Intelligence Corps in WWII (British Army) - War Diaries

Discussion in 'British Army Units - Others' started by Philip of Lee, May 28, 2015.

  1. Philip of Lee

    Philip of Lee Active Member

    If you are researching a given unit of the Intelligence Corps, and if it was a field unit (known as FSS or Field Security Unit), you should be able to find what is known as War Diaries at Kew (National Archives), SW of London.

    I researched my father's Service Record (he was in the IC during WWII, in Italy, Greece and Egypt) and found the War Diaries for his unit in 1944/46. I was pointed in that direction by various contributors on this forum, who were very helpful, and said such documents ought to be available.

    Here is some information to assist you if you are interested in the IC during WWII. I hope it will help.


    National Archives

    The National Archives at Kew (near Richmond) are open Tue to Sat from 9.00am to 5.00pm; on Tue and Thur, open till 7.00pm. Closed over Easter weekend; closed on Monday and Sunday. Documents can be ordered / requested before 4.15pm on regular days and before 5.00pm on Tue and Thur (late opening). Lunch (restaurant) is between 12 noon and 2.30pm.

    Website: - Telephone: 020 8876 3444

    Address: The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU. Nearest tube on District Line: Kew Gardens (out front, go left, and left).

    Procedure: no need to arrange appointment; no fee. Turn up with 2 forms of I D (e.g.: 1 passport and 1 recent utility bill). One has to register on the 2nd floor (Reader Registration). One gets a Reader’s Card (takes about 10 mins).

    One can ask to see the relevant records; the only charge is photocopying relevant records. The can be done on site. Scanning is free of charge for sending to designated email address.

    I found the staff very helpful and the whole operation runs smoothly.

    A detail: Only pencils are allowed in the reading rooms (not pens); they sell them in the shop.

    If you want to have lunch there, it is possible: there is a self-service restaurant and they sell sandwiches and cantine-type food.

    War Diaries for Field Security Sections: General introduction

    Most diaries contain on average between 200 and 400 various pages. Some diaries are not as long. Usually, they were written once a week by an officer; officers and NCOs were mentioned by name; lower ranks were not (but in some cases, lower ranks do appear). The War Diaries should have been written once a day, but this was seldom done due to lack of time and being in the field (in which case the Officer Commanding, or OC, updated them once a week).

    The War Diaries are generally open to the public. They were meant to give a recap of what the unit had done in the course of the day/week. They were meant to be passed up the chain of command. They were often hand-written but also typed (the War Diaries I saw are all typed); they should be legible. They should describe operations and actions taken by the unit as part of its duties.

    Records for WWII and the IC have not been digitised (can only be read on site and in paper form): mostly loose sheets of paper held by a cord (or tag), placed in files.

    Kew has records for a given FSS because it was in war time. For 1946 (i.e. after the cessation of hostilities), it becomes police work of occupying forces and comes under Foreign Office files. For non-war reports, the information is sketchier; reports that were written were quarterly and not weekly. No trace of post-mid-1946 files have been found at Kew by myself, despite extensive search in the electronic catalogue (April 2015).

    War Diaries : Form of documents

    The file is a paper file (not digitised) held by a tag; it is open (i.e. no longer closed on security grounds). In a dossier, there are sub-files, i.e. one sub-file per month. Each dossier covers a year or less than a year.

    There are 4 types of documents in each sub-file:-

    1 -- The account of daily activity for the unit, known as a “War Diary or Intelligence Summary”; it gives all the important events for the month, with dates and locations (and, sometimes, the exact hour of day); it is between 3 and 5 pages long on average; it is typed; it is filled out by the Commanding Officer (CO), who has a rank of officer (Captain or Lieutenant);

    2 -- A complete and detailed summary of all key events for the whole month, or for a fortnight (usually the latter), written at regular intervals, at the end of each period. The format tends to be standard, with the following sections: an overview of the general situation (political, military and economic); a review of issues in relation to military security (security of information, of personnel, and or materiel); a review of issues in relation to civilian security (including incidents involving non-military individuals); a review of the political situation (meetings organised by political parties, strikes, etc.) and the economic situation (e.g.: price rises); short paragraphs (3 to 8 lines on average, each) on designated “personalities”/ individuals (who tend to be suspects in the eyes of British occupation forces); recap of units and equipment available in the area covered by the Section (at the very end of the report);

    3 -- Translations into English of relevant documents (e.g.: articles published in the local press about the political situation and the role of British forces in the country, programmes of political parties, speeches made by political and other local leaders at political rallies, etc.). These documents may have been in the public domain (e.g.: published articles), or have been obtained via intelligence work and with the help of informers (e.g.: copy of the agenda of a meeting for a given political party);

    4 -- Recap documents (forms filled out by hand by the CO) giving the number of officers, NCOs and other ranks (ORs) available and returning from missions in the field at various points during the month in question: these last documents are of an administrative nature.

    Documents (4) are not interesting; documents (1) (2) and (3) are interesting and detailed; in the case of (2), they can be difficult to read due to the faded ink (typed documents); documents (1) are shortest and easiest to read and mention not only higher ranks but also lower ranks by name if relevant (these reports are always easy to read and the ink has not faded).

  2. windscale

    windscale New Member

    It's worth bearing in mind that Intelligence Corps has its own museum and archives, both 'behind the wire' - ie, inside the Corps camp at Chicksands in Bedfordshire.

    The museum itself is well worth a visit, but you have to give a bit of notice as it is inside an active military camp. You just have to give a few personal details and your car registration, and then check in at the guardroom when you arrive.

    The archives are in secure premises, but anyone with enough reason (eg, academic researchers) can usually gain access, and in any event there is an archivist who can deal with enquiries.

    There is a helpful support group called The Friends of the Intelligence Corps Museum, which organises talks and events, both inside the camp and elsewhere. It's made up mainly of ex-intelligence people but is open to anyone with an interest.

    If this link doesn't work for any reason, just Google them. Here's the link: .
  3. Philip of Lee

    Philip of Lee Active Member

    Thank you, that is very interesting. I will look into it. The regular War Diaries for the IC units during WWII are at Kew, as far as I know. After the cessation of hostilities, there are no War Diaries -- officers did not have to keep them. There should be quarterly reports and the like, but I am not sure where they would be kept. They do not seem to be at Kew.

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