War Office: Directorate of Military Operations and Intelligence, and Directorate of Military Intelligence; Ministry of Defence, Defence Intelligence Staff : Files

Details of WO 208
Reference:WO 208
Title:
War Office: Directorate of Military Operations and Intelligence, and Directorate of Military Intelligence; Ministry of Defence, Defence Intelligence Staff : Files
Description:

The series consists of records of the Directorate of Military Intelligence as established in 1939, together with some inherited from the former Directorate of Military Operations and Intelligence.

Additional sections were formed during the course of the Second World War, dealing with subjects including publicity and propaganda, prisoners of war, scientific and technical matters, censorship, air photography, anti-aircraft intelligence and military attaches. (Some of these sections had existed during the latter stages of the Great War and for a short period thereafter, but had been disbanded when their work ceased to be necessary). The series includes files on individual prisoners of war, both Allied and enemy, and on prominent Nazis.

There is also medical, historical, and military information about countries which were - or might have been - involved in hostilities.

Information on the organisation of the Directorate of Military Intelligence in World War II can be found in WO 208/5568.

These reports were made by officers and men of the armed forces and merchant navy and usually provide: service details; when and where captured; home address and civilian occupation. Researchers should note that these reports mostly relate to the European, Mediterranean or North Africa theatres of war. For Royal Air Force personnel details can include: where based, type of aircraft, when, where and how the aircraft was lost, and the presumed fate of the other aircrew. Every report includes a narrative, of variable length, which describes an individual's experiences as an escaper, evader or prisoner of war. In addition, many reports include appendices which can provide the names and addresses of civilian helpers, nature of help given, and relevant dates; details of the escape method and fellow PoWs who assisted in an escape; the usefulness of officially provided escape aids, which ones were used, and suggested improvements and/or additions. Due to various adverse factors, there were few successful escapes in the South East Asia theatre of war. Many escape, evasion and liberation reports include one or more Appendices. The purpose of these is as follows:

  • Appendix A (TOP SECRET). These can contain names and addresses of helpers, nature of help given, and relevant dates. This information was intended to help IS9 (D) - Intelligence School 9 (D), a division of Military Intelligence 9 (MI9) - and, eventually, the sections responsible for tracing and rewarding of helpers, IS9 (AB). In addition, so-called 'Black List' foreigners were also included. For security reasons Appendix A had a very limited circulation.
  • Appendix B (TOP SECRET later SECRET). Consists of military information and intelligence which was distributed to the Armed Forces and other interested departments. Nevertheless, it was recognised that in most instances an evader/escaper had little opportunity of observing enemy activities due to the normal practice of 'hiding-up' during the day. Useful intelligence was more generally obtained from naval or air force personnel by studying the reasons for their capture or failure of equipment and so on.
  • Appendix C (TOP SECRET). This continued the report narrative from the point where the escaper or evader came under an escape organisation within a PoW camp. It can give details of the escape method and allied personnel who assisted in an escape. Names and addresses of helpers and their descriptions (where necessary) were included. To some extent this overlapped with Appendix A and where the distinction was negligible they may even have been merged into one.
  • Appendix D (TOP SECRET later SECRET). Gives details of the usefulness of officially provided escape aids carried by pilots and others, which ones were used, and suggested improvements and/or additions.

Date: 1917-1974
Arrangement:

The papers of the Directorates and their sections were not always carefully and systematically filed. As far as possible, within each accession, they have been arranged under the heading of the geographical area to which they refer (in alphabetical order of areas), and then listed in chronological order.

There are also collections under various general headings and from various sources, such as the Allied Translation and Interpretation Service, the Deputy Director of Information and Publicity, the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre and the British Military Mission to the Soviet Forces, Berlin.

Item References: The report numbers are in numerical sequence within each file. They are the last digits of the former reference located at the top right of each report. Some of the numbers are missing from the sequences as there is no surviving information linked to them.

Related Material: For files of the tri-service Defence Intelligence Staff see: DEFE 31
For unregistered papers of the Services, Press and Broadcasting Committee and predecessors see: DEFE 53
See also: WO 344
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record
Language: English
Creator: Ministry of Defence, Defence Intelligence Staff, 1964-
War Office, Directorate of Military Intelligence, 1915-1922
War Office, Directorate of Military Intelligence, 1939-1964
War Office, Directorate of Military Operations and Intelligence, 1922-1939
Physical description: 5639 files and volumes
Access conditions: Available in microform only unless otherwise stated
Immediate source of acquisition: from 1973 Ministry of Defence
Accruals: Series is accruing.
Unpublished finding aids: Subject and topographical indexes, and a glossary to codes used with regard to the interrogation of prisoners of war, are in the reading rooms at The National Archives, Kew.
Administrative / biographical background:

The Directorate of Military Intelligence came into existence in 1939 when, with the Directorate of Military Operations, it superseded a previously combined Directorate of Military Operations and Intelligence (DMO & I). Five of the Military Intelligence sections previously under the control of DMO & I - namely MI 1 to MI 5 - continued their work within the new Directorate, dealing (as before) with organization, geographic, topographic and security matters.

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