The state has always needed land for fortifications and works connected with the defence of the realm and it has been within the royal prerogative - subsequently reinforced by statute - to acquire land for these purposes. A series of acts of parliament from the early 18th century vested this responsibility in the Board of Ordnance. The Board dealt with military lands matters until its abolition in 1855, when such matters came under the War Office within the purview of the Inspector-General of Fortifications (later Works and finally Fortifications and Works [DFW]) responsible to the Master General of the Ordnance [MGO].
In 1908 responsibility passed to a new Lands Branch, which was part of the department of the parliamentary under-secretary - or Civil Member of the Army Council - and headed by the Comptroller of Lands and his Deputy the Land Valuer [LV] until 1945 when it moved to the department of the Permanent Under-Secretary [PUS].
The branch was responsible for administration of lands either owned by or on the charge of the war department. This included inspection, technical advice and valuations; aspects of leasing, purchasing and selling; rates, taxes and tithes; preparation of bye-laws for artillery and rifle ranges and military camps; claims in respect of roads, bridges and adjoining property, and custody of relevant statements and records.
The enlarged organization, headed during the First World War by a Director-General (the Comptroller became his deputy, and the Land Valuer became Chief Valuer and Compensation Agent) acted for the Ministry of Munitions between 1917-1920, and for the Air Ministry from 1918 until 1930. The DG Lands appointment was abolished in 1923 - following the abolition of the Ministry of Munitions - and the lands organization of the War office once more came under the control of the Comptroller of Lands and his deputy, the latter being renamed - yet again - as Chief Land Agent and Valuer [CLAV]. At this time the directorate shed responsibility for Air Ministry/RAF matters, and these duties passed to the Air Ministry's own specialist lands branch S. 13, under the department of the Permanent Under-Secretary for Air. In 1933 the Lands Directorate was renamed Lands Branch.
During the period 1940-1949 the Claims Commission dealt with claims against the department in respect of personal injury or damage to property arising from the acts of military or civilian personnel for whom the War Office had responsibility. The first president of the Claims Commission - Major-General EH Cole - had been CLAV from 1908 to 1939, and then became Comptroller of Lands until October 1940.
In 1948 the lands branch was amalgamated with the Claims Commission under a Comptroller of Lands and Claims, although each section continued to carry out separately their pre-amalgamation duties. Between 1958 and 1960, this branch gained from the Quarter-Master-General's [QMG] department additional functions relating to acquisition and alienation of land.
After the amalgamation of the service ministries in 1964 into the unified Ministry of Defence [MoD] the Comptroller became known as the Comptroller of Army Lands and Claims [CALAC] and - similarly - CLAV became CALAV. Subsequently, a tri-service defence lands organization - Defence Lands Service [DLS] - was set up, handling thereafter all MoD lands matters.