Thursday, 20 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.

Evening Telegraph, 20 February 1913, 4

Although phantom airships have often been in the news lately, none have actually been reported for more than a week. The Dundee Evening Telegraph and Post breaks the drought today with a sighting from Scarborough, on the coast of the North Riding of Yorkshire (p. 4; above). No date is given, unfortunately. At least two people saw it near the racecourse, 'Mr C. T. Taylor, who holds a managerial position in connection with a firm of grocers', and 'Miss Hollings, daughter of Dr Hollings, whose attention was first attracted by the sound of machinery':

The airship showed flashlights for about seven minutes, went away, returned, and showed them for another five minutes, after which it went north.

Mr Taylor thought at first, when the headlight alone was visible, that it was a bright star, but when it began to move naturally his interest was greatly awakened, the more so when he saw the flashlights.

Unusually, the Telegraph seems to imply that the Royal Navy was responsible:

Naval authorities have paid a great deal of attention to the East coast recently, and much manœuvring has been carried out in the vicinity of Scarborough.

The paper's liberal politics perhaps accounts for this lack of alarm about the mystery airship.

The Navy League, a generally more conservative organisation, is not so sanguine. At the annual meeting of the League's Grand Council, held in London yesterday, Arnold White raised the question of aerial defence. The Times (p. 4) and the Standard (p. 9) have similar accounts; from the latter:

as ships and dockyards were now open to attack from the air, it was now within the province of the league to urge the Government to bring up the aeronautical strength of the country to such a point that our ships, dockyards, and cities could be properly protected. During the last few days, he said, an Act had been rushed through both Houses of Parliament without discussion for the purposes of enabling troops on the coast and elsewhere to fire upon airships which were in the habit of surreptitiously visiting this country during the night.

According to White, the 'enormous progress' being made in 'throwing bombs from airships' means that the League 'should insist under all conditions and at all costs that Britain should catch up with other nations who had passed her in the struggle for the supremacy of the air'. Admiral Sir E. Fremantle agrees that pressure is necessary: 'the Government were not encouraging private enterprise, which was absolutely necessary in aeronautical matters'. The question of whether the Navy League will start campaigning on air defence will be considered by its executive committee.

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