Monday, February 25, 2013

The Admiral and his Weapon

Penis Canon in Korea

Following our recent thread of great (or not) book titles, I've just finished a book entitled The Admiral's Secret Weapon. As I put it down, I suddenly regressed to age 14, and realized with a snigger that the title was a lovely unintentional double entendre.

It could so easily have been the title for a piece of humorous naval erotica. Don't get any ideas: I hereby copyright the idea of using a sailor in erotic fiction, throughout the Universe. (I once signed a copyright transfer form containing that very phrase, and I still feel that I was cheated over the Andromeda Galaxy.)

Anyway, smutty gags aside, this is a lovely piece of historical fact (another current thread), looking at the origins of chemical warfare in the Secret Plans developed by Thomas Cochrane, one of the most colourful characters in the history of the Royal Navy, and another of the inspirations for Hornblower and Jack Aubrey. Cochrane came up with the idea of using clouds of sulphur to overcome fortifications. His plans were dismissed and shelved, then re-presented by his heir in the First World War. Germany got there first in the implementation, though there's a fascinating coda as to whether they may have been influenced by a set of the plans stolen by a conniving butler.

Wonderful stuff.

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