The Policy of Air Raid Reprisals

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Policy of Air Raid Reprisals is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Times on 18 october 1915.

The Policy of Air Raid Reprisals

The Times (18 october 1915, p. 9)


Sir, — There are few men for whose opinion I have more respect than that of Sir Edward Clarke. Moreover, I am perfectly prepared to admit that in the abstract he is right. I have already shown that I though so by mentioning in my original letter the repugnance with which such a task would be undertaken. But there are times when clean-handedness becomes a vicarious virtue by which other people suffer. So it is in the case of the use of gas, which in itself is abominable, and yet cannot be avoided out of justice to our own men who suffer by its use from the enemy. If by laying certain towns in Germany in ruins we can have reasonable hopes that we can save our own civilians we are, in my opinion, fully justified in so doing. It appears to me to be an abuse of words to call such a proceeding murder, when it is in answer to murder in the past, and a preventive to murder in the future. We have without protest allowed the French aviators to make a raid upon Karlsruhe and Stuttgart, the latter being officially announced as a reprisal for raids on open towns in France and Britain. Coming, as it did, immediately after the first raid on London, it was accepted as an answer to that outrage. It is, it must be admitted, dirty work at the best, however necessary it may be, but the dirtiest work of all would be to permit our Ally to do it in our name whilst we explained to the world that it was a thing to which we could not condescend, and that the enemy might work their will upon our unfortunate civilians without any fear for their own.

Yours faithfully,

Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex, Oct. 16.