Thursday, 30 January 1913

This post is part of a series post-blogging the phantom airship scare of 1913. See here for an introduction to the series, and here for a conclusion.

Daily Express, 30 January 1913, 1

A new mystery airship report today, from a new part of the country -- 'the coast of Mid Wales' (Daily Express, p. 1; above):

An 'Express' correspondent at Aberystwyth states that it was seen by country people approaching the village of Chancery, a few miles south of Aberystwyth, at 8.25 on Saturday night [25 January 1913].

The movements of the airship were witnessed by a number of the villagers. At first it was headed for Cardigan Bay, but its searchlights, which swept the hills, evidently revealed the nearness of the sea, for it turned south and left in the direction of Carmarthenshire.

The Times carries the same report -- well, barring the reference to the Express (p. 12). The Express, however, also reveals its exasperation at the difficulty in reconciling the increasingly widespread phantom airship sightings to date (p. 1):

This is at least the fifth time this month that the mystery airship has been seen flying by night, yet no one has seen it rise or descend, and no one knows whence it comes or whither it goes:

On Tuesday the 'Express' reported that five persons declared they had seen it going over Liverpool 'between seven and half-past eight' on Saturday night last [25 January 1913]. Yet at 8.25 it was seen near Aberystwyth!

Exclamation mark! The Express doesn't try to explain how the airship could be seen at two places at the same time, but logically the choices boil down to: (1) there are two airships, or maybe more; (2) there is one airship, or maybe none. It summarises the previous sightings:

Dover, Jaunary [sic] 4.
Yarmouth, January 15.
Bristol Channel and Cardiff, January 18 [should be January 17].
Yarmouth, January 23.

And points out that like the airship or airships recently seen at Liverpool and near Aberystwyth, the ones reported at Dover and at Cardiff 'carried a light or lights'.

The Aeroplane has an editorial comment on the recent outbreak of mystery airships. It's presumably by C. G. Grey: it repeats in abbreviated form the argument of his Express article from more than two weeks ago, and even uses a very similar headline, 'Airships or scareships' (p. 111):

THE AEROPLANE does not venture an opinion as to whether any or all of these machines were real or imaginary, but in either case it shows that the people of this country are beginning to realise that it will be well to keep an outlook on the sky in time of war, so that whether these vehicles are airships or 'scareships' they are, at any rate, serving a useful purpose.

Indeed, one of 'the people of this country', writing under the name Observer, has written in to the editor of the Manchester Guardian to suggest a response to the reported aerial incursions (p. 4):

The successful flight over the Alps, the recently reported flight of a foreign airship over Sheerness, and the long range of flight possessed by modern airships make the necessity for strict regulations for foreign aviators wishing to fly over any portion of the British Isles is very evident. The foreign aviator should notify the authorities of his wish to make a flight and of the route he desires to follow, and it should be obligatory that flights should be at a moderate altitude in order that aircraft may be identified in some manner to be decided upon.

The Guardian is generally supportive of the Liberal government, though given its Radicalism this is more in despair than hope. The same is presumably more or less true of those who choose to read the Guardian. Observer would seem to lie at the cynical end of the spectrum:

It cannot be sound policy to drift along and not do anything in this respect whilst the opportunity remains to us in times of peace, and common sense would indicate the necessity for the strict regulation of aerial traffic; but unfortunately foresight and common sense are not distinguishing characteristics of our foreign policy.

Is the government listening?

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5 thoughts on “Thursday, 30 January 1913

  1. Interestingly, the same phenomena that today we call an UFO, a century ago were identified as an airship. The sense of mistery, danger and technology changes with time.

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    Yes, I think that is a big part of what is going on. People see something strange in the sky and try to understand it in terms of something they know, or know of -- airships, missiles, spaceships, even ghosts. It doesn't necessarily mean that there is nothing to the UFO phenomenon, because it can be argued that they are seeing something real and that could really be aliens or whatever. But equally it shows that often you can't really trust their observations when they say they've seen gondolas and searchlights or aliens for that matter. Their brains are deceiving them.

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