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The First World WarLiterature, Culture, Modernity$

Santanu Das and Kate McLoughlin

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266267

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266267.001.0001

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The Zeppelin in the Sky of the Mind

The Zeppelin in the Sky of the Mind

(p.128) 7 The Zeppelin in the Sky of the Mind
The First World War

Christine Froula

British Academy

Abstract and Keywords

While First World War historians often emphasize civilians’ experience of ‘war at a distance’, the military dirigible floated over the divide between civilian and soldier, brought aerial warfare to Britain’s island fortress, and inaugurated a mode of modern warfare that defies spatial and temporal containment. This essay foregrounds the zeppelin’s psychic impact on the civilian imaginary from 1914 through the Spanish Civil War to the Blitz, tracing its conceptual and aesthetic representation in diaries, letters, novels, essays, and plays by Virginia Woolf, H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Katherine Mansfield, D. H. Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Rukeyser, Julian Bell and others. These writings document an unending European-civil-imperial-global war in which aerial technologies at once enlarge human powers almost beyond imagining and dwarf them to the point of negation. Inspiring both wonder and the new terror of total war, the zeppelin created a permanent change in civilians’ psychic weather and remains an inescapable presence in the sky of the mind.

Keywords:   zeppelin, total war, aerial warfare, civilians, Virginia Woolf, global war, First World War, Spanish Civil War, Blitz

The history of the war is not and never will be written from our point of view.

Virginia Woolf, ‘The War from the Street’ (1919)

IN HER 1938 ANTI-FASCIST, anti-war essay Three Guineas – described by one reviewer as ‘a revolutionary bomb of a book, delicately aimed at the heart of our mad, armament ridden world’ – Virginia Woolf contemplates photographs of ‘ruined houses and dead bodies’ taken after Franco’s aerial bombing of Madrid.1 Sent by the Spanish government to prominent artists and thinkers to call out international protest, these images had deeper resonance in the modernist imaginary than the Spanish Civil War. In 1903, when the Wrights inaugurated heavier-than-air flight, ‘we thought we were introducing into the world an invention which would make further wars practically impossible’, Orville recalled in 1917.2 But by 1908 H. G. Wells had launched Bert Smallways on an odyssey that begins in a pleasure balloon and ends in a zeppelin attack on New York and a world destroyed by war.3 In 1909 Giulio Douhet began prophesying that actual war would invade the skies,4 and on 6 August 1914, just days after Germany mobilized, a zeppelin bombed (p.129)

The Zeppelin in the Sky of the Mind

Figure 7.1 Postcard. Artist’s rendering of the zeppelin bombing of Lüttich/Liège on 9 August 1914.

Courtesy © GermanPostalHistory.com.

Liège, killing nine civilians5 – ‘the first attempt in history to strike directly at the will-to-resist of a civilian population in war’ (Figure 7.1).6

Artillery bombs killed thousands more, but the unprecedented zeppelin attacks on European cities shattered the walls of the private house and the bounds of the (p.130) battlefield alike.7 Notwithstanding Paul Fussell’s widely accepted thesis of an abyssal divide between Great War soldiers’ and civilians’ experiences, tempered by Gillian Beer, Karen Levenback, Mary Favret and other scholars of British civilian experience of ‘war at a distance’ from the front, military and cultural historians have long observed that aerial bombing brought the war home, into civilians’ skies, streets, and lives (Figure 7.2).8 This essay foregrounds the psychic impact of aerial bombing on British civilians from the first zeppelin raids on Britain in the First World War through the Blitz and beyond, traced through diaries, letters, novels, plays, poems, essays and films by Virginia Woolf, Bernard Shaw, Vera Brittain, D. H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield, Thomas Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Rukeyser, W. B. Yeats, Julian Bell and others. Casting a widened temporal net, it proposes that the new conditions of aerial warfare inaugurated by the zeppelin permanently exploded both the spatial boundary of the battlefield and the conventional temporal bounds of the world wars to frame them instead as interlinked episodes of an ongoing, if intermittent, European-civil-imperial-global war. (p.131)

The Zeppelin in the Sky of the Mind

Figure 7.2 British First World War recruitment poster. Imperial War Museum.

© Crown Copyright IWM (Q 80366).

(p.132) ‘Zeppelin psychosis’: the sky of the mind invaded

Once the eerily silent, wildly errant military dirigible had introduced the new terror of aerial warfare even to Britain’s island fortress,9 George Bernard Shaw described ‘sitting in our gardens’ feeling ‘a throb in the air as unmistakeable as an audible sound, or with tightening hearts studying the phases of the moon in London in their bearing on the chances whether our houses would be standing or ourselves alive next morning’ (Figure 7.3).10 Civilians’ wartime experience did not approach combatants’ subjection to the horrific new machine warfare in the trenches, and the terms ‘terror bombing’ and ‘total war’ had yet to be coined. Nonetheless, floating over geopolitical boundaries, the zeppelin impressed the people below into a new relation to war as military strategists saw in these ‘bright and wondrous apparitions’ a way to make and win wars by demoralizing civilian populations.11 As aerial warfare escalated rapidly and inexorably between the bombings of Liège (1914) and of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1945), civilian deaths rose to more than half the war dead.12

The point, then, is not to compare the Home Front with the Western Front, civilian war experience with combat soldiers’, but rather to grasp the historical fact that – and degree to which – the advent of aerial machine warfare altered the spatial map – and the temporal conception – of ‘the front’ in the modernist imaginary (Figure 7.4).13 This virtual map, conceptual as well as phenomenal, hung in the minds not only of military strategists and civilians but of at least some combat soldiers. In the handbag of a soldier’s fiancée killed in the London air raid of 19 May 1918 was found a poem, signed ‘C. E. B.’, in the voice of a bereaved soldier struggling to comprehend the suddenly amorphous ‘front’: (p.133)

The Zeppelin in the Sky of the Mind

Figure 7.3 Postcard. ‘In the Heart of England.’

Courtesy canadianmilitaryhistory.ca.

The Zeppelin in the Sky of the Mind

Figure 7.4 British map plotting the zeppelin raid of 7–8 September 1915.

Courtesy National World War I Museum, Liberty Memorial, Kansas City, Missouri, USA.

  • (p.134) ‘My girl is dead; that’s all I know;
  • I came out here to take my chance
  • In the uncommon lively show
  • They’re running out in Northern France.
  • I thought I left her safe behind.
  • What call had I to feel afraid,
  • I didn’t even call to mind
  • The chances of a Zeppelin raid.
  • ‘“Be careful, won’t you, Bill?” she said;
  • And if I tried I couldn’t tell
  • How dear she looked – and now she’s dead,
  • And I’m out here alive and well.
  • I think they might have took more care
  • Of her, my girl, and me away,
  • But mine’s the bitter grief to bear,
  • And mine, by God, the debt to pay!’14

If the Escher-like coincidence of a young woman killed in an air raid carrying this poem about a soldier mourning his beloved killed in an air raid – and steeling his will-to-resist – suggests less reported fact than propaganda, the emergence of this voice and poetic idea reflects the new reality of aerial warfare and its impact on people’s actual wartime lives, minds and everyday state-of-emergency worlds. As Hilton P. Goss’s research makes abundantly clear, the effects of aerial warfare far exceed the usual neat accounts of the dead, the injured and property damage to encompass a vast array of disruptive and traumatic phenomena:

