Monday, 15 February 2016

Zeppelin Squawkers

Entrance to Waterlow's Printing Works, Dunstable c.1920 [Z1306/36/6]

Tuesday 15th February 1916: Despite opposition from some of its members, the Watch Committee of Luton Town Council has recommended that the town should install electrical apparatus known as a “squawker” to warn of the approach of hostile aircraft, and the machine is already on order. Opponents of the “squawker” pointed out that the hooters had blown at Leighton Buzzard last week after a report was received that aircraft had been seen on the North-East Coast. The result was a great commotion with the hooters bringing everyone into the streets, despite the advice of the Home Office that people should stay indoors during a bombardment, this being far safer than being outside. Nevertheless, it was recognised that a number of large towns were finding these alarms effective, allowing them to extinguish lights before Zeppelins arrived overhead. The inhabitants of Luton would need to be educated to understand that if the “squawker” sounded they should stay indoors and put out the lights, and warnings given that the alarm would sound at fixed times to ensure people were familiar with it. It was agreed it would not be sounded if Zeppelins were actually overhead due to fears that the noise could precipitate an attack. The recommendation of the Watch Committed to install the “squawker” was accepted.

At Dunstable the Emergency Committee has made arrangements that when warning of the approach of hostile aircraft is received Messrs. Waterlows printing works will give three 30 second blasts on their hooter, to be repeated at minute intervals. Householders must they extinguish all lights visible from the outside. All windows, skylights, and fanlights much be obscured and any flashlights used must shine on the ground only. As in Luton, concerns were expressed that people would run outdoors instead of staying in comparative safety inside, but here, too, the Committee’s actions were approved. A suggestion that Messrs. Bagshawe's horn should also be sounded was welcomed by the Mayor.

Source: Luton News, 17th and 24th February 1916

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