From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
A NECESSARY DEVICE.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
Sir, — Among number of letters which have reached me upon this subject there is one from an officer of experience, who says, "In the course of numerous discussions I have never once met an officer who did not think some attempt should be made to produce shields." Surely a universal demand of this sort can be met by an inventive engineering community like ours. The crudest plate slung by a thong round a man's neck would be better than nothing at all. Let us produce something for use at once and improve upon it at our leisure. If we had put half the energy into this matter which was shown in our provision of poison-helmets the question would have been solved. On the solution depends not only the saving of life, but, what is even more important, the winning of battles. Take our stormers safely across No Man's Land and the rest is simple.
Mr. Woodward writes to point out that I underrated the weight. No doubt I did so; but my statement was not meant to be a precise one, as, so long as we can get a bullet-stopping shield which a man can carry, the exact weight is immaterial. Indeed, there is a positive advantage in weight, since the impact on a light shield would give a shock to the man behind it, while a heavy shield absorbs it. I am informed that by adding certain elements to the steel a lesser thickness will serve, and the length which I gave (3 feet) could be diminished without exposing the vital parts. Suppose we put the final weight of the shield as high as 80 lb.; if the man had no other equipment save his helmet and his bag of bombs, it would still be well within his power to carry it. Formations would soon be devised by which men could lock shields and obtain flank protection.
Colonel Newell points out the difficulty of carrying up such weighty articles. I presume that they would be taken up in motor lorries in the same way as our heavy projectiles. If the shields are provided, I am certain that our very excellent supply service will get them to the front. The essential thing now is to get to the end of the talk and to actually do something to enable our men to face the machine-guns.
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.
Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex, July 31.