The drone of the airplane, the rattle of anti-aircraft guns, the crash of bombs, were heard by hundreds of thousands of nerve-wracked people, people who had been on their guard night after night, people running for refuge into underground stations or cellars, sleeping with their clothes on, trying to protect themselves from something which came from the sky, crashing down on their heads, a mass of defenseless people without even the psychological satisfaction of being able to strike back, to fire something into the air, a mass untrained and undisciplined for defense, men and women crying out for protection not for themselves so much as for their children, their aged, and their sick and invalid relations.15

(p.135) The profound and lasting psychic impact of the new aerial warfare, ‘Zeppelin psychosis’,16 left tracks in civilians’ letters, diaries, novels, essays, plays – ‘the sky of the mind’ evoked in Woolf’s 1941 novel, Between the Acts.17 There, gazing at the view from the terrace while awaiting the annual village pageant in June 1939, Giles Oliver sees in his mind’s eye the distant steeple splintered to smithereens by Hitler’s planes, poised ‘bristling with guns’ across the Channel. Later, ‘twelve aeroplanes in perfect formation’ cut through Reverend Streatfield’s funding appeal, their afterimage suspended alongside the play ‘in the sky of the mind’.18 As aerial warfare changes the spatial map of modern war, so civilian experiences of aerial warfare from 1914 to the present press us to think outside the temporal boxes ‘First World War’ and ‘Second World War’: to frame ‘the Great War’ within a very long ‘barbaric twentieth century’ in which air technology serves nationalist and imperialist rivalries and exacerbates the contest for world domination, right up to the new world disorder of our own moment.19

Britannia rules the air: the civilian ‘will-to-resist’

The first zeppelins floated into British skies on 19 January 1915, killing four and injuring sixteen in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. But even before the war, the giant German airships had invaded the civilian imaginary. The London Times closely followed Count von Zeppelin’s evolving dirigible in the years preceding the war. Meanwhile, the British government developed the non-rigid army airship Beta I (1910), rebuilt as Beta II (1912), on which the Prince of Wales cruised one June afternoon in 1913.20 In August 1914 Britain quickly assessed the danger of air attacks and the strength of its defences.21 British defence forces became adept at fending off, shooting down in flames and destroying in their hangars these ‘huge, (p.136)

The Zeppelin in the Sky of the Mind

Figure 7.5 Damage to Liverpool Street in London by the zeppelin raid on the night of 8/9 September 1915. Corporation of the City of London Collection. Imperial War Museum.

© Crown Copyright IWM.

surprisingly elusive monsters’, so that only 557 people died in the fifty-one zeppelin attacks on Britain.22 Still, the uncanny prospect of a bomb falling from a gigantic invisible balloon shook the deep sense of invincibility that British sea-power had secured for centuries. To American journalist William G. Shepherd, (p.137) who witnessed the terrible zeppelin raid of 8 September 1915, London suddenly seemed a ‘night battlefield’ where ‘seven million people […] stand gazing into the sky from the darkened streets’ (Figure 7.5).23

‘The history of the war is not and never will be written from our point of view’, Woolf declared in a 1919 review of The War from the Street.24 But, beginning in 1915, civilians’ writings, private and published, produced a documentary record of the psychic impact of the weirdly quiet zeppelins on British civilians and their resilient ‘will-to-resist’, manifest in their imaginative assimilation of this unprecedented war technology to familiar objects and experiences, benign and catastrophic.25 People marvelled, for example, at the airship’s translation of piscine aspect and nautical techne to the sky. During the 21 March 1915 zeppelin raid on Paris, which dropped twenty-five bombs and killed eight, Katherine Mansfield witnessed ‘the Ultimate Fish […] flying high with fins of silky grey. It is absurd to say that romance is dead when things like this happen’.26 Within two weeks of that first January zeppelin raid on London, Virginia and Leonard Woolf, walking across Green Park, heard ‘a terrific explosion’ in St. James Street:

people came running out of Clubs; stopped still & gazed about them. But there was no Zeppelin or aeroplane – only, I suppose, a very large tyre burst. But it is really an instinct with me, & most people, I suppose, to turn any sudden noise, or dark object in the sky into an explosion, or a German aeroplane. And it always seems utterly impossible that one should be hurt.27

(p.138) No bomb dropped from the sky after all, then, just a loud bang quickly domesticated into an ordinary danger. Still, this everyday event throws into relief the shadowy presence of zeppelins in Londoners’ minds, even absent the real thing. Nor did this ‘instinct’ of fear entirely dissipate with the war’s end in 1918. Its aftershocks are felt in the reflexive alarm of Mrs Dalloway’s post-war Londoners – civilians as well as traumatized veteran Septimus Warren Smith – on hearing a ‘violent explosion’ in the street that turns out to be not ‘a pistol shot’ but a motorcar’s backfire, followed by an aeroplane’s drone ‘bor[ing] ominously into the ears of the crowd’ as it swoops, soars, dives ‘dead down’, races ‘like a skater […] or a dancer’, writing on the sky an enigmatic advertisement – a stunning convergence of technology, commerce, desire and imagination for the watchers of the skies below.28

As Clarissa Dalloway admires the indomitable Lady Bexborough for having opened a bazaar with the telegram bearing news of her officer son John’s death in her hand, so Woolf applauds Londoners’ fearlessness in face of this new threat. After the terrible attack of 8 September 1915 left a ‘crescent scar of fire and ruin’ from Euston to Liverpool Street and Londoners ‘buzzing with fearful excitement’,29 Woolf’s letters and diary depict her civilian friends’ will-to-resist the nerve-wracking danger in the sky. Three weeks after that raid, the most damaging of the war, Woolf pictures Eleanor Cecil, wife of Viscount Robert Cecil, British Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, leading with the proverbial stiff upper lip: ‘I rejoiced to hear of you following the zeppelin in a taxi; such it is to have the blue blood of England in one’s veins: my literary friends hide in cellars, and never walk at night without looking at the sky.’30 She paints other London friends as no less intrepid, coolly assessing fire and ruin while carrying on unfazed. From Asheham House in Sussex, a few miles from the Channel in the air corridor between London and the Continent, she marvels to a friend, ‘I am often seriously alarmed when I hear that the zeppelins have been over London, but accounts from Sydney [Waterlow] and Nessa [her sister, Vanessa Bell] prove that you never turn a hair, but merely take a look at them, put the cowards in the cellar, and then walk the streets till you’ve seen all the fires!’31

So the Woolfs tried to calm their servants’ fears as they all ‘s[at] out the air raids on orange boxes […] down in the basement kitchen’ together.32 In April (p.139) 1916 Woolf wrote to Vanessa that her servant Nelly Boxall watched for zeppelins every night until one and had taken up Woolf’s joking suggestion that she sleep in the kitchen.33 In August 1916, a year of twenty-three zeppelin raids that killed 293 people and injured 691, Woolf seems almost to recommend to Vanessa the comparative calm of zeppelin-threatened London what with ‘these raids going on’ in Sussex:

We actually had a zeppelin over the house here – in broad daylight. We were away, but the servants say the sound is unmistakable, and were in a panic; Nelly hiding in the wood, and Lottie running to the Woolers, where Mrs Wooler did nothing but dash into her house and out again. But it was so high up that no one saw it. Eleven aeroplanes chased it. I cant help thinking it was really English.34

