Catalogue description Prime Minister's Office: Operational Correspondence and Papers

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Details of PREM 3
Reference: PREM 3
Title: Prime Minister's Office: Operational Correspondence and Papers

This series is made up of papers originally termed 'Operational'. They relate to the conduct of the Second World War and reflect the activities of the Prime Minister as Minister of Defence, such as the setting up of the Combined Operations Organisation. Briefs concerning the Prime Minister's Statistical Section are also included.

Date: 1937-1946

Alphabetical by subject.

When this series was closed the files were numbered and the numbers retained. They were also listed, but the list did not aim to cover all the papers within a file but rather to provide an indication of a file's contents by mentioning the more readily distinguishable items, which in many cases were a small proportion of the contents.

These items were numbered in that list, and the purpose of it has been to amplify that work so as to include all the contents, though frequently this could only be completed by the inclusion of a 'Various' item. Apart from 'Various' items this is largely, though not entirely, a list of the more substantial original 'strings' (i.e. papers brought together on one tag) within a file.

'Various' items may include documents referring to the same topic as one of the major 'strings' and even the major 'strings' are by no means completely exclusive. They frequently contain documents with a bearing on the topics of other 'strings'. Where the first list picked out and numbered two items on a single 'string' these two numbers now share the single description of that 'string'.

Since preparation of the records has been carried out in two stages the arrangement of the items within a file is not completely chronological. In only a very few cases has it been necessary to depart from the previous internal numbering.

The original indexes (PREM 3/516-526) were extant when the series were listed in the early 1960s, but have since been lost.

It should be noted that the production units are the items within the files and both file numbers and sub-numbers must be used for requisition.

Related material:

For records relating to the combined the offices of Prime Minister and Minister of Defence see CAB 120

The distinction between this series and the confidential correspondence series was not made with complete consistency. In many cases exactly the same papers on a particular subject appear in both series and occasionally a subject which would have been expected to appear in one series appears in the other. Consequently, it is advisable to check both series with the help of the list and the indexes. There are cross-references between these series both in the body of the papers and in the indexes (in which the 'Confidential Papers' are sometimes described as 'Miss Appleyard's filing'). Since the files were maintained by different persons in different places these cross-references are not exhaustive. See PREM 4

Separated material:

Some papers mentioned in the original indexes of the Prime Minister's Office were not present in the files in 1963. These have been noted as missing. In most cases they are prints which are obtainable elsewhere. Some of the remainder may never have existed but may be simply the result of an incorrect description. Most Secret Source (MSS-Government Code and Cypher School designation) material was extracted by the Joint Intelligence Staff in the late 1960s and will now be found in:

CAB 163

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Former reference in its original department: Known as 'Churchill Papers' within the Cabinet Office and quoted as such in official histories.
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English
Physical description: 526 file(s)
Restrictions on use: Please note that PREM 3 is produced as surrogate documents in photocopy form.
Immediate source of acquisition:

From 1972 Prime Minister's Office

Custodial history: These papers were kept in the War Cabinet Office close to the subterranean War Room.
Accruals: Series is accruing
Unpublished finding aids:

See card index entitled 'Code Names of the Second World War'. Please speak to staff at the enquiry desk for the precise location.

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