.

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2 thoughts on “Monday, 31 May 1909

  1. The bit about the fireworks is fascinating. We're so conditioned to think of "fireworks" as meaning just the high-flying exploding shells, that a whole genre has been more or less lost to us.

  2. Post author

    Very true! They seem like a functional equivalent of summer blockbusters, or (going back aways) the Romans flooding the Coliseum for mock naval battles, or (going sideways) contemporary air shows.

    I wonder if anyone has recaptured this genre for us. There are a few Brock's Benefits images on the web, which is a start: here, here, here, here, here and here (a handbill).

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