Woolf relays her servants’ frightened apprehension of a zeppelin ‘actually’ over Asheham, which, however, ‘no one saw’; it was detected instead by its ‘unmistakable’ sound and chased off by a phalanx of English aeroplanes. Indeed there was a raid that day: of twelve zeppelins launched on 24–25 August, four reached England and one southeast London, whereupon, flying above low clouds, it dropped thirty-six bombs in ten minutes, killing nine, injuring forty, and causing damage of £130,203.35 As if to minimize the servants’ quite justified fear, Woolf offers a wild surmise that the airship ‘was really English’: at that time, Britain had no dirigibles, only non-rigid airships, or blimps, scouting along the coasts.36 A few months later, Woolf recounts to Vanessa another incident, this time a false alarm at the Woolfs’ London home, Hogarth House in Richmond:

we have the Aurora Borealis, which a man in the street took to be zeppelins, so shouted out loud under the servants window. At midnight we heard them carrying their bedding to the kitchen, there to lie on the floor till day – With great difficulty we got them up again, and lectured them on the nature of northern lights.37

(p.140) These apprehensions of zeppelins real and imaginary highlight the fact that, huge though they were, their uncanny power to reach vanishing heights and hover for hours unseen and unheard made it hard to tell phantom zeppelins from those actually – and of course rarely – present. A material correlative of the zeppelin in the sky of the mind could appear in the real sky at any moment, or even already be floating up there undetected. The civilian will-to-resist thus expressed itself not only as sang-froid in face of actual risk and destruction, but as psychic combat against fear of phantom zeppelins. A cheery letter Virginia wrote to her friend Saxon Sydney-Turner in early February 1917 – when Germany was readying a fleet of new, improved zeppelins for deployment – shows everyday awareness of existential risk taking on the chances and colours of ordinary life, doings, hours, moods.38 After comparing a contemporary’s patriotic epigrams to firecrackers that fizzle out, Woolf describes her current reading: Aeschylus’ Agamemnon. The play, of course, stages the victorious Greek commander’s homecoming from Troy, foretold to Clytemnestra through her system of mountaintop beacons, and his murder by her hand to avenge their daughter Iphigenia, whom Agamemnon sacrificed to the gods in prayer that the wind might blow and the Greek army sail to Troy. Virginia, ‘reading him in French which is better than English’, confides that Aeschylus

excited my spirits to such an extent that, hearing my husband snore in the night, I woke him to light his torch and look for zeppelins. He then applied the Freud system to my mind, and analysed it down to Clytemnestra and the watch fires, which so pleased him that he forgave me.39

Even in bed in Richmond, the Woolfs are not quite spectators at a safe distance from the war but imaginatively all too near, like other Londoners killed in their beds by zeppelin bombs, or like people in Liège, Antwerp, Warsaw, Calais, Dunkirk, Great Yarmouth, Paris in 1914–18, or in Madrid twenty years on, or as they themselves would be during the 1940–1 Blitz, when the London house they were vacating and the one they were moving into were both destroyed by bombs. But now the Woolfs make allusive comedy of these phantom zeppelins. Leonard – is Freud’s On Dreams on his bedside table?40 – casts Virginia as a modern (p.141) Clytemnestra, paragon of the will-to-resist, and himself as Aeschylus’ watchman on the tower, scanning the skies for signs of a war no more contained by the battlefield than is the Trojan war by Troy or Tantalus’ curse by the house of Atreus.41 Translating Aeschylus’ fiery beacons into searchlights over London, Woolf assimilates spectral zeppelins to Clytemnestra’s telegraphic sky, the uncontained violence of modern war to Agamemnon’s ancient violence, likewise inseparably private and public. Virginia’s francophone Clytemnestra of 1917 also seeds the ground for the charismatic Clytemnestra of her 1924 essay ‘Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown’ – that strong-willed war resister with whom, she proposes, readers may find themselves in unexpected sympathy after a long, gruelling war – and, further, for her Three Guineas meditation on what strategic counter-force Outsiders might wield in the spirit of the outlaw queen, mother and avenger who stands dreaming of peace at the end of Agamemnon.

Crass casualty: ‘like dust in the air’

In the last zeppelin raid on London, on the night of 19/20 October 1917, eleven new German ‘Height-Climbers’ crossed the Channel and eluded detection by British defence forces.42 From Richmond, Virginia reported to Vanessa, ‘We had Zeppelins over last night. They are said to have destroyed Swan and Edgar at Piccadilly. We only heard the guns at a distance, and never heard the warning at all.’43 The diary, seedbed for Woolf’s fiction, weaves her delayed and mediated experience of this surprise attack on central London into an ad hoc narrative. On the evening of the 19th, before the raid, Woolf records having met in the street Alix Sargant-Florence (later Strachey, with James Strachey Freud’s co-translator). Alix had recently put in an afternoon of work at the Woolfs’ Hogarth Press before deciding that printing was not for her. Virginia describes Alix’s morose mood and her own unavailing effort to cheer her up over tea:

She has a kind of independence & lack of concern for appearances which I admire.

But as we walked up & down Dover Street she seemed on the verge of rolling up the usual veil of laughter & gossip & revealing her sepulchral despair – poor woman.

Where are you going now Alix?

I really dont know.

Well that sounds dismal! Don’t you look forward to say eleven tomorrow morning? I merely wish it didn’t exist that’s all!

So I left her, hatless, aimless, unattached, wandering in Piccadilly.44

(p.142) That night, zeppelins dropped several 300-kilogram bombs, not on their designated targets – Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, ‘the whole of the Midland industrial area’45 – but on Hendon, Cricklewood, Piccadilly, Camberwell and Hither Green, leaving many ruined houses and dead bodies. Intended for Sheffield, the bomb dropped near Swan & Edgar killed seven and injured eighteen.46 Woolf’s diary entry after the raid interweaves Alix’s wandering path with that of the zeppelin:

Happily, or she might say unhappily for Alix she didn’t presumably wander in Piccadilly all night, or the great bomb which ploughed up the pavement opposite Swan & Edgar’s might have dug her grave. We heard two soft distant but unmistakable shocks about 9.30; then a third which shook the window; then silence. It turns out that a Zeppelin came over, hovered unseen for an hour or two & left. We heard no more of it.47

Charting Alix Sargant-Florence’s London road not taken, this mini-serial with its shadow of chance, its frisson of beware-of-what-you-merely-wish-for annihilation, catches the tension between everyday awareness of possible sudden death and the persistent – and resistant – impulse to net the war’s senseless violence into some sort of meaning, however virtual, ironic, or fatalist. With another throw of the dice, the hole in the street – itself a senseless accident, for the zeppelin missed its target – might have been Alix’s wished-for grave, or Virginia’s unwished-for one. In the criss-crossing wanderings of the diarist, her aimless subject Alix, and L45 zeppelin, the diary entries write small the force of mindless chance that ruled the skies that night: the zeppelin that bumbled over Piccadilly and killed seven people by mistake has a phantom counterpart that might have killed Alix, Virginia or anyone, out wandering or at home, beneath its errant path.

