Friday, 7 February 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.

Western Gazette, 7 February 1913, 2

The provincial press is still catching up with the South Wales mystery airships today. In fact, most of it still catching with from the sightings from the weekend -- the Exeter Western Times (p. 6) and Lichfield Mercury (p. 2) have versions of the article published in the Standard on Monday about the airship seen the Vaff Valley on Saturday night, and the Cambridge Independent Press (p. 5) has a truncated account. The Yeovil Western Gazette (p. 2, above) and the Manchester Courier supplement (p. 8) report on the airship seen from Newport and elsewhere on Wednesday night. None provide any additional information beyond that previously published. The Western Times and the Lichfield Mercury air the theory that the airship originated from the wilds of Dartmoor Irish Independent; similarly, the regular London correspondent of the Irish Times says (p. 6), apropos of nothing, that

The mystery regarding the airship so frequently seen over Wales is still unexplained, but it is supposed that experiments are being made with airships from a quiet place on Dartmoor.

The Dundee Evening Telegraph has another idea (p. 5):

Just now Venus appears as the evening star, and, remarked an official of the Royal Astronomical Society it is more likely than not that the bright light of the planet has deceived several people, though, of course, an experienced eye would not now be led astray.

'Venus at present becomes visible about sunset, and remains visible for some hours afterwards,' added the official, 'providing, of course, that there is a clear sky. It would appear to be practically stationary, and, no doubt, people not very well versed in the movements of the planet might think it had some connection with an airship, especially now that many vague rumours are afloat.'

The Western Gazette (p 2.) reprints the Daily Mail similar (though not at all detailed) suggestion of yesterday, so it seems that this explanation is gaining ground.

Despite its sceptical note, the Gazette also offers a lengthy report of an airship seen over Shepton Mallet in Somerset, more than 10 miles inland: 'Hitherto the aircraft has been seen only on the Bristol Channel seaboard'. The Gazette got hold of the story only because the witness mentioned seeing the airship 'in a casual conversation with a Pressman on Friday', which was subsequently 'confirmed in an interview with our representative' that 'he saw an airship over Shepton Mallet on the previous Wednesday night [29 January 1913]:

It appears that Mr. Nalder, jun., first saw the airship. Mr. Nalder, who is the son of Mr A. E. Nalder, solicitor, and clerk of the local authorities at Shepton Mallet, leaving the house about 11 o'clock, and saw what he took to a falling star away to the south of the town. Seeing that the star appeared to be slowly descending, he rushed back into the house and called his father and some visitors out see the unusual phenomenon. On getting outside it was found the light was still dropping, and Mr. Nalder got his field glasses and focussed them on the object.

The light dropped, says, a considerable distance, and then stopped for some moments, remaining perfectly stationary. After a time it again moved downwards until it again came to a halt a great distance from the earth.

For over minute it remained in this position, and then, after swaying to and fro, moved off a westerly direction towards the Channel.

Mr. Nalder, who with his visitors had plenty of time to gaze the at the unusual spectacle, describes what he saw as 'a blob of light, as large as a soup plate, and something like the last comet."

The weather at the time was fine, though rain had fallen just before, and Mr. Nalder had a splendid opportunity observing the light. Confirmation of the story told by Mr. Nalder and his son comes from Mr. A. Hilton, of Byron House, Portway, Wells, for he, too, witnessed the same phenomenon as he was going home, and when he arrived home called to his wife to see the sight, but by the time Mr. and Mrs. Hilton came out again the aircraft had vanished.

Despite the length of this account, it's not at all clear that the Nalders or indeed anyone else other than the Gazette thought of an airship when they saw whatever it was that they saw: indeed they likened it to various astronomical phenomena.

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