Catalogue description Cabinet Office: War Books

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Details of CAB 175
Reference: CAB 175
Title: Cabinet Office: War Books

The Government War Book was assembled in three parts reflecting pre-Precautionary Stage matters, the Precautionary Stage, and War. The War Book specifies the actions to be taken by ministers and officials in each of these periods. These might be: immediate and vital security measures which require decision at the earliest possible moment when there is a threat of war; institution of the Precautionary Stage and the principal measures which would automatically be brought into operation during the course of that Stage; measures which require separate Cabinet decisions during the Precautionary Stage; and measures required with the onset of war.

It had been laid down by the Cabinet Defence (Transition) Committee that in addition to the Government War Book each Department of State should maintain a departmental war book.

The series includes some records of Exercise Felstead: a simulation by officials of the Cabinet and the Defence (Transition) Committee discussions during a crisis. The official group was designated GEN 772, and additional records are at CAB 134/187.

A key planning assumption around which the War Book was prepared was that at the outset of a fresh war emergency a new Emergency Powers (Defence) Bill would be presented to Parliament. The bill would provide for the introduction of sets of defence regulations within each of the principal departments' areas of competence.

The war books have been subject to a virtually continuous process of revision and amendment.

Date: 1928-1985
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English
Physical description: 53 file(s)
Access conditions: Open unless otherwise stated
Immediate source of acquisition:

Cabinet Office , from 2003

Accruals: Series is accruing
Administrative / biographical background:

In the unprecedented international situation existing following the end of the second world war, the Cabinet instituted the preparation of the War Book.

The Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939 under which the defence regulations in force during the second world war were made expired in 1946. A draft of a new Emergency Powers (Defence) Bill was prepared and approved by the Emergency Legislation Committee in 1948 and was kept under review by the War Legislation Sub-Committee of the Defence (Transition) Committee. It was envisaged that new emergency powers legislation would apply to the whole of the UK and that provision would be made for its extension by Order in Council to the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Colonies, Protectorates, protected states and trust territories.

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