In the spirit of Thomas Hardy, much admired by Woolf, the sad undertones of Alix Sargant-Florence’s talk as recorded by the diarist imbue this technologically mediated instance of modern hap or ‘Crass Casualty’48 with several shades of irony such as Fussell finds everywhere in First World War literature. Actual or phantom, silent and unseen or factitious and unreal, randomly destructive or (a few times) on target, eluding searchlights and fighter planes or falling in flames, the surreal zeppelin seemed a quintessential icon of modern war and modern irony from August 1914 to 1918. ‘We invent a vessel to swim beneath the sea and at once it is appropriated to increase the terrors of war’, British journalist A. G. Gardiner (p.143) lamented in 1914; ‘We learn to fly like the birds, and at once flying becomes a new arm of military science and has little other meaning.’49 Contemplating this devastated meaning after the 9 September 1915 raid, D. H. Lawrence envisioned the zeppelin as ‘a bright golden finger’ signalling an apocalyptic ‘war in heaven’:

our cosmos […] burst at last, the stars and moon blown away […] and a new cosmos appeared, with a long-ovate, gleaming central luminary, calm and drifting in a glow of light, like a new moon […] to burst away the earth also. So it is the end – our world is gone, and we are like dust in the air.50

Cosmic luminary: zeppelin play in war and peace

The zeppelin retained both its glamour and its spooky aura throughout its chequered career up to the Hindenburg’s demise.51 In 1919 Swan & Edgar was rebuilt and Shaw published Heartbreak House, written in 1916–17 but withheld until the war’s end. On the night of 1 October 1916 Shaw had witnessed L31 zeppelin ‘voyag[ing] through the stars’ over north London, then shot down in flames over Potters Bar in Hertfordshire, and was appalled that his pleasure in ‘the show’ eclipsed all feeling for the crew dying ‘in hideous terror and torment’.52 The play’s spectacular end stages this ambivalence when the dynamite that impotent, fulminating old Captain ‘Shotover’ stores in his garden ‘To blow up the human race if it goes too far’ explodes in a zeppelin raid that, fantastically, spares the house that symbolizes England while annihilating a war profiteer and a burglar.53

While Shaw was writing Heartbreak House, enterprising filmmakers cast the visually alluring zeppelin opposite Charlie Chaplin – ‘the only genius to come out of the movie industry’, Shaw reportedly said – in the recently discovered six-minute film Zepped.54 Created in 1916 ‘in support of the British First World War effort’, Zepped is spliced together from footage of zeppelins over London, footage (p.144) from the cutting-room floors of Chaplin’s former American studios Keystone and Essanay, and stop-motion animation.55 While Chaplin spent the war years in America – and was criticized for absconding from the war effort – in Zepped his newly minted Tramp longs to join ‘the boys’ in the fight, crosses the Pond in an aeroplane, is impaled on an English spire, stumbles into the danger zone, is startled to see the Kaiser burst out of a sausage and a zeppelin looming overhead, rescues a distressed damsel, catches his pants on fire, rouses the constable and his Keystone Cops-like force, attacks the zeppelin crew, sets their airship afire, and runs away – a home front war hero. Zepped was privately screened in Manchester, reviewed and advertised before abruptly vanishing.56 Perhaps zeppelins were judged dubious material for wartime comedy for the same reasons news reports of air attacks were censored.

Captain Shotover’s vision of Britain as a foundering ship salvageable only by wise moral and political ‘navigation’ even as a zeppelin drops a bomb on its garden suggests a generational divide between abiding faith in British sea-power and the unprecedented threat of aerial bombs.57 ‘Truly we of this generation are born to a youth very different from anything we ever supposed or imagined […] Trouble & disasters are menacing us the nature of which we cannot even guess at’, wrote 20-year-old Vera Brittain in August 1914 on hearing rumours of imminent zeppelin attacks on English ports and cities after the bombings of Liège and Antwerp. Still, she was ‘anxious to see a Zeppelin, and I knew I should not be afraid’,58 not unlike Roger Fry’s suffragist tenant above the Omega Workshop, who ‘“typed all through the raid without looking out of the window, and was much disappointed to find that she had missed seeing the Zeppelin over the Square”’.59 Woolf interweaves lingering effects of ‘Zeppelin psychosis’ with the fascination and play of people’s new power ‘to fly like the birds’ in the skywriting plane that loops and glides over Mrs Dalloway’s 1923 London, while Orlando’s Shelmerdine, ‘now grown a fine sea captain’, carries British naval prowess to the skies in his flying leap from a ‘hover[ing]’ aeroplane to Orlando’s side.60 In Evelyn Waugh’s 1930 satire Vile Bodies – a sly play on corpus vilius, a body to be experimented upon or guinea-pig (p.145)

The Zeppelin in the Sky of the Mind

Figure 7.6 Wreckage of L33 Zeppelin brought down near Colchester after the 23 September 1916 raid on London. India Office Official Record of the Great War.

– the elders attend a stuffy reception at Anchorage House while the Bright Young Things party in the ruins of a downed zeppelin, as if taking for granted British invincibility in the skies as on the seas (Figure 7.6).61

During the interwar years, as the zeppelin ceded its death-dealing function to ever faster and more sophisticated military aeroplanes, a legally though not morally defanged Germany began building zeppelins again. Commissioned by the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin (1928–37) and LZ 129 Hindenburg (March 1936–6 May 1937) were designed for commercial transatlantic passenger, freight and mail service. The Graf Zeppelin completed 590 flights; on 2 July 1932 Woolf sighted it floating over London ‘with a string of lights hanging from its navel’, which ‘consoled’ her for missing a ballet.62 The Hindenburg – which its German commander considered ‘a sign and symbol of lasting peace, or at least a symbol of the universal dream of lasting peace among peoples’63 – made seventeen round-trip transatlantic voyages before exploding (p.146) in flames at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey. In 1936 Hitler impressed both airships to drop propaganda over Germany regarding his illegal occupation of the demilitarized Rhineland (26–29 March); he then conscripted the Hindenburg to fly swastika-emblazoned over the Berlin Summer Olympics opening ceremony on 1 August (Figure 7.7) and to follow seventeen aircraft in swastika formation

The Zeppelin in the Sky of the Mind

Figure 7.7 LZ 129 Hindenburg zeppelin over the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, 1 August 1936.

(p.147) to close the Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg on 14 September.64 Suspended in the sky of the world’s mind as a potent symbol of his technology-fuelled ambition for world domination, Hitler’s Nazi-branded zeppelin appears a sinister parody of the sovereign ‘long-ovate, gleaming central luminary’ Lawrence saw dominating the dusty sky of a post-apocalyptic cosmos; a portent that, as Yeats wrote in ‘Lapis Lazuli’ (March 1938), ‘if nothing drastic is done / Aeroplane and Zeppelin will come out, / Pitch like King Billy bomb-balls in / Until the town lie beaten flat’.65

Hitler’s flaunting of the zeppelin’s symbolic power, and its spectral cameo in ‘Lapis Lazuli’, find the zeppelin still hung in the sky of the mind alongside the aeroplane in the 1930s. During the ineffectual Armistice, imperial powers experimented with aerial bombing in the so-called ‘little wars’, relatively small-scale conflicts with looming consequences – Gran Chaco, Italy on Abyssinia, the proto-world wars of Japan on China and of Franco, aided by Italy and Germany, on Republican Spain – to test its effects on civilians and the strength, or rather impotence, of world censure in face of ever more extreme violations of the conventions of warfare.66 As air war continued its unlimited expansion, civilians of lands, cities and skies everywhere found themselves drafted into wars they could neither choose nor avoid, much as a helpless Bert Smallways finds himself wafted in Butteridge’s balloon into a horrific future.

