The Bristol-based award-winning author and poet Helen Dunmore, whose latest novel, The Lie, is set during and immediately after the First World War, wrote a short piece of fiction on a war-theme for Bristol 2014: 'A Silver Cigar in the Sky'. It is available as part of the e-book Back From the Front: Art, Memory and the Aftermath of War.
For the first time in British history, war came from the air with the German Zeppelin campaign of the First World War. New technology meant that from now on, even without invasion, the civilian population would always be vulnerable to death and destruction by aerial bombardment. ‘A Silver Cigar in the Sky’ explores both the thrill of technological advancement and the terrifying uses of these innovations in wartime.
In 1932 Iris Daniels watches the airship the Graf Zeppelin on a display flight over Bristol and the City Docks. It is Bristol Navy Week and three destroyers are in harbour. As the Zeppelin passes only a few hundred feet above Iris, she hears the drumming of its engines and is taken back to London in 1915. Iris had moved from Bristol on her marriage, and was now engaged in war-work while her husband Arthur served in France.
One October evening, Iris went for a night out with friends. That same evening, Zeppelin Kapitänleutnant Joachim Breithaupt and his crew were flying at eight thousand feet on a route that would take L15 directly over London’s West End.