National Archive War Diary file prefixes

Discussion in 'Unit History' started by Wiffer, Nov 24, 2017.

  1. Wiffer

    Wiffer Member


    I am looking for confirmation as to what the following file prefixes stood for -

    166 - Home Forces
    169 - North Africa Forces
    170 - Italy (Mediterranean) Forces

    Is this correct?


  2. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    As per TNA website:

    British Army operations in the Second World War - The National Archives

    War Office directorates WO 165
    Home forces WO 166
    British expeditionary force WO 167
    North-West expeditionary force WO 168
    Middle East forces WO 169
    Central Mediterranean forces WO 170

    North-West Europe WO 171
    South-East Asia command WO 172
    West Africa forces WO 173
    Madagascar WO 174
    British North Africa forces WO 175
    Various smaller theatres WO 176
    Medical services WO 177
    Military missions WO 178
    Dominion forces WO 179
    GHQ Liaison Regiment* WO 215
    Special services WO 218
    Ships Signals sections* WO 257
    Royal Marine Commandos DEFE 2
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  3. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Anybody viewed any WO176?

    Curious what it covers.
  4. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    click the 176 link it says...
    War Office: British Forces, Various Smaller Theatres: War Diaries, Second World War | The National Archives
    Arrangement is by countries alphabetically as follows: Azores, pieces 1-7; Barbados, 8; Bermuda, 9-11; British Honduras, 12; Caribbean, 13-59; Falkland Islands, 60-72; Faroe Islands, 73-102; Fiji, 103-154; Gibraltar, 155-285; St Helena, 286; Iceland, 287-375; Leeward Islands, 376-377; Malta, 395-396; Manila, 378; Mauritius, 379-390; Russia, 391-394.
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  5. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Someone with a greater knowledge than me could answer the reason for this, but (for at least the 1st Army Forces) the split is :

    WO 175 - Nov 1942 to Jun 1943...when the units were in Algeria/Tunisia
    WO 169 - Jul 1943 to Dec 1943....when the units were in Sicily/mainland Italy.
    WO 170 - Jan 1944 onwards... when the units were in mainland Italy/Austria.

    The individual's summary posting details (between BNAF/CMF/MEF) cuts another loop altogether..
  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    The prefix denotes what theatre the unit spent a significant amount of time in during the date period for that specific diary. A good example is the WO 171 diaries covering 1944. This is the North West Europe prefix and most diaries cover January to December 1944 but units didn't start arriving in NW Europe until June 1944.
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  7. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Just to help other researchers, on at least two occasions I have found that when a unit moved mid month from overseas to the UK that for that month there is a carry over of pages from abroad into WO 166. Sometimes this is more than just the CO's diary entries but also other documents such as orders and memos to higher officers. Likewise movement from UK to abroad can cause a carry over of UK material into overseas files.

    The moral of the story is, pull a consecutive overseas/home front file, you might be surprised like I was.
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  8. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    My Dad and his mates might be "amused" to recall that - during the 5 1/2 months (out of the 6 months) that their battalions's war diaries are listed in the WO 169 series (ie as part the Middle East Forces' section) - they were climbing up to Centuripe, wading across the Simeto/Salso rivers, walking along the Etna lava beds up to Maletto, lying on the beach at Patti, sailing from Messina to Taranto, landing at Termoli, crossing the Trigno and Sangro rivers before paddling in the Moro river... and then spending their New Year in the snowdrifts in the mountains near Castel di Sangro.
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  9. Wiffer

    Wiffer Member

    Thanks dbf for info on file prefixes.very helpful.

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