From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Train-Wrecking is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Times on 14 september 1901.


The Times (14 september 1901)


Sir, — With all courtesy to Mr. Mackarness, I cannot imagine what the doings of Attila and the Huns, or of Wellington in the Peninsula, have to do with the question of the ethics of railway-wrecking and its prevention. Our first duty is to our own soldiers, and if there are any means which have been sanctioned by military usage by which we can shield them from such danger it is for us to use them. Had we continued to do so from the first some hundreds of men would probably have been saved from death or mutilation. Mr. Mackarness asks me why I call the wrecking of a railway train at this stage of the wax a dastardly outrage. I do so because it is indiscriminate in its character, and may involve the lives of non-combatants, of women and of children. In this last case a women was one of the victims. On a previous occasion it was a party of sick soldiers who were on their way to hospital who suffered most severely. I do not deny that the Boers are within their rights as belligerents in doing this, inhuman as it may seem, but why in the name of common sense should we not be permitted to take such steps as are within our power to prevent them ?

Mr. Mackarness points out that it is only by such means that a small Power can hope to hold its own against a larger one. Very possibly, and it is only by such means that the larger Power can retort. Let both sides wear the gloves, or let both sides take them off.

Yours faithfully,

The Athenaeum, Pall-Mall, S.W.