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  • Mihaela Repina

One Hundred Years Ago Today...

One hundred years ago today the first Zeppelin raid on Britain took place on the evening of 19th January 1915.

A young Jesuit scholastic who had been studying in Germany until 1914, was concerned about the Zeppelin menace and provided drawings and warnings in an article in the Blandyke Papers. Thomas Egan SJ (1889-1915) was a member of the Irish province. After the outbreak of war and his return from Germany, he resumed his philosophy studies at Stonyhurst. His article is entitled “The Zeppelin Menace” was published just a month before the first Zeppelin raids caused the loss of life and damage he had predicted.

Two airships bombed Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn in Norfolk, killing nine people. More raids followed on coastal towns and also on London during 1915 and 1916. In all, there were fifty two Zeppelin raids on Britain during the First World War, killing over 500 people.

Thomas Egan SJ as a novice from The Clongownian, 1907. Courtesy of the Irish Jesuit Archives. Sadly, owing to poor health, he died in 1915 aged only 26.

Here is an excerpt from his prophetic article in the Blandyke Papers:

One of the things that struck me most on my return to England this week was the fact that so little was spoken about Zeppelin raids. I was told there was no occasion for anxiety on that score - the necessary precautions had been taken by the authorities. Searchlights are on the look-out all along the East coast, where a hundred British airmen are ready to ward off an attack. Small cannons are mounted on the larger public buildings of London; the city is darkened so that the enemy may have no clue as to its whereabouts. To attack us is to court certain destruction.

Such are the reassuring statements which I heard on all sides, but still I remained sceptical. I had heard too much of the German statement of the case to be convinced by these arguments.

France and England have specialised in aeroplanes, the Germans in airships. The type of the latter finally adopted by the Government is named after its inventor Count Zeppelin.

The Zeppelins have not yet ventured forth. They still constitute a “fleet in being”, but when the day comes they may be expected to give a good account of themselves.

Note: I do not want to be considered a scare-monger. But it may be well to know that the Germans do expect great things from their air fleet.

[Blandyke Papers, No. 198, Christmas 1914 By Thomas Egan SJ]

The Blandyke Papers were an internal publication started by the seminarians at St. Mary’s Hall, Stonyhurst in 1889. Their aim was to provide an outlet for future priests to develop their literary skills and creativity. In my previous blog you’ll find out more about the origins of the Blandyke Papers and origin of their name.

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