The Channel Tunnel (14 august 1913)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Channel Tunnel is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle published in The Times on 14 august 1913.

The Channel Tunnel


The Times (14 august 1913)


Sir, — In your issue of to-day Mr. Ronald M'Neill describes the project of a Channel tunnel as a "crazy" one. I venture to prophesy that, when the thing has been done the verdict of posterity will apply that adjective to the undignified and unjustified fears which have so long stood in the way of a great and beneficent national enterprise.

Mr. M'Neill mentions the entente with France and the development of the aeroplane as being the only fresh factors which bear upon the question since it was discarded many years ago. To my mind there are others of greater importance. It is admitted on all hands that the greatest danger which can threaten this country in war is the possible failure and certain diminution of our food supplies. Weighty authorities have stated that a single defeat at sea might entail our absolute surrender. Recent years have seen the development of a new great European navy and of a political situation which might conceivably place it in opposition to our own. An adequate tunnel would certainly lessen the difficulty of our food supplies, since it would place us in communication with the whole Mediterranean basin through Marseilles. Even granting that we held the seas successfully it would to some extent relieve our Navy of that duty of protecting our food cargoes which must take something from its strength. Again, it is possible that circumstances might arise in which British troops would be used on the Continent. If such a situation should unfortunately occur it is difficult to say, considering the possibilities of the submarine, how the transports which would carry them, and which would afterwards form their line of communications, could be safeguarded. In such an event a tunnel would be a great strategic advantage.

Finally there is the effect upon national wealth, which means national strength. Not only would actual trade gain a great advantage, since merchandise need not break bulk, but we might reasonably hope that a stream of foreign tourists would be directed towards London which would do something to atone for the vast sums which are carried abroad every year by our own people.

As to the dangers involved the idea of the invasion of a great country through a hole in the ground 26 miles long and as many feet broad seems to me to be a most fantastic one. An enemy to use the tunnel has to hold both ends of it. In the unlikely event of a quarrel with France it is surely not difficult to seal up our end. I cannot imagine the circumstances under which any other Power could gain both ends. If such circumstances did arise it would surely mean that tunnel or no tunnel we were beaten to the ground.

At the same time to prevent periodical scares every reasonable military precaution should be taken. The tunnel should open within the lines of an intrenched camp at Dover, and the end of it should be commanded by heavy from the heights. Other even more stringent safeguards could readily be devised.

Yours faithfully,

Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex, Aug. 12.

See also