Dundonald’s Crimean War Plans
Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, a forward thinking sailor, inventor and politician, formed the idea of chemical warfare during a visit to sulphur mines in Sicily in 1811. This led to his belief that all fortifications could be subdued by using sulphur fumes under a cover of dense smoke. His proposals and plans of attack on Napoleon’s blockaded ports in 1812 caused alarm and apprehension in the scrutiny committee by the startling nature of the new weapon, and were rejected. A further attempt for an attack on Cherbourg in 1846 fared no better. The Crimean War provided Dundonald, by this time a senior admiral, with a final opportunity to have his plans adopted. Naval armaments, in particular explosives, had made great strides forward in the years since his first plans evolved. Detailed plans for attacks on Cronstadt and Sebastopol were again subjected to expert scrutiny, including those of Faraday with knowledge of the effects of Vesuvius’ sulphur fumes. Although rejected on the grounds of being too hazardous, merit was given to the element of dense smoke being able to hide objects. The committee reported to the First Lord: ‘His scheme is hazardous, uncompromising of success and by probable failure likely to bring discredit on the service…’ Dundonald’s last chance ended when Sebastopol fell. However the Secret Plans were once again scrutinised during WW1 and the smoke screen element was successfully used during the Zeebrugge raid, which echoed Dundonald’s intentions against Cronstadt.