Thursday, 9 May 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.

Anonymous, 9 May 1918

NAA: MP1049/1, 1918/066, page 457 is a copy of a telegram sent from the Navy Office to the Admiralty, London; Commander in Chief, China; Senior Naval Officer, Wellington; and Captain in Charge, Sydney. It reads:

Majority of aircraft reports have proved to have no foundation. No definite proof of existence of aircraft obtained. Exhaustive enquiries have failed to trace any indication of raider or inland organisation. Many flights made by Military aircraft but nothing suspicious seen.

Consider that news of initial reports in spreading caused people to anticipate aircraft thus stimulating imagination.

In addition, the following telegram has been sent to SNO Wellington and Garden [Island], Sydney: 'Orders for [merchant] vessels to navigate without lights are cancelled'.

Like the telegram sent to the Admiralty on 27 April, this is also big, but for the opposite reason: whereas the previous message informed London of possible enemy activity in Australia, this one is saying 'You know what, don't worry about that, it's all fine, actually'. Clearly this follows on from the scepticism expressed in the last military intelligence analysis, HB56, which seems to have only strengthened in the subsequent five days. While the investigations are still continuing -- there's an out, in that only the majority of reports are baseless -- this date can probably be safely regarded as the end of the mystery aeroplane panic, as far as the government is concerned; which is of course why I cite it in my article.

When discussing the earlier telegram, I idly wondered how to interpret the numbers after 'Time Signal or [number]'. Comparing the numbers here, it's pretty obvious: they are just the number of telegrams sent to that particular recipient since some date (the start of the war? ever?) So this is the 303rd telegram sent from the Navy Office to the Admiralty; the previous one was the 292nd. Which should have been obvious!

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