The Prisoners

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Prisoners is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Times on 14 october 1918.


The Prisoners

The Times (14 october 1918)




Sir, — The very large numbers of letters which have reached me and the tone of their contents show how deep is the feeling about the necessity for using some strong means for ensuring the safety of our prisoners. Some of these letters demand that I should define more clearly what should actually be done. Let me indicate more precisely, then, the steps which would, in my opinion, within a few days bring about a change for the better. The suggestion is in no spirit of unkind criticism of the gentlemen who have the matter in hand, but it is prompted by the urgency of the situation.

My recommendation is that a message should at once be sent through the Minister of a neutral Government in Berlin. This message should state that the British Government had incontrovertible evidence, which could be produced if desired, that British prisoners had been murdered in considerable numbers, some by the brutality of guards in prison camps, but a greater number by starvation, hard work, and ill-usage behind the German line. That, so far as possible, the names of the people directly responsible for these murders had been collected, and that no peace would be made which did not include their punishment. That the British Government was willing to believe that those who were in authority had no direct complicity in these murders, but that it was now drawing their attention to them, and that from the date of the receipt of this message these authorities would he held responsible in their own persons for the safety of the prisoners. Therefore, if any further murders should occur, apart from the direct criminals at least three other individuals should be tried for their lives - namely, the officer who is at the head of the prisoners' department, the Minister for War, and the Emperor William II.

Such a document would produce an immediate outburst of rage and abuse in the German Press, but it could not fail to draw public attention strongly to our grievances, and I venture to prophesy that the life of a British prisoner would speedily become more precious than that of any other human being within the Kaiser's domains. But let our demand be for all the world to bear, and let us harden our hearts to enforce it.

Yours faithfully,

Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex, Oct 11.