Catalogue description Ministry of Defence: British Joint Services Mission (Washington): Private Office Papers

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Details of DEFE 20
Reference: DEFE 20
Title: Ministry of Defence: British Joint Services Mission (Washington): Private Office Papers

This series contains files originating in the private office of the head of the British Joint Services Mission (Washington).

Date: 1950-1952
Related material:

Related material also held at the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives in King's College, London.

For Military Missions: War Diaries, see WO 178

For Military Missions: Military HQ Papers, see WO 202

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

British Army Staff Washington, 1960-1971

British Defence Staff Washington, 1971-

British Joint Services Mission (Army Staff) Washington, 1948-1960

Physical description: 3 file(s)
Access conditions: Open unless otherwise stated
Immediate source of acquisition:

Ministry of Defence

Administrative / biographical background:

The British Joint Services Mission originated with the service missions which were set up in the United States of America in the early days of the Second World War. One of these, known as the British Army Staff [BAS], was established in July 1941 when three previously separate missions were amalgamated: number 29 (Intelligence), number 200 (Pakenham-Walsh) and number 208 (Quartermaster-General). The first commander of the BAS was Lieutenant-General Sir Colville Wemyss, with Major-General FG Beaumont-Nesbitt - who had been Military Attaché in Washington - as his deputy. Brigadier HR Kerr, late of 208 Military Mission, acted as Deputy Quartermaster-General.

These missions were maintained in the USA to provide links between the various British and US government departments concerned with the war effort. The main function of the BAS was liaison between the War Office and the US War Department, and its activities eventually covered a very wide field.

The Head of the BAS, along with the British Admiralty Delegation [BAD] and the RAF Delegation [RAFDEL] functioned collectively under the title of Joint Staff Mission [JSM], first head of which was Field Marshal Sir John Dill. (Dill had been Chief of the Imperial General Staff [CIGS] from May 1940 to December 1941 when - following promotion from General to Field Marshal in November - the strain of the job affected his health).

Following the USA's entry into the war the BAS expanded rapidly. In January 1943 it merged with the previously separate Ministry of Supply Mission - and the Inspection Board in the USA - without change of title. Peaks in volume of work and staff levels were reached in mid-1944 when the BAS comprised 400 officers, 500 other ranks and over 1000 civilians (mostly Canadian and American citizens), spread over 45 stations in North America. By the end of 1944 the BAS had begun to reduce both its activities and size.

The formal title of British Joint Services Mission (Army Staff) was adopted on 12 January 1948. The term BJSM was, however, dropped in 1960 in favour of the new collective title British Defence Staffs. Each individual component, being a projection of its own UK service ministry, retained its separate title (eg British Army Staff Washington [BASW]). In 1971 the two elements - the army staff, and the umbrella organization - the defence staffs or joint service mission - were formally amalgamated onto a single establishment as the British Defence Staff Washington [BDSW].

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