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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. Wells's Prophecy

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Mr. Wells's Prophecy is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle published in The Daily Chronicle on 21 january 1916.


Mr. Wells's Prophecy

Sir, — I have read with interest and admiration Mr. Wells's article dealing with the probable course of the war. I think, however, that he dismisses much too easily the idea that the war may be ended by the absolute defeat of the Germans on the field. Bloch was a far-sighted thinker. He saw clearly the war of trenches. But he did not see the power of modern guns and of high explosive shells. Had he done so he might have hedged a little in his conclusions. Both the British and the French at the end of September were very nearly through. Their resources by the spring, both in men and in shells, will have greatly increased. They will also have the valuable experience of these partial victories to guide them. Above all, they may have evolved protective devices by which the assailants may get to close grips without undue loss. Our failure to do this has been one of our blots upon the management of the war. Almost from the beginning it has been under discussion. Yet, now in the 18th month a Canadian Colonel writes to me: "We have now at last got about 50 helmets to the regiment. How many lives would have been saved had we had these earlier?"

If Bloch's trenches have proved themselves to be formidable they may, on the other hand, be recognised later as being the most dangerous military formation ever adopted by an army. If by a sudden concentration they could be broken, and a mobile force got through the gap, it would not be a case of capturing cannon by the tens or by the hundreds, but possibly of seizing every heavy gun along the whole front. By a single movement you outflank everything and make every position untenable. Bloch holds the field for the moment, but it may be that his view will go down in military history as an exposed fallacy. I for one refuse to accept the dismal and enervating doctrine that this war can only come to an end through the inglorious methods of exhaustion.

ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
Windlesham, Crowborough, Sussex.





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