22 June 1917 – “A Military object of the first importance”

Such is the demand for Reprisals against Germany following the bombing of London on 13 June 1917 that all kinds of barmy ideas are being considered. Today Alfred Mond, First Commissioner of Works made the following suggestion to the War Cabinet:

I beg to submit that in the consideration of Air Raid Reprisals against Germany, the following idea, suggested to me by Sir Lionel Earle, should receive consideration; . namely, that an attempt be made to set alight during the dry summer weather, the Black Forest at various points. I would point out that the Black Forest is not far situated from the Front, and theta t was possible to raid Freiburg, which is practically on the outskirts of the Forest, it is evidently possible to attack the Forest itself.

The Black Forest, which I know intimately, consists of very large stretches of pine timber; there is practically no undergrowth, but there are large accumulations of pine needles and cones, which are easily inflammable. This is, perhaps, the most important timber supply for the German army on the Western Front. Its total or partial destruction would, therefore, be a military object of the first importance.

I would submit that this object might be achieved by dropping large numbers of incendiary bombs in different localities from aeroplanes, Special attention being directed to the methods by which the tops of the trees can be set on fire.

Our Canadian officers, at present engaged in timber cutting in the French Forests, will have a large experience of forest fires in Canada, and if they were consulted, they could probably give expert advice on the technical execution of this scheme.

The scheme would bear reprisal of real military value and at the same time would destroy valuable assets of Germany and, If successful, would create very great impressions in Germany as well as satisfying public opinion here.

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