Camouflage with a vengeance

The Images experienced a power cut as a result of an air raid, and heard some interesting Navy news.

29 Barton Road
22 Oct. ‘17
My Most Dear Old Man

On Friday evening we were at dinner – the clock, I remember, was in the middle of striking 8 – when, in a flash, down went the electric light, and up bounced Florence to find whether it was so all through the house. It was! and we had in a candle, to the accompaniment of bombs and anti-aircraft guns, seemingly 2 miles away to the north. I wonder, were they trying for the aerodrome at Hardwick? for they are reported to have attempted that at T in Norfolk. Well, we went unconcernedly to bed, and were awakened by a glare at 2.10 – sign that the raiders were clear of England. But oh how humiliating! They can drop bombs at will, and unharmed, in England. Once cross to France, and they are chivvied and hustled, go wherever they attempt. The French can bring them down. Never has there been such a field day before, for Zepps.

Some friends, fresh from Liverpool, told me the other day of the steady silent inundation of Americans now overflowing the place. Especially of the hundreds upon hundreds of Yankee aeroplanes, beautifully packed, daily landed on the quays.

In one dry dock these people came across a large Yankee man-of-war, painted blue with pink spots (or was it, pink with blue spots. Those were the colours anyhow.) Camouflage with a vengeance: but it has the effect of destroying outlines and muddling them up at a distance. This they observed especially in the case of HMS Ramillies lying out in the stream – a battleship, painted the most bizarre horror, chiefly black and white stripes.

All this is very fine – but as today’s Daily Mail asks, in Italics, ‘Who commands the North Sea?’ The British navy may be the ‘incomparable’ weapon we hear it called, but it is bluffed by the Huns and its convoys and their escort snapped up by a small force of 2 raiders, almost in hearing of the Grand Fleet. The Kaiser’s vaunt of Germany’s future being on the water looks justified – Nelson went to the Gulf of Riga – but we can’t.

Our united love to you both.
Ever yours,
Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

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Zeppelins get lost

Florence Vansittart Neale rejoiced at the misadventure of some enemy Zeppelins.

21 October 1917

5 Zeppelins down in France, lost their way.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Subscriptions to insure all Church buildings against Aircraft risk

The fear of air raids had clearly lessened, as insurance premiums were significantly lower.

Anti-Zeppelin Insurance

The Churchwardens and Vicar again ask for Subscriptions to insure all Church buildings against Aircraft risk.

Owing to the reduction of premiums, it will probably cost about £12 this year instead of about £20. We have already received £2 from Mrs. Cope, and a Collection was taken on Low Sunday, April 15th, for that purpose.

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, May 1917 (D/P181/28A/26)

All Germans of military age to be called up

Swiss newspapers had access to the latest news from Germany. Will Spencer heard of the death of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, inventor of the Zeppelin airship which had become so feared in Britain.

9 March 1917

News in the paper of Graf Zeppelin’s death (aged 79). Also a statement that all Germans of military age were about to be called in.

Diary of Will Spencer (D/EX801/27)

A dark night

Dark nights were a blessing in wartime.

24th October 1916

A dark night but keeping free from Zepps.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

Just the night for Zeppelins

The fear of air raids meant people were constantly on edge even when it was a quiet night.

19th October 1916

Just the night for Zepps. Dark and still but we had no alarm.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

“The Huns ran from the tanks like hares”

John Maxwell Image wrote to a friend with his latest thoughts, and passing on brother-in-law Percy Spencer’s impressions.

29 Barton Road
Tuesday 10 Oct ‘16

My Very Dear Old Man

I quite understand, and share with you, the absorbing interest of the daily War News. Nothing else matters, now-a-days. What do you make of this morning’s news of the U boat blockade of the United States coast? If America really shuts them out from supplies in her ports, it must be over in a month or so – and if it succeeds, the exasperation of the Yanks’ commerce must kick Wilson into activity. Anyhow it is a risky move for Germany on the brink of a Presidential election. Therefore I should judge it a sop to soothe German home politics – now that things are growing so disastrous on the Somme.

I went last Friday to see the German “Albatross” (captured by us on 15 October last year) which the WO has presented to the University. It is said to be a fine specimen, tho’ the class has been cut out since. I was very little impressed. For one thing it was so much smaller than I expected – a snout nosed, biplane, 2 seater.

