1909, Milne A.A. , The Secret of the Army Aeroplane 

A. A. Milne (1909) The Secret of the Army Aeroplane – Punch 26th May 1909

Note: the year is misquoted by I.F. Clarke and copied by later writers as 1908.


(Mr. WILLIAM LE QUEUX wishes to deny indignantly that the following tale was written by him. On the contrary, he identifies himself completely with the proprietor of The Daily Mail in deprecating the publication of scare stories. As the proprietor of The Daily Mail truly says, such stories ” place England and Englishmen in a ridiculous and humiliating light before the German people.” At the same time Mr. LE QUEUX is bound to confess that the story printed below bears an astonishing resemblance to his latest imaginative work, Spies of the Kaiser—-a book only just published, but written in the days of his hot and unregenerate youth, many weeks ago.)

A. A. Milne’s “The Secret of the Army Aeroplane” (Punch, May 1908) satirized Britain’s scaremongers who claimed that her technological advances lay open to foreign spies and infiltrators.[A.J. Echevarria (1998) “Tomorrow’s Army: The Challenge of Nonlinear Change“, Parameters, Autumn 1998.]

Much funnier, to my mind, is ‘The secret of the Army aeroplane’ (p. 366) by A. A. M., who is none other than A. A. Milne. It’s nothing to do with the scareships, but rather a deadly-accurate parody of the spy novels of William le Queux, whose Spies of the Kaiser is currently to be found in all good bookstores (and most of the bad ones too). [Airminded]

In 1908 Punch cruelly sent up Colonel Mark Lockwood, one of the most vociferous of spy maniacs in the House of Commons. A year later A. A. Milne lampooned Le Queux in `The Secret of the Army Aeroplane’, also published in Punch. [Niall Ferguson (1999) The Pity of War]

THE SECRET OF THE ARMY AEROPLANE [In the thrilling manner of Mr. William le Queux.] 

`Tell us the whole facts, Ray,’ urged Vera Vallance, the pretty fair-haired daughter of the Admiral Sir Charles Vallance, to whom he was engaged.

`Well, dear, they are briefly as follows,’ he replied, with an affectionate glance at her … `Last Tuesday a man with his moustache brushed up the wrong way alighted at Basingstoke station and inquired for the refreshment-room. This leads me to believe that a dastardly attempt is about to be made to wrest the supremacy of the air from our grasp.’

`And even in the face of this the Government denies the activity of German spies in England!’ I exclaimed bitterly.

Full original story available at: https://archive.org/stream/punchvol136a137lemouoft#page/n407/mode/2up and http://www.gutenberg.org/files/24313/24313-h/24313-h.htm#THE_SECRET_OF_THE_ARMY