"The principle of that organisation [the Munitions Council] consisted in dividing the seventy odd departments of the Ministry into eight or ten large groups and placing at the head of each group a Member of the Council to exercise a general and direct supervision over the whole area...... The bulk of the Council's work is done by Committees of three or four Members of the Council specially concerned with any particular subject and there is a standing Committee of the Council, a 'Co-ordinating Committee' which considers and clamps together the proposals of the different departments" [Mr. Churchill (25 April 1918, Parliamentary Debates (1918) H. of C., CV, pp. 1154-5.)]
The initial organisation of the Ministry of Munitions was intended to provide a business man's administration, without bureaucratic control. Consequently, the heads of departments and a considerable number of their subordinates were each given direct access to the minister. However, the need for effective, centralised supervision and co-ordination soon became apparent. In December 1915 weekly meetings of heads of department were started, but they were not conducted in any systematic fashion and their value was doubtful; they were allowed to lapse in February 1916. In October 1916 more systematically organised fortnightly meetings of heads of department were introduced and a small advisory council was appointed. These continued to meet until the establishment of a Munitions Council on 18 August 1917.
The Munitions Council was to aid and advise the minister and to co-ordinate the work of the fifty or more separate departments which were operating at this time; this was done by linking departments into groups and by operating a supporting system of council committees, boards and sub-committees to deal with various matters. A Council Secretariat was formed to ensure an orderly procedure for the transmission of records, decisions and submissions.
At the outset, the following groups were established:
Finance - Finance and Contracts Departments
Design - Design, Inventions and Inspection Departments
Steel and Iron - Munitions Supply Department
Materials, etc - Munitions Supply Department; American and Transport Department
Explosives - Factories; Trench Warfare Supply Department; Explosives Supply Department
Projectiles - Factories; Trench Warfare Supply Department; Explosives Supply Department
Guns - Factories; Trench Warfare Supply Department; Explosives Supply Department
Engines - Mechanical and Engine Department; Aircraft Production Department
Labour - Labour Department
Secretariat - Secretariat
The heads of these groups, together with the minister (as president) and the parliamentary secretaries, constituted the Munitions Council.
Some changes were made in November 1917. Requirements and Statistics became a separate group in its own right, taking with it the new North American Department from Secretariat. In October 1918 the master general of the Ordnance was made an additional member representing the War Office, In January 1918 Projectiles and Guns combined to form a new Ordnance Group. In February the Engines Group was subdivided and an Air Group was created. In April another additional member was appointed to act as the ministry's representative on the Inter Allied Munitions Council in Paris. In July the remainder of the Engines Group joined sections of Trench Warfare Supply and of Inventions to form the Warfare Group.