But the war in heaven was far from conceded; the will-to-resist remained steely. Days before the Hindenburg floated over the Berlin Olympics, American poet and journalist Muriel Rukeyser was commissioned to cover the ‘People’s Olympiad’ in Barcelona, organized to protest the Nazi-sponsored Games and scheduled to open on 19 July (Figure 7.8). In her fictional account, Savage Coast, Rukeyser’s autobiographical journalist, ‘Helen’, travels from London through Paris to Barcelona. As the train crosses into Spain – even before it abruptly halts in the Pyrenees, a General Strike is rumoured, and the first days of war force cancellation of the People’s Games – Europe hangs like a zeppelin in the sky of her mind: ‘Europe, the thought of Europe swelled over the horizon, like a giant dirigible, strung with lights in a dream of suspended power, but filled, in the dream, with a gas about to burst into flame.’67 Helen’s dream writes large the Nazi zeppelin and frames as neither Spanish nor Civil the so-called Spanish Civil War, with Spain a mere pawn (p.148)

The Zeppelin in the Sky of the Mind

Figure 7.8 Poster for the planned People’s Olympiad, Barcelona, 1936. Trades Union Congress Archive (MSS.292/808.91/4/1).

Courtesy of the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick, UK.

(p.149) in Hitler’s plan for world domination. Two weeks later, Hitler sent twenty planes and pilots to aid the fascist generals’ coup d’état, followed by military personnel, matériel, radio equipment to transmit propaganda, and submarines until, by year’s end, 7,000 Germans and 14,000 German-allied Italians were fighting in Spain.68

This international conflict reverberated far beyond Spain’s borders. ‘Chaos. Slaughter. War surrounding our island’, Woolf wrote in November 1936 on receiving ‘photographs from Spain all of dead children, killed by bombs’ after Junkers, in late October, ‘approached Madrid “almost noiselessly […] at a very great height”’ to bomb a public square, a hospital, schoolchildren playing outdoors, with no military purpose but to terrorize civilians.69 As the shocking breach that aerial warfare makes in civilian life keeps widening, no one is exempt from conscription into a technologically-driven European-civil-imperial-global war.

Gnats on a grass-blade: thinking and fighting

Woolf’s nephew Julian Bell – killed by an aerial bomb in the battle for Brunete in July 1937 – brought this stark truth, and a newly urgent will-to-resist, home to Bloomsbury. Whereas to his mother, Vanessa Bell, a zeppelin floating ‘close down over the house in a brilliant starlight night’ had once seemed to confirm Bloomsbury pacifism,70 Julian, like many of his generation, saw that Europe must either fight fascism or ‘be ready, as a nation, for martyrdom’, for until Hitler’s war machine was destroyed there could be no peace.71 ‘[N]on-resistance’, Julian wrote, ‘means suffering the full power of fascism’: ‘not only violence, but slavery’, for fascism ‘will not only kill and torture, but will destroy all chance of reasoned […] opposition, and will do its best, with violence and propaganda, to harry out of the world all liberal and humane ideas’.72 Julian’s decision to join the International Brigade allies him with contemporaries who saw the ‘Spanish Civil War’ as a military coup d’état by Hitler’s Axis powers against a duly elected government assisted by Stalin’s Russia, while the League of Nations watched. His analysis accords with that of his contemporary, war journalist Cedric Salter that (p.150)

The Zeppelin in the Sky of the Mind

Figure 7.9 Robert Capa, ‘Watching the Sky’. Spain, 1937.

Courtesy of the International Centre for Photography.

the ‘second’ world war began in Spain, ‘the experimental guinea pig’.73 Amassing 3:1 air superiority, Franco, Hitler and Mussolini made of Spain, Julian’s fellow ambulance-driver wrote, ‘a world where the very air had turned into a whistling menace that might suddenly give birth to a blinding maiming explosion’ such as ended Julian’s life (Figure 7.9).74

Julian Bell, who had edited a collection of memoirs by First World War pacifists, went to Spain over his Bloomsbury elders’ protests, but the generations differed less in fundamental values than in their stances toward the game-changing import of aerial warfare. Anyone might ‘try to imagine how one’s killed by a bomb’, as Woolf did during the Blitz, yet the eclipse of all values by air power seemed at once plain as day and so alien, so inhuman, as to elude imagining.75 Only after witnessing at first hand Madrid’s fall in 1938 and Warsaw’s in 1939 did Salter grasp the radical dehumanization effected by modern industrial warfare. Already by 1918, (p.151) the decisive question was ‘which side had the more planes and the bigger guns’; by 1939, ‘equipment, backed by […] propaganda-instilled morale, is all that really matters […] If the enemy attacks you with a tank it matters very little whether you are brave or a coward. What is really relevant […] is whether or not you have an up-to-date anti-tank gun […] [C]ourage […] is useless’ without ‘equality of armaments’.76 Thus, in Poland, Hitler’s

[c]omplete mastery in the air, vast superiority in equipment, and remorseless pressure […] had in ten days reduced a proud army of three million men to a bewildered and terrified rabble, with nothing beyond an occasional isolated example of individual courage or obstinacy to check the German progress. It was the old story that I had seen in Spain: men against material; and material must always win.77

‘Thinking is my fighting’, Woolf wrote in May 1940, adding in July, ‘L[eonard] has given all our saucepans […] to make aeroplanes with.’78 If courage availed nothing against Hitler’s prosthetic mega-violence, what of thinking?79 In 1918, Woolf, seeing her brother talk with a German POW, reflected, ‘The reason why it is easy to kill another person must be that one’s imagination is too sluggish to conceive what his life means to him – the infinite possibilities of a succession of days which are furled in him, & have already been spent.’80 Twenty years on, after Julian glimpsed in Spain’s plight the spectral future of London, Dresden and Hiroshima and pitted his courage and will-to-resist against the fascist war machine, Woolf reported talking of

our generation: & the prospects of war. Hitler has his million men now under arms […] it may be war. That is the complete ruin not only of civilisation, in Europe, but of our last lap. Quentin conscripted &c. One ceases to think about it – thats all. Goes on discussing the new room, new chair, new books. What else can a gnat on a blade of grass do?81

The militarization of the skies in 1914 intensified civilians’ experience of war in ways that Fussell’s influential paradigm obscures and that escape the temporal frame of the ‘First’ World War. Woolf and other civilians track the will-to-resist as a common struggle for the meaning of the human, from August 1914, when London was aghast with dire predictions (‘they talked and talked, and said it was the end of civilisation, and the rest of our lives was worthless’),82 to 1939, when New Statesman editor Kingsley Martin ‘privately told L[eonard] that German aeroplanes have been flying over London. Madrid surrendered. KM. says war is (p.152) inevitable’, and beyond.83 A diary entry of July 1940 describes a plane downed on the marsh as ‘a little gnat with red & white & blue bars’ – the human gnat on a grass-blade now fused with the machine.84 In August, Woolf resists the silencing force of ‘Zeppelin psychosis’: ‘I loathe sitting here waiting for a bomb to fall; when I want to be writing. If it doesn’t kill me its killing someone else […] But what I’d like to know is, suppose we both survive this war, what ought we to do to prevent another?’85 Civilian diarist, downed pilot, the wondrous new power to fly like the birds – all are impressed into total war. Yet Woolf’s late writings do not submit but summon human courage, thought and voice to form a counter-force: a total will-to-resist.86 In the actuality-riven world of Between the Acts, Colonel Mayhew mutters, ‘“What’s history without the Army, eh?”’ and a departing spectator asks, ‘“what’s the channel, come to think of it, if they mean to invade us? The aeroplanes, I didn’t like to say it, made one think”.’87 In her 1940 ‘Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid’ – ‘that infernal bomb article’, composed on the eve of the Blitz – Woolf, braced as bombers roar overhead, calls readers to fight by thinking against the very condition of total war, for ‘Unless we can think peace into existence we – not this one body in this one bed but millions of bodies yet to be born – will lie in the same darkness and hear the same death rattle overhead.’88 From Liège to the Blitz; from Japanese Ohka (‘cherry blossom’) kamikaze (‘divine wind’) missions to Hiroshima; from Al Qaeda and ISIS suicide bombers to drones; from an English child worrying in 1944 ‘This country has too much sky’ to a Syrian refugee child fleeing into a tent on hearing an aeroplane overhead: the will-to-resist must still contend with the zeppelin in the sky of the mind (Figure 7.10).89 (p.153)

The Zeppelin in the Sky of the Mind

Figure 7.10 Mark Smith, ‘Where Do You Stand?’ 2011.Digital print.


