The Admiral's Secret Weapon

The Admiral's Secret Weapon

Lord Dundonald and the Origins of Chemical Warfare

Charles Stephenson


Boydell Press



The compelling story of Lord Dundonald's secret war plans, rejected by the Admiralty in 1811 as ungentlemanly, kept secret for almost a century, only to disappear in 1914. What were the secrets and did they lead to the German use of poison gas in 1915?
The 10th Earl of Dundonald (1775-1860) had as Lord Cochrane been a dashing and highly successful naval captain (he forms the model for Patrick O'Brian's fictional hero Jack Aubrey); he was also an inventor. In 1811 he presented details of his secret war plans to the Admiralty, who thought them likely to be highly effective, but uncivilised, and did not take them up; they remained secret. From time to time throughout the rest of his life Lord Dundonald lobbied again on behalf of his plans, without success. In 1914 the, supposedly, German butler of the then Lord Dundonald allegedly stole the secret documents and passed them to his government, to the subsequent consternation of the Dundonald family, who feared that German use of poison gas in 1915 was the result of this alleged theft. Just what were the secrets? And did the theft lead to the use of poison gas in 1915?
Charles Stephenson, who has been bracketed amongst "the world's leading maritime historians", unravels the details of this interesting and intriguing story.


October 2006
16 black and white, 7 line illustrations
196 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843832805
Format: Hardback
Boydell Press
BISAC HIS027000, HIS014000
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Table of Contents

Diabolical Engines of Warfare
The Stink Ships
"Lord Dundonald Thought Otherwise"
Laying Wood before Walls
Expelling the Russians from Sevastopol
Different Lines of Thought
A National Emergency
Secret No More


Compelling reading. It is fast paced, well illustrated with maps and drawings, and offers insight into an obscure yet interesting aspect of the development of chemical warfare. HISTORIAN

A lively account of one aspect of the inventive Cochrane's career that has not been examined at length by earlier biographers. TLS
A well-researched work on an obscure but fascinating subject. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MARITIME HISTORY
A fascinating look into what might be called the "prehistory" of chemical warfare - and not, of course, without relevance for the present day. THE SCOTSMAN
A fascinating read for anyone with an interest in the more esoteric side of military history. FORTEAN TIMES
This is an excellent reference work and is to be recommended as both fascinating and erudite. For a surprising revelation as to the origins of modern chemical warfare, look no further. THE REVIEW, the journal of the NHCRA
(An) extremely interesting work. Recommended. NAUTICAL MAGAZINE
A very readable, scholarly study of an unusual man and his times. CASEMATE

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