Thursday, 20 March 1913

Daily Mirror, 20 March 1913, 4

Seely's statement of the Army estimates will have done little to assuage the doubts of Bonar Law and Massy regarding the Government's unsoundness on aviation, since he announced no new expenditure beyond that already announced. However, in its fullness and its frankness it appears to have disarmed the Opposition, at least for now. The part dealing with aviation has attracted the most interest in the press, for as the Dublin Freeman's Journal says, 'Usually the debate on the Army Estimates is the dullest of the year', but this time there was 'scope for the exercise of the imagination. What of the peril of the air?' (p. 7) The Journal's parliamentary correspondent suggests that Seely's speech was intended to puncture the recent hysteria about airships (though this appears to be their own interpretation, not supported by Seely's own words as quoted):

First he explained how the airship panic had been allowed to grow. Both the Admiralty and the War Office had been hard at work, but they have not advertised. Not only so, but he paid a tribute to the Press of the country for assisting them to work in secret.

Briefly, the Army now has 123 trained pilots and 101 aeroplanes, among them 'the most efficient aeroplane in the world'. It 'does not favour the monster airship of the Zeppelin type', but its three small airships 'have the advantage of being portable' and 'can be taken to pieces and sent abroad with an expeditionary force'. Seely went on to say that

The Zeppelin need not be feared. The difficulty of hitting a target in the air, moving at an unknown speed at an unknown height, has been solved completely. Any idea of an airship hovering over a battlefield or over a defenceless country must be abandoned.

Mr. Rowland Hunt tried to come to the rescue of the dumb-founded Opposition. 'How is it to be done at night?' he asked, only to be reminded that if the airship could not be seen it could not see a target to fire at below.

Well might the Opposition have been dumb-founded by such an argument. But Seely's attempt to dispel 'The Fear of the Zeppelin' can only be strengthened by the news from Germany that the military airship Ersatz Z I was wrecked at Karlsruhe yesterday, breaking in two from a gale. According to the Daily Mirror (p. 4; above):

The Ersatz Z 1, the newest Zeppelin airship, adds Reuter, was the ship supposed to have made the surreptitious trip to England about a month ago at the time of the airship 'scare'.

A number of other newspapers include this detail in their report, including the Dundee Courier, the Irish Times, the Liverpool Courier and both the Manchester Courier and the Manchester Guardian.

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