(1) Theodora Bosanquet, Time and Tide (4 June 1938), pp. 788–90, rpt. in Virginia Woolf: The Critical Heritage, ed. Robin Majumdar and Allen McLaurin (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975), pp. 402–3: p. 402; Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas (London: Hogarth, 1938), pp. 30, 217.

(2) Orville Wright, letter (21 June 1917): http://wrightstories.com/wrights-perspective-on-the-role-of-airplanes-in-war/ (accessed 14 January 2017).

(3) H. G. Wells, The War in the Air and Particularly How Mr. Bert Smallways Fared While It Lasted, illustrated by A. C. Michael (London: G. Bell, 1908).

(4) Louis A. Sigaud, Douhet and Aerial Warfare (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1941), p. 3. On dirigibles see Giulio Douhet, ‘I Problemi dell Aeronavigazione’ (1909), in Douhet, Le profezie di Cassandra: raccolta di scritti, ed. Gherardo Pàntano (Genoa: Lang & Pagano, 1931), pp. 61–87; and R. P. Hearne, Airships in Peace and War (London: John Lane, 1910).

(5) Hew Strachan, The First World War I: To Arms (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 211. On 25/26 August 1914 a zeppelin bombed Antwerp, killing six civilians. Kenneth Poolman quotes the British tabloid Daily Sketch headline of 26 August: ‘ATTACK ON ANTWERP / SIX SHRAPNEL BOMBS FROM AN AIRSHIP AT NIGHT. / THE KING’s PERIL / TWELVE PEOPLE KILLED AND HOSPITAL DAMAGED’ (Zeppelins against London (New York: John Day, 1961), p. 26). The M class zeppelins deployed in August 1914 were 510 feet long, held 780,000 cubic feet of gas, could carry 19,500 pounds and could reach 52 miles per hour (Douglas H. Robinson, Giants in the Sky: A History of the Rigid Airship (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1973), Appendix A, pp. 331–2).

(6) John Slessor, RAF Marshal, Foreword to Poolman, Zeppelins against London, pp. ix–x.

(7) See Hilton P. Goss, Civilian Morale under Aerial Bombardment, 1914–1939 (Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Air University Research Studies Institute, 1948), ch. 1 ‘The Air War against Civilians, 1914–1918’, esp. pp. 11–12; Joseph Morris, The German Air Raids on Great Britain 1914–1918 (London: Sampson Low, Marston, 1925), esp. summary tables, pp. 265–79. Ian Castle, London 1914– 17: The Zeppelin Menace (Long Island City, NY: Osprey Press, 2008; illustrated by Christa Hook), maps each raid and assembles period photographs, art, postcards, posters, leaflets and cartoons. The fifty-one zeppelin raids on Britain aimed ‘to crush the morale of the British population – particularly that of London – and bring about an end to the war’; they killed 557, injured 1,358 and caused estimated damage of £1.5 million, some £1 million in London. Of the twenty-six raids on London, nine reached their targets, killing 181 and injuring 504 – ‘36 per cent of the total casualties’ (Castle, London 1914–17, p. 91). The first raid on London occurred on 31 May/1 June 1915, the last on 19/20 October 1917. In addition, German aeroplanes made fifty-two raids, killing 857 and injuring 2,058. In October 1917 the Prime Minister requested news editors ‘to cease to publish descriptive accounts and pictures of air-raid destruction’ (Goss, Civilian Morale under Aerial Bombardment, p. 65, citing H. A. Jones, The War in the Air: Being the Story of the Part Played in the Great War by the Royal Air Force, 6 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1922–37), vol. 5, pp. 89–90).

(8) Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975); Gillian Beer emphasizes the Second World War but touches on zeppelins and First World War air raids in ‘The Island and the Aeroplane: The Case of Virginia Woolf’, in Virginia Woolf: The Common Ground (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1996), pp. 149–78; Karen L. Levenback, Virginia Woolf and the Great War (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1999); Trudi Tate, Modernism, History and the First World War (New York: Manchester University Press, 1998); Ariela Freedman, ‘Zeppelin Fictions and the British Home Front’, Journal of Modern Literature 27.3 (2004), pp. 47–62; Christine Froula, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Avant-Garde: War, Civilization, Modernity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005); Mary A. Favret, War at a Distance: Romanticism and the Making of Modern Wartime (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010); Susan R. Grayzel, At Home and under Fire: Air Raids and Culture in Great Britain from the Great War to the Blitz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Paul Saint-Amour, Tense Future: Modernism, Total War, Encyclopedic Form (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), esp. ch. 2.

(10) George Bernard Shaw, Preface to Heartbreak House (1919), Collected Plays with Their Prefaces, 7 vols (London: Bodley Head, 1972), vol. 5, pp. 11–58: pp. 26–27.

(11) Robert Hedin, ‘Introduction’, in The Zeppelin Reader: Stories, Poems, and Songs from the Age of Airships, ed. Robert Hedin (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1998), pp. xi–xviii: p. xi. Bernard Wilkin observes that First World War aerial warfare ‘marked a rupture’ with its antecedents: balloons for surveillance and propaganda leafletting in the Napoleonic and 1870–1 Franco-Prussian conflicts; aerial bombardment in the Italo-Turkish war of 1911–12, www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/aerial-warfare-during-world-war-one (accessed 14 January 2017). Military violence against civilians was not new, as vastatio (scorched-earth) campaigns from the Persian and Punic wars to the American Civil and Native American wars to the Boer wars attest; but, again, in scale and technological sophistication First World War air power marks a rupture.

(12) Jay Winter, Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 9.

(13) See, e.g., L. E. O. Charlton, War from the Air: Past Present Future (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1935).

(14) Quoted in Frank Morison, War on Great Cities: A Study of the Facts (London: Faber and Faber, 1937), pp. 168–9; and Goss, Civilian Morale under Aerial Bombardment, pp. 69–70 n. 51. See also Grayzel, At Home and under Fire.

(15) Goss, Civilian Morale under Aerial Bombardment, p. 15 n. 38, citing W. O’D. Pierce, Air War: Its Psychological, Technical and Social Implications (New York: Modern Age, 1939), pp. 102–3. Goss gathers many voices in ch. 1 passim, esp. pp. 15–29. Tate notes in regard to H.D.’s Bid Me to Live that zeppelins were ‘more terrifying’ than mortality figures suggest (Modernism, History and the First World War, pp. 26–7).

