British Government in favour of WMD…..sort of….



A recent examination of old cabinet papers and memoranda associated with the David Lloyd George ministry has shown me that not only did the British Government posses significant stockpiles of chemical weapons, but even after witnessing their terrible destructive and demoralising use on their own troops during the then recent First World War, they proceeded to champion their use in war;


A Memorandum by the Secretary of State for far, covering a Minute by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, containing the following recommendations
(i) That gas should be definitely accepted as a weapon of war:
(ii) That the Government’s policy should be to educate public, opinion in favour of the use of gas as a weapon, instead of against it:
(iii) That no limit (other than financial) should be placed on our activities in studying and developing gas as a weapon:
(iv) That, once at war,, the War Office
should be empowered to use gas when and where they consider that the military situation demands it.
(Paper CP.-12-11).



Soldier after suffering Mustard Gas Burns


The flippant nature of the use of the phrase ‘other than financial’ is indeed disturbing; it makes one wonder what kind of men would countenance the use of such weapons after they had witnessed the blinding of thousands of their own soldiers in similar attacks. The cabinet discussion then turned to the difficulties of such weapons being utilised against a civilian population and the dangers that might pose; 


It was pointed out that before long some limitation must be placed on the use of poison in warfare. Otherwise, there would be no limit to the destructiveness not merely to armies but also to civil populations from the employment of bacteriological and other poisonous methods. It was suggested that the limitation of the use of poison was only part of the general codification of the law and practice of war.




The cabinet therefore decided to wait until the League of Nations Military Committee had been convened to examine the issue before adopting a firm stance either way. True Lloyd Georgism at its finest! 

About eamonntgardiner

I am a PhD Student at the National University of Ireland, Galway. I am conducting research into links between wartime traumatic-neurosis and evidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder amongst British First World War veterans serving as Auxiliary Policemen in Ireland during the Anglo-Irish War 1919-1921. I have previously conducted research into local Irish Volunteer/Old IRA units in Munster as well as British responses to popular insurgencies in areas they administered. I have previously published a book on the British Counterinsurgency responses to the IV/IRA conflict in Ireland, 1919-1921, entitled 'Dublin Castle and the Anglo-Irish War: Counter Insurgency and Conflict.' I have also published papers on various aspects of that war and also on other insurgencies. I write a regular blog on those and other related matters, which can be read at My research interests include Feminism and De-Colonialisation/Post-Colonialism, Insurgency, Police and Military Histories, Institutional Histories. Subaltern Studies, International History of the 20th Century, Modern Irish History, Historiography, History of Conflict, Peace Keeping/Enforcement/Protectorates, Spheres of Influence, Hegemonic Theories, Old and New Terrorism.
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