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

Dr. Eamonn T. Gardiner, is a Consulting Historian. He has previously conducted research into links between wartime traumatic-neurosis and evidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) amongst veterans of the First World War serving as Auxiliary Policemen, during the Anglo-Irish War 1919-1921. He has written extensively on British central and colonial administrative responses to popular insurgencies. In 2009 he published 'Counterinsurgency and Conflict: Dublin Castle and the Anglo-Irish War (CSP, 2009).' Published papers include; 'The training of the Irish Volunteers, 1913-1916' (The Irish Sword, 2017); 'Scattered, Ambushed and Laid Out: War and Counterinsurgency in the greater Tuam area, 1919-1921' (JOTS, 2015). Research interests include De-Colonialisation/Post-Colonialism; Insurgency, Police/Military Histories; Institutional Histories; Modern Irish/World History; History of Conflict, Protectorates and Peace-Keeping; Hegemony; Old and New Terrorism.
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