(16) L. E. O. Charlton, War over England (London: Longmans, Green, 1936), p. 8; cf. Goss, Civilian Morale under Aerial Bombardment, p. 13.

(17) Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts [1941] (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1969), p. 212.

(18) Woolf, Between the Acts, pp. 53, 193, 212. Levenback observes that in Woolf’s 1936 diaries, ‘Echoes of the Great War were becoming deafening […] as they merged with portents of World War II’ (Virginia Woolf and the Great War, pp. 124, 144).

(19) Jay Winter and Antoine Prost, The Great War in History: Debates and Controversies, 1914 to the Present (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 2004; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 29). Cf. Margot Norris, Writing War in the Twentieth Century (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000), pp. 18 –20f., on ethics and modern war technology; and Rey Chow, The Age of the World Target: Self-Referentiality in War, Theory, and Comparative Work (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), on the atomic-age ‘epistemic shift’ to the ‘normativization of war and war technology’ (p. 34).

(20) In January 1914, Beta II was commissioned and renamed His Majesty’s Airship No.17; in December 1914–January 1915 it was used for artillery spotting and training.

(21) ‘The German Airships. Raiding and Its Effects. Means of Defence’, London Times (6 August 1914), p. 4, The Times Digital Archive (accessed 23 June 2014).

(23) Ibid., p. 63. The raid of 8/9 September 1915 caused over half a million pounds of damage – more than half the material damage done by all raids against Britain that year, and the most inflicted by any zeppelin raid. For children’s eyewitness accounts of the 13 October raid see www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/aerial-warfare-during-world-war-one (accessed 17 January 2017).

(24) Virginia Woolf, ‘The War from the Street’ [1919], in The Essays of Virginia Woolf, ed. Andrew McNeillie and Stuart N. Clarke, 6 vols (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986–2011), vol. 3 (1919–1924), pp. 3–4: p. 3.

(25) As Hearne describes the impact on civilian morale: ‘“It is particularly humiliating to allow an enemy to come over your capital city and hurl bombs upon it. His aim may be very bad, the casualties may be few, but the moral effect is wholly undesirable. When the zeppelins came to London, they could have scored a falling technical triumph over us if they had showered us with confetti”’ (Zeppelins and Super-Zeppelins (London: John Lane, 1916), p. 2, quoted in Levenback, Virginia Woolf and the Great War, p. 124).

(26) The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield, ed. Vincent O’Sullivan and Margaret Scott, 5 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984–2008), volume 1, p.159. To Hugo Eckener the zeppelin seemed ‘not […] “a silvery bird soaring in majestic flight,” but rather a fabulous silvery fish, floating quietly in the ocean of air’ (‘On the Graf Zeppelin’, in The Zeppelin Reader, ed. Hedin, p. 193); to Jay Meek’s gazer, ‘to want an effigy, a fish, / something that might save it from being simply a theory / about itself’ (‘The Week the Dirigible Came’, in The Zeppelin Reader, ed. Hedin, p. 246). Its operators used naval lingo (‘Ready ship’, ‘helmsmen’, ‘under our keel’: Ernst Lehmann, ‘from Zeppelin’, in The Zeppelin Reader, ed. Hedin, pp. 67–74: p. 67), and bragged to U-Boat officers of its descent to ‘1,000 feet below the surface of the [Dead] sea’ (Eckener, ‘A Sentimental Journey to Egypt’, in The Zeppelin Reader, ed. Hedin, pp. 195–203: p. 199.

(27) Virginia Woolf, The Diary, ed. Anne Olivier Bell, 5 vols (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977–84), vol. 1, p. 32 (1 February 1915).

(28) Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, ed. Bonnie Kime Scott [1925] (New York: Harcourt, 2005), pp. 13, 19–21. For Saint-Amour, the narrative perspective replicates the ‘logic’ and ‘gaze’ of ‘the doctrine of total war’ (Tense Future, p. 120).

(30) The First Viscount Cecil served from June 1915 to January 1919. Virginia Woolf, The Letters, ed. Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann, 6 vols (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975–80), vol. 2, p. 64 (29 September 1915).

(31) Woolf, Letters, vol. 2, p. 70 (14? November 1915).

(32) Alison Light, Mrs Woolf and the Servants (New York: Fig Tree Press, 2007), notes wartime tensions between the ‘largely pacifist’ Woolfs and their servants with their ‘enthusiastic patriotism’ (p. 141).

Freedman finds a ‘classist taint’ in such moments (‘Zeppelin Fictions and the British Home Front’, p. 55); for Winter and Prost they manifest ‘a flattening of the class pyramid’ (The Great War in History, p. 158).

(33) Woolf, Letters, vol. 2, p. 88 (5 April 1916).

(34) Ibid., p. 112 (25 August 1916).

(35) Christopher Cole and E. F. Cheesman, The Air Defence of Britain 1914–1918 (London: Putnam, 1984), p. 149; Castle, London 1914–17, pp. 59–60.

(36) Only on 27 November 1916 was HMA 9, the first British dirigible built after the 1911 Mayfly failure, ready for its first test flight – the first time a British rigid airship actually flew, though its status remained experimental. See Robinson, Giants in the Sky, ch. 5, ‘The Imitators: British Military Rigids’, on Britain’s reactive efforts to make dirigibles; the Royal Navy’s anxiety about German ‘successes with Zeppelins – exaggerated in the eye of the distant beholder’; Grand Fleet crews’ ‘exaggerated’ sense that their movements in the North Sea were ‘under constant surveillance by Zeppelins’; and the programme’s sad end with the break-up of R 38 on 23 August 1921 (pp. 151, 161, 172). Britain built more than 200 Sea Scout and North Sea small pressure airships (blimps) for coastal scouting, mine clearance, and convoy patrol duties, and at the war’s end led the world in this technology. Woolf may allude to these non-rigid airships deployed along the coast.

(37) Woolf, Letters, vol. 2, p. 138 (22 January 1917).

(38) In February 1917 third-generation Height-Climber zeppelins which could rise to 20,000 feet entered service, though only on 16–17 March did five of them set out; strong winds prevented four from reaching England, and one bombed Canterbury but did little damage (Robinson, Giants in the Sky, pp. 128–31).

(39) Woolf, Letters, vol. 2, p. 141 (3 February 1917).

(40) ‘On Dreams. Trans. by M. D. Eder. London: Heinemann, 1914’ is the only book by Freud published before the end of the war that is listed in Julia King, Laila Miletic-Vejzovic and Diane Gillespie, The Library of Leonard and Virginia Woolf: A Short-title Catalog (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 2003) (p. 81). This translation of the 1911 revised edition contains Freud’s added section proposing a common vocabulary of dream symbols: ‘Recently discovered things, like the airship, are at once brought into universal use as sex symbols’ (p. 105). Beer discusses Freud on the aeroplane as a dream symbol (‘The Island and the Aeroplane’, pp. 149, 176 n. 2).

(41) King et al., The Library of Leonard and Virginia Woolf, lists ‘Aeschylus. Eschyle; traduction nouvelle. Trans. by Leconte de Lisle. Paris: A. Lemerre, [1889?]. VW – binder’ (p. 3).

(43) Woolf, Letters, vol. 2, p. 189 (20 October 1917).

(44) Woolf, Diary, vol. 1, p. 63 (19 October 1917).

