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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

Mr. Conan Doyle and High Angle Fire

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Mr. Conan Doyle and High Angle Fire is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Westminster Gazette on 26 february 1900.


Mr. Conan Doyle and High Angle Fire

Sir, — My attention has just been called to an interview in the Westminster Gazette, concerning my failure to induce the War Office to listen to my views on the question of high angle fire, or to examine the means by which I propose to regulate it. In this I observe that Captain Kenyon declares that I have received three letters upon the subject. of which I have only. published the last He adds that this will be the official answer if a question on the. subject be asked in the House. I trust that this is not so, as Captain Kenyon is entirely mistaken in his statement.

I have received two letters from the Ordnance Department upon the subject, of which the one published is the first. The reason why the second was not published also was that it was almost a verbatim reproduction of the first. save that after the words "will not trouble you in the matter of an apparatus for high angle fire from rifles" there is added "as it was not considered desirable to adopt that means of fire." I have therefore had two letters which were practically the same letter. What, then, becomes of the three letters which were said to have been sent to me?

The Westminster Gazette misquotes me when it says that I claim success for my idea. On the contrary, I state that there may be a fallacy. But I do claim that the principle is right, and that the detail is worthy of careful examination. If such a use of rifle fire were in vogue, and if approximate accuracy could be attained, it is quite certain that Cronje's force, surrounded in a confined space by 20,000 Lee-Metfords, could not possibly have held out. Every square yard of his position could be searched by a dropping fire, while each Boer had only to dig a hole in order to be safe from a direct one.

As to Captain Kenyon's statement that a wind would render the fire uncertain, and possibly unsafe, it is perfectly correct. But as the rifle remains with its present sights intact, it would not be used for a dropping fire unless the conditions were favourable. A special cartridge with a heavier bullet and less cordite would of course ensure greater accuracy. The height to which the bullet goes with the ordinary service cartridge is such that 55 seconds elapse before its return to earth.

No doubt Captain Kenyon would claim that the replies from his office are in the usual official routine form; but I object, not merely in my own name, but in that of every man who wishes to try to aid his country, that this form should be so offensively curt.

Yours faithfully,

A. CONAN DOYLE

The Reform Club




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