The Channel Tunnel: military aspect of the question. Important address by Rt. Hon Lord Sydenham of Combe.
The idea for the Channel Tunnel was first mooted in 1802, and a brief history of it is set out here and here. Feelings ran high on both sides of the debate, and the Channel Tunnel Association Archive gives an insight into not just the scientific, political, and financial processes involved, but also the personalities and emotions.
“Military aspect of the question” is a case in point. Lord Sydenham of Combe – the first and last bearer of that title – was a military strategist. He served with the Royal Engineers and later became Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and published widely. This is the transcript of his address and the discussion afterwards by Members of Parliament, in the summer of 1914. While facts and theories involving national defence are discussed, the transcript also shows the pride those present took in the Royal Navy, and their belief that the Navy could rise to any occasion; and there are poignant mentions of England’s friendship with France, and their anticipated future of peace.
Objections to the tunnel on security and defence grounds had been made a number of times. The chairman of the meeting reported here, in introducing the speaker and the Channel Tunnel background, noted “it is the military question alone which has for upwards of thirty years prevented the carrying out of this great scheme.”
Lord Sydenham dismisses the tunnel as a cause for anxiety as a breach of security, showing various ways in which the tunnel could be rendered unusable if taken over by an enemy force, mentioning the advantages it could provide for troop movement during warfare, and ending triumphantly “I hope I have been able to show that there are no valid military objections”.