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22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

Motor-Cars and Coast Defence

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Motor-Cars and Coast Defence is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Times on 12 april 1906.



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Motor-Cars and Coast Defence

The Times (12 april 1906)

TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.

Sir, — There is a body called "the Legion of Frontiersmen" which is at present endeavouring to organize some of those civilian forces in the nation which might be of service in time of war. There is one great body to whom they have not appealed which could as a matter of fact be easily organized and which might be of vital importance at a critical moment. I mean the motorists of Great Britain. I will suppose such a contingency as a sudden invasion or raid. The news reaches London that a hostile force has established itself on the south or east coast. Everything depends upon swift action so as to prevent any cavalry that force may possess from pushing on in small parties, seizing junctions, cutting wires, blowing up bridges, and generally disorganizing the defence. It might be some days before a sufficient military force could be on the spot, and in the meantime much mischief would be done and the enemy more strongly established.

My suggestion is that a thousand motorists, a number which I am sure could be trebled or quadrupled, should organize themselves, and should pledge themselves, on the first news of such invasion, to instantly fill up their cars with picked riflemen drawn from their own immediate neighbourhood, and to convey them, with a week's food, their rifles, and their ammunition, to the danger point. Food, rifles, and motor-cars are already to hand, and the only factor missing is the ammunition, 2,000 rounds of which should be given by the Government to the keeping of the motorist who signifies his willingness to serve - such ammunition to be stored in his garage in time of peace. In this way, within a very few hours, such a fringe of irregular, self-supporting riflemen would be formed round the enemy that they could not push swiftly on, or collect supplies, without their patrols being cut off, and an immediate line of resistance would be formed behind which the regular defence could be prepared - all this without putting any tax upon the railways.

I recognize, of course, the risk which such improvised troops would run under the laws of war, but I am convinced that such risk would be cheerfully met is so grave a crisis.

To test the efficacy of such an organization would be most easy. Let it be formed, and let the War Office telegraph the place of landing upon a given day to every motorist upon the rolls. Let their representatives be upon the spot, and let them count for themselves how many thousand riflemen with arms and provisions would report themselves within five hours.

I should be much obliged if every motorist who reads of this scheme and approves of it would send a card to that effect to the secretary, "Legion of Frontiersmen," 6, Adam-street, Adelphi, W.C.

Yours faithfully,

ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.
Undershaw, Hindhead, Surrey.






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