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Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

Aerial Fleets. Dr. Russel Wallace on Idle Panics.
(S677: 1909)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to the Editor printed on page four of the 8 April 1909 issue of The Daily News (London). To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S677.htm

     Sir,--As the panic-mongers seem determined to add to the terror of invasion by sea the near prospect of another invasion through the air, without exciting any strong protest from the parties of peace, of economy, or even of common sense, it seems useless to fight single-handed against them. But I may, perhaps, be allowed to point out the futility and self-contradiction of some of the statements by which they seek to influence the Government to further immediate expenditure.

     In the first place, if it is unwise to build too many ships of a new type till they have been tried in war, on account of the constant improvements being made or suggested, it will surely be absolute idiocy to do so with airships, still in their very infancy, in which improvements are taking place almost day by day, and of which at least fifty can be constructed in the same time and cost as a single Dreadnought. We have only to wait and watch for a few years to save money; and if we must do so, then build a better air fleet than any of our opponents.

     But, in the second place, it seems to me probable, indeed, almost certain, that the superiority will be so great on the defensive side as to make it quite unnecessary to possess any airships except for scouting purposes. All that has been said about darkness, and fogs, and clouds, is wholly in favour of the land or marine forces. For it is quite certain that the small carrying-power of airships will preclude all idea of dropping bombs at random, not one in a hundred of which would damage the forts, or armies, or cities of the invaded country. Such ships must travel low down, and must wait for daylight or clear weather, and must travel rather slowly, before they can hope to drop a single bomb with any certainty of doing damage. But, under these conditions, they will be seen and be within rifle range, not only vertically, but at moderate angles of elevation all round, and be exposed not only to the cross fire of every company of riflemen in the district as the airship approaches and passes over them, but of every householder or labourer who may possess a rifle. And even if they invade us at night, as they approach a city its street lights would surely render the ship visible, while after the first attempt at bomb-dropping had been made search-lights from every fort or warship would be brought upon it and a few hundreds of rifle shots would almost certainly bring it to the ground. To think that the best means of destroying airships by night or in a dense fog would be by sending other airships to look for them, and then fight them, with the certainty that, if they met, both vessels would be brought to the ground and all their occupants killed, is a good example of the reckless and foolish suppositions by means of which the unthinking public are influenced in a time of panic.

--Yours, etc.,
Alfred R. Wallace.

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