Winston Churchill 'wanted to use most devastating chemical weapon ever devised' on Russian Bolsheviks at the end of WWI
He is feted as a national hero, but new evidence has come to light that Winston Churchill once ordered 50,000 of the most devastating chemical weapons ever made to be dropped on Russia.
In two months at the end of the First World War, Churchill authorised the M Device - shells with chemical tips - to be dropped over villages and military posts held by the revolutionary Bolsheviks in northern Russia.
Then secretary of state for war, Churchill had wanted the British Government to support the White Army in its civil bitter fight for power with the Bolshevik Red Army, according to Giles Milton author of Russian Roulette.
Mr Milton told The Telegraph Churchill had wanted to 'really go hard against the Bolsheviks, who had seized power from Tsar Nicholas II in 1917.
He said: 'The British had developed this highly secret chemical weapon called the M Device, which is like a shell with a canister of gas on the end.
'It was developed at Porton laboratories in Wiltshire and described by the head of munitions as the most devastating chemical weapon ever devised. It had been invented but not used.
'Churchill’s idea was to use the M Device against the Russian Bolsheviks. Fifty-thousand were taken up in planes and then dropped on the Bolshevik Red Army positions and Bolshevik controlled villages in northern Russia between August and September 1918.'
Although Churchill had wanted to help the White Army, the Government refused to take sides.
Mr Milton, 47, has also revealed Churchill wanted to use chemical weapons against rebellious tribes in North India.
He added: 'What I found really shocking was when he wrote this internal memo to the India Office, along the lines of ‘we should use it against the tribes on the North West front. They’re really troublesome, let’s gas them.'
'There’s a line in the memo that says "I really don’t understand this squeamishness about poison gas". Today that reads pretty badly.'
Cabinet minister: When Churchill ordered the chemical weapons to be dropped on the Bolsheviks, he was secretary of state for war. Pictured here at Enfield munitions factory in 1915
Bloody: Bolshevik soldiers take aim at their rival Mensheviks during the struggle for power in 1917
Minority: In 1917 the Bolsheviks were in the minority, but that did not stop them seizing power and ordering the assassination of Tsar Nicholas II and his family
Mr Milton explained he was researching material for his new book when he discovered a document in the National Archives that had been written by British scientists, who had been sent to Russia to record the effects of the M Device.
Shortly after breathing it in, victims started vomiting blood. They then fell unconscious.
Mr Milton said the British tried to 'play it down' by claiming fatalities were limited. But Russian evidence tells an altogether different story, with one soldier claiming 50 of his comrades were killed.
Revolutionary zeal: This image from about 1900 shows Vladimir Ilych Lenin addressing a crowd. Stalin, Trotsky and Kamenev stand behind him
Support: Churchill wanted to support the White Army against the Bolsheviks. Pictured, the North Russia Intervention saw the allies invade land at Archangel and drive the Bolsheviks back
Despite their fearsome reputation, the M Device did not prove as devastating as Churchill had hoped and thousands of the shells were dumped in the White Sea on the north-west coast of Russia because they were too unstable to fly home.
Asked what effect the latest revelation could have Churchill's image, Mr Milton said: 'He’s a great Briton but there are other sides to his character. He was advocating the mass use of chemical weapons.'
Mr Milton's new book, Russian Roulette, is the true account of British spies who were sent to Russia to undermine Lenin's plot to bring down British India.