We have had 2 Zepp raids since my last letter. I slept peacefully through both. In the latter of the two the Zepp dropped a starshell on Grantchester: and then passed over Barton Road, probably over our own garden, for Prof. Stanley Gardiner (opposite us) heard its drone, and turning over in bed said to his wife, “the raid is over – there are the trains running again”. We were at tea in his lovely house and garden yesterday when he told me this…

Brandon, one of the two airmen who got DSO for bringing down the flaming Zepp was at Trinity Hall.

A Tank passed through Camb[ridge] on Friday. The Signora got an amusing letter from one of her brothers at the Front, last Saturday, in which he says of the Tanks, “they are very funny, but the boundless faith in them of the folks at home is even funnier. On the day when they were first used, the Huns ran from them like hares – this, although they were aware of their advent” (clearly, nothing can be kept from the Hun spy). Two are known to have got in once to the place near Thetford where the Tanks were secretly built. To go on with Percy Spencer: “One of these contraptions was observed going through the main street of a captured village with our boys riding all over her and hanging on the back.” His chief praise, however, is for our Aeroplanes. “In the air, the Hun is a nonentity – and he owns it every day” – and I remember how, when he first went out, he used to laugh and vow that he had seen hundreds shot at, but never one brought down!

These submarine brutes, who torpedo ships without warning! Did you notice that the first question asked by the Submarine at Newport was for the Bremen? Why, his Government, weeks ago, published to the world the safe arrival of the Bremen in America. Does he presume to disbelieve his own Government? The Americans honestly know nothing of her, but we in England for some time past have heard it whispered that she is safe at Falmouth. The Falmouth watch for U boats is very strict, and has been (so they boast) inordinately successful. A lady who came back a few weeks ago from a holiday, recounted to me how she was one afternoon walking by the shore when a destroyer tore past her in furious haste, all the funnels vomiting columns of black smoke. No sooner as she past Pendennis Point than the firing began. It died away – and presently, soberly and slowly, the destroyer came back, another destroyer keeping pace, and between them – the German submarine. What wouldn’t I have given for that sight.

I am told – by Ball, so it is likely to be correct – that Trinity expects this term 47 men of all years, including BAs!

The Fellowship dinner was for tonight. It is postponed till Thursday – after the funerals of Keith Lucas (killed from an aeroplane) nd poor Alfred Humphry. He is buried today at Thaxted…

Our most affectionate wishes to you both.
Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

Another Zeppelin raid

Air raids were an increasing problem. Florence Vansittart Neale must be talking about the same one as Apsley Cherry Garrard earlier today.

2 October 1916

Another Zepp raid & another brought down – 4 in a month. All London could see it.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“This neighbourhood is becoming unhealthy for Zepps”

Apsley Cherry-Garrard, Berkshire and Hertfordshire landowner and former Antarctic explorer, witnessed an air raid at close quarters.

Lamer, Oct 2, [1916]
Dear Farrer

I confess my heart stood still for about ½ minute last night as a Zepp passed over the top of the house fairly low. She dropped some 30-40 bombs later & I got a good view of her coming down in flames – so vivid that I fancied I could feel the heat coming from her. This neighbourhood is becoming unhealthy for Zepps; from the course this one took I should say that it intended to avenge the one that was brought down at Cuffley – when we had 3 of them here. …

Yours very sincerely

Apsley Cherry-Garrard

Letter from Apsley Cherry-Garrard (D/EHR/Z9/74)

Night duty – alone with one orderly

Elizabeth “Bubbles” Vansittart Neale of Bisham was struggling nursing.

1 October 1916

Heard from Bubs. She on night duty – very low bout it. 60 beds in ward – she alone with one orderly. 2 months!…

Another Zepp raid – one came down in flames at Potters Bar – all crew burnt.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Darken the windows on account of Zeppelin raids

St Peter’s Church in Caversham decided to have curtains made rather than actually painting the windows with black paint, as had been done previously.

Parochial Church Council
We must have our church windows darkened before the end of September, on account of Zeppelin raids. The windows are in too bad a condition to endure being painted again. Perhaps some of the ladies might help us by making curtains of some cheap dark material.

Caversham parish magazine, October 1916 (D/P162/28A/7)

Woke up and cussed the Kaiser

The war was hitting home, with our diarists. William Hallam in Swindon faced regular air raids, while Florence Vansittart Neale’s friends had been bereaved. Seymour Court in Marlow belonged to wealthy local brewer Thomas Wethered (1832-1921), whose daughter Edith was married to John Danvers Power (1858-1927), a barrister. It was their son, Lieutenant John Wethered Power (1894-1916), who had been killed in France.

