19 May 2004
SIR WINSTON SPENCER CHURCHILL
Autograph letter signed ('Winston S. Churchill') to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 41 Cromwell Road, 1 October 1916, 2 pages, 8vo.
CHURCHILL ON TANKS IN THE MONTH AFTER THEIR FIRST USE. Churchill thanks Conan Doyle for his encouragement on the matter of tanks ('caterpillars'), observing that 'there are plenty of good ideas if only they can be backed with power and brought into reality', but remarking on the great length of time it has taken between his original orders in February 1915 and the first use of the machines in September 1916 -- 'And even then I think it w[oul]d have been better to wait & act on a much larger scale'. Churchill goes on to compare the tank with the 'Monitors': 'Both were intended to restore to the stronger power an effective means of the offensive. The Monitor was the beginning of the torpedo-proof fleet. The caterpillar of the bullet proof army. But surprise was the true setting for both'.
Churchill's frustration with the immobility of trench warfare led to his setting up the Admiralty landship committee under Sir E.H.W. Tennyson-d'Eyncourt, which was to play a crucial role in the development of the tank. At the time of his letter, Churchill was in the doldrums, having been forced to resign from the Admiralty on the formation of Asquith's coalition government in May 1915.
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