(46) Poolman, Zeppelins against London, p. 225; Castle, London 1914–17, pp. 86–9; Cole and Cheesman, The Air Defence of Britain, pp. 343–51. The bomb dropped on Hither Green destroyed three houses, damaged many others, killed five women and nine children, and injured five adults and two children (Lewisham War Memorials, Local History and Archives Centre, Lewisham, http://lewishamwarmemorials.wikidot.com/incident:air-raid-ww1-19-20-october-1917 (accessed 14 January 2017)).

(47) Diary, vol. 1, p. 63 (20 October 1917).

(48) Thomas Hardy, ‘Hap’ [1898], in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, vol. 2 (New York: Norton, 1974), p. 1717.

(50) D. H. Lawrence, Selected Letters, ed. James T. Boulton and Andrew Robinson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 106 (9 September 1915). Freedman highlights Lawrence’s optimistic prophecy of ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (‘Zeppelin Fictions and the British Home Front’, p. 54).

(51) The airship was named after First World War Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, whose ‘stab-in-the-back’ calumny facilitated Hitler’s rise (Winter and Prost, The Great War in History, p. 63).

(52) George Bernard Shaw, letter, 5 October 1916, in Bernard Shaw and the Webbs, ed. Alex C. Michalos and Deborah C. Poff (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002), pp. 160–1. Cf. Michael MacDonagh on the ‘appalling spectacle’ of L31 zeppelin as ‘a ruined star falling slowly to earth’, ‘horribly fascinating’ (from In London during the Great War: 1 October 1916’, in The Zeppelin Reader, ed. Hedin, pp. 98–100: p. 98).

(54) The One Show, BBC1 (21 July 2010), www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBx_DatP1ZA (accessed 14 January 2017).

(55) Morace Park, owner of the Chaplin zeppelin footage, speaking on The One Show.

(56) It was licensed in Egypt, apparently to be shown to British soldiers (Urbanora, ‘Charlie Chaplin in Zepped’, The Bioscope (9 November 2009), http://thebioscope.net/2009/11/09/charlie-chaplin-in-zepped/ (accessed 14 January 2017). Cf. ‘Lost Chaplin Film Discovered in $5 Can Bought on eBay’, The Independent (5 November 2009), www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/lost-chaplin-film-discovered-in-5-can-bought-on-ebay-1815748.html (accessed 14 January 2017). My description relies on reports.

(57) Cf. Paul Murphy, Armadas of the Sky: The Problem of Armaments (London: Houghton, 1931).

(58) Vera Brittain, Chronicle of Youth: War Diary 1913–1917, ed. Alan Bishop with Terry Smart (New York: William Morrow, 1982), pp. 96, 247.

(59) Virginia Woolf, Roger Fry: A Biography (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1940), p. 203, quoting Fry.

(60) Virginia Woolf, Orlando (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1928), p. 329.

(61) Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies (New York: J. Cape, H. Smith, 1930).

(62) Woolf, Diary, vol. 4, p. 113 (3 July 1932).

(63) Hugo Eckener [no title], in The Zeppelin Reader, ed. Hedin, p. 209. After the Hindenburg disaster, Germany grounded its remaining two airships; in 1940 they were converted to military use; in 1944 the Allies bombed their hangars and ‘the Zeppelin Company turned its attention to producing parts for the V2 rocket’ (Hedin, ‘Introduction’, p. xv).

(64) Ernst Lehmann, Zeppelin: The Story of Lighter-than-air Craft (London: Longmans, Green, 1937), pp. 322–41. On 7 March 1936, Hitler occupied the Rhineland, designated in the Versailles Treaty a demilitarized zone between Germany and the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium and France.

(65) William Butler Yeats, The Collected Poems, ed. Richard J. Finneran (New York: Macmillan, 1989), p. 294.

(66) Goss, Civilian Morale under Aerial Bombardment, chs 3–7, and, on the ‘Rules for Aircraft in War’ drafted at the 1921–2 Washington Conference and the 1922–3 ‘Rules of Air Warfare’ discussed at the Hague, pp. 45f.

(67) Muriel Rukeyser, Savage Coast, ed. Rowena Kennedy-Epstein (New York: Feminist Press, 2013), p. 12.

(68) Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1961), p. 337.

(69) Woolf, Diary, vol. 5, p. 32 (10 November 1936); Letters, vol. 6, p. 85 (14 November 1936). Goss, Civilian Morale under Aerial Bombardment, p. 165, citing Arthur Koestler, Spanish Testament (London: Victor Gollancz, 1937), pp. 166–8.

(70) Vanessa Bell to Lytton Strachey (27 April 1916), in Selected Letters, ed. Regina Marler (Wakefield, RI: Moyer Bell, 1998), p. 196. L51 zeppelin passed near Wissett Farm on 25/26 April (Castle, London 1914–1917, p. 55).

(71) Julian Bell, ‘War and Peace: A Letter to Morgan [Forster]’, in Essays, Poems and Letters, ed. Quentin Bell (London: Hogarth, 1938), pp. 335–90: p. 372.

(72) Ibid., pp. 372–3.

(73) Cedric Salter, Try-Out in Spain (New York and London: Harper, 1943), p. xvii.

(74) Richard Rees, ‘Close-Up of a Battle’, Supplement to the Adelphi (February 1940), pp. 1–19, quoted in Patricia Laurence, Julian Bell, the Violent Pacifist (London: Cecil Woolf, 2006), pp. 38–9.

(75) Woolf, Diary, vol. 5, p. 326 (2 October 1940).

(76) Cedric Salter, Flight from Poland (London: Faber and Faber, 1940), p. 20.

(77) Ibid., p. 69.

(78) Woolf, Diary, vol. 5: p. 285 (15 May 1940), p. 302 (12 July 1940).

(79) See Nazi Mega Weapons, PBS series, 17 July 2013–14 May 2014; 7 January 2015–22 April 2015.

(80) Woolf, Diary, vol. 1: p. 186 (27 August 1918).

(81) Woolf, Diary, vol. 5: p. 162 (17 August 1938).

(82) Woolf, Letters, vol. 2: p. 51 (12 August 1914).

(83) Woolf, Diary, vol. 5: p. 211 (29 March 1939).

(84) Ibid., p. 302 (5 July 1940).

(85) Woolf, Letters, vol. 6: p. 414 (13 August 1940), to Ben Nicolson. Churchill was slow to credit intelligence of Hitler’s V2 rockets compiled from surveillance photographs by the British Photographic Interpreters at Medmenham, hence to devise effective defences (3D Spies of WWII, PBS NOVA, 18 January 2012, www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/military/spies-3d.html (accessed 14 January 2017)).

(86) The Woolfs could not have known but may have surmised that their names appeared on Hitler’s list of prominent intellectuals to be arrested once the Nazis invaded; a copy, the cover stamped Geheim! (Secret), is held at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford University.

(88) Woolf, Diary, vol. 5: p. 314 (31 August 1940); ‘Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid’, New Republic (21 October 1940), rpt. in Woolf, Essays, ed. Stuart N. Clarke (London: Hogarth, 2011), vol. 6: p. 242.

(89) American Experience: Victory in the Pacific, PBS (WGBH Boston), 2005, www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/pacific/ (accessed 14 January 2017); Michael Wood’s Story of England: The Birth of Modern England: Kibworth, PBS, 17 July 2012, www.pbs.org/program/michael-woods-story-england/ (accessed 14 January 2017); Big Questions: The Children of Syria, PBS, 19 January 2014, http://video.pbs.org/video/2365156477/ (accessed 14 January 2017).