Jody Baker: Inspector Baynes On Churchill And Conan Doyle And Submarines

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

It is beyond the scope of this article (and this writer) to comment upon the technology of the submarine or the technical aspects of submarine warfare. Those are better left to Joseph Coppola whose excellent article, "Submarine Technology and The Bruce-Partington Adventure," may be found at 43 The Baker Street Journal, 146 (September 1993). 

Here we consider certain contributions of Arthur Conan Doyle to the promotion of naval preparedness of the Empire and the importance of a strong submarine capability in the naval forces of a great nation. In this effort Doyle had the assistance of a young reporter, lecturer and seeker of elective office whose military dashing and derring-do had captured the attention of the public.

Arthur Conan Doyle and Winston L.S. Churchill met early in the career of the latter. Both of them, you may recall, participated in the Boer War -- Doyle as a doctor with a field-hospital unit and Churchill as an impetuous battle-wise war correspondent. 

In 1900, after Conan Doyle had returned home, he was much in demand as an author of mystery fiction and as a speaker. This was the period of public clamour for more of Holmes. ("The Final Problem" was published in 1893; the re-appearance of Sherlock Holmes in installments of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" began in August 1901.) Doyle made a try for Parliament. He stood for election to the Edinburgh seat in 1900, but he was defeated.

By 1900 Churchill had returned as a true war hero. He had name-identification from his great news stories of the war. Added to this were the heroics of capture, war-prisoner, and prison escape -- combined with an uninhibited willingness to talk about himself. He rode the crest of his new-found popularity to elective office, capturing the Oldham seat in Parliament in the 1900 elections. 

No documentary evidence has been found to support the suggestion of a close or intimate friendship between these two, but Doyle had a fondness for the courageous young man, and Churchill worked well with the older Doyle. There was a relationship between the two which spanned the years.

"He [Doyle] was ... very fond of the young Winston Churchill, whom he met briefly in Bloemfontein, where Churchill had been a war correspondent. He admired Churchill's energy, bulldog pugnacity, and sheer drive, and continued to see him at intervals for most of his life."

 (Charles Higham, "The Adventures of Conan Doyle," W.W.Norton & Company, 1976, p.167) 

Shortly after his election in 1900, Churchill was in need of funds and undertook a lecture tour:

"He started out on his lecture tour. With the help of a magic latern, the predecessor of our movie machine, he told attentive audiences about his adventures in the Boer war, particularly his escape from Pretoria. "The greatest names in England took the chair when the young hero spoke. Lord Wolseley led off. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the father of Sherlock Holmes, was second. Lord Londonderry, the Marquess of Ava, the Duke of Marlboro put themselves at hi disposal. (Rene Kraus, "Winston Churchill, A Biography," The Literary Guild of America, 1940, p.108) 

It is not surprising, then, that Doyle supported Churchill's noble and Herculean effort to fortify and protect the British Isles in those perilous times before the first World War. Churchill was serving as First Lord of the Admiralty. Both he and Doyle recognized the dangers at play.

In the years preceding that war there were a few who could read the signs and anticipate the inevitable -- those who realized that "there's an east wind coming," and who knew what that meant. But many failed to understand, or intentionally refused to acknowledge, these truths. Conan Doyle and Churchill both had the vision to see the threat that lay beyond the east horizon in the menace of the German U-Boats: 

"There can be no question that ... Conan Doyle was very much aware of the U-boat threat in 1912.  Indeed, the purpose of the story `Danger!' was to alert Britain to this threat. And it cannot be an accident that Conan Doyle wrote the story only a few weeks after Winston Churchill, newly appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, made a statement at the 118th meeting of the Committee of Imperial Defence (July 18,1912)...." (Charles Higham, `The Adventures of Conan Doyle' W.W. Norton & Co.,1976, p.230) 

In Conan Doyle's "Danger!" John Sirius is a fictional submarine commander of a hypothetical minor European power. He is able, with a reduced fleet of eight submarines, to sink five fictional major British warships. The story was intended to emphasize recognition of the efficacy of the submarine as an instrument of warfare. (For more information on "Danger!" and its effect upon preparedness see Michael Hardwick, " The Complete Guide to Sherlock Holmes," (St.Martin's Press, paperback 1992, pp.150-51) 

At this time Doyle was also writing letters and articles, and he was speaking publicly, in seeking to arouse a slumbering nation. He had the support of Churchill in this effort.

