News of the Day

What might an average Londoner have had on their mind, the evening of Friday 19 October 1917? The latest war news, of course – but what else was making headlines, if you needed to escape the onslaught from the front? And what about local concerns, closer to home?

‘Zeppelinitis’ was widespread, the terror of how to run from an unseen enemy. Even despite the reassuring words in the morning’s newspaper, about there being too little moonlight for another raid…for at least a week. The shelter instructions were very clear – St George’s Church had a crypt, or the lemonade factory on Albany Road could keep thousands safe.

Or there was the pub. But the new restricted licensing hours, and watered down beer, made that less attractive. You were literally banned from buying a friend a drink. All thanks to Lloyd George’s plans for the British workforce. That and DORA – the Defence of the Realm Act, introduced in 1914. As a civilian, you could get arrested just for chatting publicly about military matters. Thousands did. Get yourself shot, up at the Tower of London, if you weren’t careful.  DORA even outlawed whistling for a cab, in case it was mistaken for an air-raid warning…

Speaking of executions, Mata Hari faced the firing squad near Paris on Monday – they say she invented strip-tease, only took up spying to make ends meet. Not surprising King George changed the family name from Gotha to Windsor. The Hun even bombed Notre Dame last week. Incendiary, dropped by Taubes – those German monoplanes with the bent-back wing tips.

There was a piece in the Gazette today – bus driver done for speeding down the Old Kent Road, at 20½ miles an hour. His defence was he’d ‘heard that the Taubes were about and didn’t want to waste any time’!