Monday, 22 April 1918

This post is part of a series post-blogging the Australian mystery aeroplane panic of 1918. See here for an introduction or here for a list of all posts.

DNO Fremantle, 22 April 1918

NAA: MP1049/1, 1918/066, page 403 is a copy of a telegram from the District Naval Officer (DNO), Fremantle, Western Australia. He is passing on information from the editor of the Bunbury Herald (by way of the military censor) that at Bunbury

a girl reports having seen a balloon or zeppelin at 2200 21st April in direction of Picton. Observing that at 2200 it was not daylight the weather conditions stormy and dark.

It doesn't seem like this was published in the Bunbury News at the time. Some other telgrams add further information: NAA: MP1049/1, 1918/066, page 402, a decoded telegram from military intelligence at Perth, that the girl was 14 (and also that Cape Leeuwin lighthouse reported seeing an 'aerial object' on the same date); NAA: MP1049/1, 1918/066, page 404, a telegram from the Fremantle censor, that she worked for W. S. Hales. But they also both say that the girl's sighting took place at 6am, not 10pm as the DNO reported; the former says it happened on 18 April, not 21 April.

In my article, I used this as a more or less random example of one of the many mystery aeroplane reports beginning to arrive on the desks of bemused intelligence officers at this time -- though the fact that it took place in Western Australia, rather than Victoria, also helps to show the geographical spread of the reports. I must confess to being a bit casual in my referencing here: whereas I have quoted from and hence cited the DNO's telegram as above, in the text I also give the girl's age and the date as 18 April, which are from the military intelligence telegram. Properly speaking, I should have cited that instead, or as well. It was probably in the interests of concision that I didn't use both sources (given that it's not a particularly important example), and I suspect that I couldn't resist quoting the DNO's telegram because it uses the word 'zeppelin'! Aeroplanes are one thing, but whatever the girl saw it certainly wasn't one of those.

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