William Hallam
26th September 1916

Last night at 12.30 the hooter blew a Zepp warning. I woke up, cussed the Kaiser and went to sleep again after a time.

Florence Vansittart Neale
26 September 1916

To Seymour Court. The Powers had just lost their son.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24); diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Overjoyed to see Zeppelins downed

William Hallam was pleased to see an air raid over Swindon had been foiled.

24th September 1916

Up at ¼ to 8. To St Paul’s at XI. A very dark night. Came up Victoria Rd. way from church and was overjoyed to see 2 Zepps had been fetched down.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

Shot in cold blood, and now “beyond the reach of human injustice and incompetence”

Cambridge don John Maxwell Image was excited by the new tanks rolling into action; philosophical about air raids – and horrified by first-hand stories of the executions of young men for cowardice or desertion.

29 Barton Road
[Cambridge]

23 Sept. ‘16

Mon Ami!

I share your views about the ghastly War. With its slaughters and its expenditure, where shall we be left after it is over. Any peace that leaves Germany still united – united for evil – is a fool madness that deserves the new War it will render a certainty.

I am in a fever to see the photograph of a Tank in action. I can’t imagine its appearance. I don’t believe them lengthy like caterpillars – but more like mammoths, Behemoths – “painted in venomous reptilian colours” for invisibility – and “waddling on” over trenches.

Today’s paper speaks of a seaplane over Dover yesterday. This is the very general prelude to a Zepp raid: and we expect one accordingly tonight, if their courage hasn’t oozed out. There is a Flying Camp near here – at Thetford, I believe. Daily, Planes soar over us – a sight I view every time with fresh pleasure. Twice we have had an Airship – huge, but not like the pictures of the German Zepps. I may as well tell you of our own experience on Saturday 3 weeks ago. Peaceful and unsuspecting, we were sitting in the drawing room at 10.30 when suddenly the electric lights went down and left the house in darkness. This is the official warning of Zepps. So we went out into Barton Rd. Not a glimmer, nor a sound. Quite unimpressive.

We turned in to bed – all standing (in Navy language) – and I into the deepest slumber, from which I was eventually shaken to hear an agitated voice, “they’re here”. I bundled out, lit a match and read on my watch 2.50. There was no mistaking – a thunderous drone, such as I had never heard before – and, seemingly, exactly overhead. We hurried down into the road. The roar grew fainter, and then began – deep and dignified – the guns. I guessed them to be on the Gogmagogs – then sharp explosions, which we took for bombs, thrown haphazard by the Zepp which was undoubtedly fleeing for the coast.

Robinson’s Zepp had come to earth at 2.30. Possibly ours was the wounded bird, which dropped a gondola or something in Norfolk when making its escape?

At 4.5 our electric lights went up again, and we to bed. Decorous night-rails, this time.

The Signora has a wee aluminium fragment from the Zepp that was brought down at Salonica. It was picked up by a young soldier who had been in her Sunday School Class. We had a sudden visit from her youngest brother, Gilbert, home on 6 days leave from Salonica. You have heard me speak of him as the rising artist who at 20 years of age sold a picture for £100, and is now a Tommy at 1/- a day. I fell in love with him on the spot. So simple, so lovable, – above all, such a child – going about the world unprotected!

By the way Gilbert saw the Zepp come down in flames at Salonica.
He had many yarns. The one that most made me shudder was of the announcement at a morning parade, “Sergeant So-and-so of the Connaught Rangers was shot this morning by sentence of a Court Martial for refusing to obey an order”. Just that! I have heard of these shootings in cold blood, several times, at the Front in France. Always they made me feel sick. A boy (on one occasion) of 17 ½, who had fought magnificently at Hill 60: and then lost his nerve, when his 2 brothers were killed in the trench at his side. Pym (our TCC [Trinity College, Cambridge] chaplain) sat with him all night and gave him the Sacrament. He

“could only feel what a real comfort it was to know that the boy was now beyond the reach of human injustice and incompetence”.

Letter from John Maxwell Image to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

A Zeppelin is brought down in flames

The First World War was the first air war, and raids terrified the civilian population. So the first Zeppelin to be downed was a cause of celebration.

3 September 1916
Zeppelin brought down in flames at Cuffley by Com. Robinson, a Canadian – he given VC.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)