"In an article,`Great Britain and the Next War’, he [Doyle] asserted that Germany was planning a U-boat blockade. The article, and his busy campaigning in letters and speeches through 1912 and 1913 for effective anti-U-boat surveillance and protective devices, were largely opposed in official circles. His one strong supporter apart from Churchill was Admiral Sir Percy Scott...."
* * *   "Sir Percy Scott begged for additional submarines. ... His and Churchill's urgent requests were, to the lasting disgrace of the government, not acted upon until it was almost too late." (Charles Higham, `The Adventures of Conan Doyle' W.W. Norton & Co.,1976, p.231) 

Doyle and Churchill were out and about in the villages and the by-ways, in the cities and the countryside, attempting to persuade and to prod, to lure and to lead, the national conscience into properly preparing for the defense -- the defense of ports and harbors, of coasts and beaches, and of those "broad and sunlit uplands," about which Churchill was to speak so beautifully in later years in "A Message to the People: Their Finest Hour."

All the while, Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson were also doing their part, in their own way. They were retrieving, and restoring to the Admiralty, the plans for our own submarine, the Bruce-Partington [BRUC]. And by bringing the spy, Von Bork, and his crowd to heel, they were saving our Royal Navy's secret codes and signals from compromise by the enemy [LAST]. 

Inspector Baynes, of the Surrey Constabulary
Always a step ahead of Sherlock Holmes

(Jody Baker is a Chattanooga attorney, who specializes in Sherlock Holmes lore. He can be reached at josiahbaker@bkhcw.com.)

  


How Is Corker Different Than Trump? - And Response

Corker has voted with Trump 90 percent of the time. It's difficult to see how Corker will play the maverick card with a straight face, but he'll try and succeed with those who believe politicians regardless of the facts.   Though it does give one pause. If Trump hadn't been called out on so many positions, does anyone believe Corker would be grandstanding now? What's ... (click for more)

Confronting Racism In Public Education

Like most Americans, we have been bothered by the news in recent days. And as we have struggled to understand the racial issues that continue to confront our nation, we are left to ponder the issue even more within the context of public education.  The vast majority of Americans know that racism is wrong. It is one of the few issues on which almost everyone can agree. We ... (click for more)

City Seeks To Be Removed As Trustee Of Confederate Cemetery

Mayor Andy Berke on Friday said he has asked City Attorney Wade Hinton, on behalf of the city of Chattanooga, to file the necessary paperwork "to confirm the city is no longer listed as a trustee of a Confederate Cemetery on East Third Street." Mayor Berke said, “Our action today makes it clear that the city of Chattanooga condemns white supremacy in every way, shape and ... (click for more)

Judy Kay Peer, 69, Killed When Train Hits Her Car At Hamill Road Crossing In Hixson

Judy Kay Peer, 69, was killed on Friday night when a train struck her car in Hixson on Friday night. Ms. Peer, a Hixson resident, was driving a 2015 Hyundai Sonata. Police said she  was traveling west on Hamill Road and had stopped at the railroad crossing. The gates were extended with flashing lights and a sounding bell. A train that was traveling northbound on ... (click for more)

Ty Boeck Scores Three TDs As Soddy Daisy Wins 35-32

Justin Barnes had a tough time wiping the smile off of his face late Friday night at Soddy Daisy’s Robert Talaska Field. His Trojans had just picked up a 35-32 victory over arch-rival Red Bank in a non-district game, but he’s been involved in three of these games as a player and now five as a coach.  He won all three as Red Bank’s quarterback before graduating in 1999 and ... (click for more)

Defending Champ Farragut Clips Bears 27-21 In OT

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Farragut has one of the nation’s top-rated senior tight ends in the country and the Admirals weren’t shy about utilizing their primary offensive weapon against Bradley Central on Friday night at Bear Stadium. Jacob Warren, the super-talented 6-foot-6, 226-pound receiver caught four touchdown passes that included the game-winner in the Admirals’ 27-21 overtime ... (click for more)