Catalogue description Records of other administrative departments of the War Office

Details of Division within WO
Reference: Division within WO
Title: Records of other administrative departments of the War Office

Records of other administrative departments of the War Office relating to responsibilities for army administration including supply, transport, fortifications, contracts and pay and including records of the Adjutant General's Department, the Quarter-Master General, the Commissary General of Musters and the War Office Council and of the Directorates of Supplies and Transport, Army Contracts and Fortifications.

Adjutant General:

  • Unregistered papers of the Adjutant General's Department, WO 162
  • Returns compiled by or made to the Adjutant General's Department, WO 17, WO 114 and WO 365
  • Records of the establishments, disposition, clothing etc of regiments, WO 379 and WO 380
  • Reports of the International Red Cross and protecting powers on enemy prisoner of war camps, 1939 to 1945, WO 224

Quartermaster general

  • Quartermaster general, WO 107
  • Engineer in chief, WO 227
  • Directorate of Labour, WO 253
  • Directorate of Mechanical Engineering, WO 358
  • Inspectorate of Fighting Vehicles and Mechanical Equipment, WO 362

Commissary General of Musters:

War Office Council:

Supply and Transport:

  • Directorate of Supplies and Transport, WO 272
  • Directorate of Equipment Policy, WO 368


  • Fortifications Branch and its successors, WO 396
  • Fort record books, WO 192


  • Annual reports by the Director of Army Contracts, WO 395
  • Contract precedent books, WO 254
  • Inter-departmental contracts and procurements committees and sub-committees, WO 221

Date: 1708-1991
Related material:

For monthly returns of the distribution of the Army, made by the quarter master general and adjutant general, see WO 73

For the Wolseley Papers, which include some records of his service as adjutant general, see WO 147

Separated material:

Letter books of the Commissary General's Office are in WO 7

Orders issued by the adjutant general on behalf of the Commander in Chief are in WO 123

Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Commander-in-Chief, Adjutant General's Department, 1701-1870

Commissary General of Musters, 1660-1817

War Office, Adjutant General's Department, 1870-1964

Physical description: 29 series
Administrative / biographical background:

The title of adjutant general was used in Cromwell's New Model Army, revived from 1673 to 1675 and used permanently from 1680 onwards. In the eighteenth century his duties were to issue orders and regulations for the Army received from the sovereign through the Secretary-at-War. When there was a Commander in Chief the adjutant general was his chief staff officer, responsible for the issue of regulations relating to discipline, arming and clothing of troops, for compiling returns of strengths and, from 1807, for recruiting. He had no responsibility for ordnance troops until 1858.

In the reorganisation of 1870 the adjutant general became head of one of the divisions of the Commander in Chief's Military Department. In the reorganisation of 1887 to 1888 he became recognised as the principal assistant of the Commander in Chief. In 1895 he became one of the five principal officers of the War Office with a department of his own. In the 1904 reorganisation the adjutant general became second military member of the Army Council.

Until 1870, the quartermaster general was one of the principal staff offices of the Commander in Chief. First appointed in 1667, his main duties in the eighteenth century concerned arrangements for the movement and quartering of troops.

In the 1870 reforms the Quartermaster General's Department became a sub-division of the adjutant general's division of the Military Department. In 1887 it became a separate division and in 1895 a separate department, the quartermaster general becoming one of the five military members of the War Office Council, with responsibility for barracks, transport, supplies, remounts, the Army Pay Department and the Army Service Corps Establishment.

In 1904 the quartermaster general became one of the five military members of the Army Council.

Originally the commissary general of musters, first appointed on 26 December 1660, superintended the deputy commissaries who took half-yearly musters of the forces. In 1798 this system was changed; the Commissary General's Office becoming merely a registry of muster rolls. The commissaries general also kept registers of the officers' commissions and leave of absence.

In 1807 the title of the office was changed to Muster Master General's Office, but the commissary general himself retained his old title. The post was abolished in 1817 and its duties absorbed in the War Office.

Supplies and transport, previously the concern of the Commissariat Department of the Treasury passed in December 1854 under the control of the Secretary of State for War being handled by a Commissariat Branch of the War Office.

In 1877 the Commander in Chief, set up his own Commissariat and Transport Division, but in 1887 the two divisions were merged in the Quartermaster General's Division. Thereafter supplies and transport were dealt with in various subdivisions until they came together in the First World War in a Directorate of Supplies and Transport.

When responsibility for building works, lands and fortifications passed from the Ordnance Office to the Secretary of State for War in May 1855 a Fortifications Branch or Department was set up. In 1862 its title was changed to the Works Department. In 1870 it became the Works Division of the permanent under secretary's Central Department. On the abolition of that department in 1887 it became a division of the Commander in Chief's Military Department. In the 1895 reforms it became an independent department.

In 1904 it became the Directorate of Fortifications and Works under the master general of the Ordnance. In 1927 control of the directorate passed to the quartermaster general, its name being Directorate of Works until 1935 when the former title was revived.

In 1855 a Contracts Branch was set up at the War Office under a director of contracts. In 1870 he became a subordinate officer of the Control Department and then, when that department was dissolved in 1887, of the financial secretary. In 1904 his post was abolished and the branch split into sections attached to the departments of the quartermaster general and the master general of the Ordnance. In 1907 a separate directorate was formed under a director of Army contracts. From 1915 to 1919 part of the directorate was transferred to the Ministry of Munitions and the rest formed, from May 1917, part of the department of the new surveyor general of supply.

In May 1924 it was reunited under the financial secretary. In 1936 responsibility for contracts for munitions passed to the director general of munitions production and later to the Ministry of Supply. Other contracts continued to be the responsibility of the Directorate of Army Contracts, which from 1942 came under the permanent under secretary of state.

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