Churchill on drone warfare

A 1924 article by Winston Churchill imagined drone warfare: "Might not a bomb no bigger than an orange be found to possess a secret power to destroy a whole block of buildings -- nay to concentrate the force of a thousand tons of cordite and blast a township at a stroke? Could not explosives even of the existing type be guided automatically in flying machines by wireless or other rays, without a human pilot, in ceaseless procession over a hostile city, arsenal, camp or dockyard?"

He called the article "Shall We All Commit Suicide?"

As Bruce Sterling points out, Churchill was a huge sf fan.

“Shall We All Commit Suicide?” or, Winston Churchill Imagines Drone Warfare, 1924

(Image: Predator Drone Aviation Nation Las Vegas, NV, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from davidrsmith's photostream)


  1. He shows a lot more clairvoyance than the general after WWI who saw airplanes as nothing more than a novelty with no real impact.

  2.  I think the plutonium cores if neutron bombs and other types of low yield nukes are about the size of an orange. 

    Not sure if Churchill was speculating about nuclear explosives here, but HG Wells wrote about them in his novel The World Set Free in 1914.

  3. If one had to pick a single individual who lived a most remarkable life, across both time and space, I think ole Winston would be at the top of the list. The places he went and the things that man saw. Just incredible.  1874- 1965…think of the changes he got to see.

  4. He probably dreamed of using such pilotless planes to drop gas bombs on Iraq, much better than the biplanes he was forced to use to do the job.

    1. Naughty, naughty! The only Churchill is the Good Guy who helped defeat Evil Mr. Hitler. No one wants to hear about his role in WW1 or in the series of provocations that bolstered the German right, nor about his imperialist/colonialist adventures, much less his “unenlightened” attitudes toward non “Anglo-Saxon” peoples.

      1. Churchill suggested that chemical weapons should be used “against recalcitrant Arabs as an experiment.” He added “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes to spread a lively terror” in Iraq.
         What a statesman.
        Winston Churchill’s Secret Poison Gas Memo[stamp] PRIME MINISTER’S PERSONAL MINUTE[stamp, pen] Serial No. D. 217/4[Seal of Prime Minister]10 Downing Street, Whitehall [gothic script]GENERAL ISMAY FOR C.O.S. COMMITTEE [underlined]

  5. Rather ironic that he wrote that. There was a recent PBS Nova episode, about the photo reconnaissance done by specially equipped Spitfires, and that Churchill took a lot of convincing of the existence of the German V1 & V2 rocket programs. The idea was that ‘we don’t have the technology – so neither can they’. Eventually he came around and authorized a bombing campaign of Peenemunde and the launch sites.  Obviously it was confirmed when the Germans finally started to launch the V2 and the doodlebug.  On another note, Winston’s father made a fortune buying opium from India and selling it in China.

      1. yeah I hate those restrictions, and Nova is one of my faves. I’m in Canada but it worked the other day. Most of the time it won’t stream outside the US. 
        there’s always Piratebay

  6. I like the slightly premature comment he made when he received news about the effects of the first atomic bomb:  “The air forces of the world have achieved their goal.  They now have the ability to destroy the entire human race without the loss of a single pilot.”

Comments are closed.