Speech at Pall Mall Club Annual Dinner with Winston Churchill (25 october 1900)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

On 25 october 1900, Arthur Conan Doyle and Winston Churchill were guests at the annual dinner of the Pall-Mall Club held at the Club-house, St. James's-square. Conan Doyle gave a speech about British officers and his view to keep the Boers in hand.


Conan Doyle speech

Report from The Times

Dr. Conan Doyle, in responding, said that he had seen the British officer in hospital more than in action, and the thing that struck him was that when things were worst with the British officer, he looked at death open-eyed and unafraid. He was an absolutely brave man, whose nerve even disease could not shake. Nothing could exaggerate his esteem for the British officer. He remembered a typical example of his bearing when in the Sudan. There were four officers in one tent, all suffering from fever, but all sticking to duty. Every morning each of the four would throw half a crown into a hat, and they would then take their temperatures. The man with the highest temperature took the pool. (Laughter.) When he read reports of the misbehaviour of these officers it made his blood boil, for he knew that at best the correspondent was generalizing from one case. It was well at this time to say a word for our enemies as well as for our own men. The Boers had been the victims of a great deal of cheap slander in the Press. The men who had seen most of the Boer in the field were the most generous in estimating their white character. That the white flag was hoisted by the Boers as a cold-blooded device for luring our men into the open was an absolute calumny. (Cheers.) The Boers were to be our fellow-subjects. To discredit their valour was to discredit our victory; and these charges of irresponsible persons went back to South Africa and rankled there to make reconciliation difficult. The Boers had been capable of a noble and generous act in restoring without parole prisoners of war whom they could not properly provide for. He had never heard of that being done in any other campaign. (Cheers.) There was extreme bitterness among the men, and more among the women; but he thought it better that the war should be fought to an end than that a peace should be patched prematurely. The difficulties of the settlement had been exaggerated. With the control of arms and ammunition, and with the great influx of British into the Transvaal, there would be force enough to keep the Boers in hand without any assistance from the British Army.

Full Report