Winston Churchill wanted the Royal Air Force to wipe out German villages in retaliation for the massacre of Czech civilians in the village of Lidice, wartime Cabinet documents have revealed.
The same declassified papers show that Churchill also wanted Adolf Hitler executed "like a gangster" in an electric chair borrowed from the Americans, if the dictator were captured alive by British troops.
The plan to attack small villages "on a three-for-one basis" was formed in the summer of 1942, five days after German forces murdered most of the 450 occupants of Lidice, a village north of Prague, in retaliation for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, deputy leader of the SS.
Churchill abandoned the plan only in the face of opposition from Cabinet colleagues, who feared that the lives of aircrews would be placed needlessly at risk. Clement Attlee, the dominions secretary and future Labour prime minister, said he believed it unwise "to enter into competition in frightfulness with the Germans."
On June 15 Churchill conceded, saying: "My instinct is strongly the other way ... I submit unwillingly to the view of Cabinet against."
The existence of the village raids plan is disclosed in notebooks kept by Sir Norman Brook, the wartime deputy Cabinet secretary, who recorded Cabinet meetings. His notes, now made public by the National Archives at Kew, south-west London, also show that Churchill was determined to execute Hitler.
"Contemplate that if Hitler falls into our hands we shall certainly put him to death," Sir Norman recorded the prime minister as saying in December 1942, on one of the few occasions that the Cabinet discussed what to do with the Fuhrer. "Not a sovereign who could be said to be in hands of ministers, like Kaiser. This man is the mainspring of evil. Instrument -- electric chair, for gangsters, no doubt available on lease-lend."
He was referring to the arrangement with the US which helped to fund the British war effort.
In April 1945, the home secretary, Herbert Morrison, expressed the opinion, seemingly popular with his colleagues, that a "mock trial" for Nazi leaders would be "objectionable" and said that it would be "better to declare that we shall put them to death."
Churchill agreed that a trial for Hitler would be "a farce" because "all sorts of complications ensue as soon as you admit a fair trial."
Churchill supported a proposal to circumvent the allies' commitment to such trials by writing to the Soviets and Americans explaining Britain's justification for summary justice and then carrying out the executions before either had time to reply.