War Office Letters - whereabouts in the National Archives

Discussion in 'Research Material' started by Gary Kennedy, Mar 13, 2019.

  1. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    This is a vague question as I haven't narrowed the subject down yet.

    I've seen references to information and directives being circulated by War Office Letters. These had their own reference number and normally covered a single subject.

    I was wondering if anyone can give a few pointers on where they might be found, if at all, in the WO series a Kew. I haven't done a serious search yet in case someone can give decent directions of where to start.


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  2. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

  3. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Well these are a couple that caught my eye only very recently.

    Scale of Grenades and Bombs Incendiary - WO letter 54/Misc/5010 (Infantry 1) 1st May 1944
    Platoon commanders personal weapon - WO letter 57/SA/2139 (Infantry 1) 2nd May 1944

    I think there's also another one on general ammunition scales for units but I might be confusing that with the grenades one.

    I think they are separate to ACIs, and there's the question of whether they include the annex that they often seem to refer to, or if those are kept separately.

    I must admit that I'm not sure what's in those ACI files. I know every WE had an ACI date but I'm not sure if the ACIs listed all manner of publications with titles and dates without actually including the publication. I literally stumbled across the annexes to 57/SA/2139 from June 1943 (back in the old days, when you could order a piece from the Archives and decide if you could afford it without committing to copying) that was muddled in with something else.

  4. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    I agree, they don't look like they have anything to do with ACIs.

    No idea where you'd start a search, without some guesswork about which committee or group was responsible for writing the letters.
  5. papiermache

    papiermache WO 356 Mechanic

    Only 504 digits away (!) but "Former Reference 57/SA/2643" is in WO32 at Kew under "General & Warlike Stores". A former reference beginning with a "57" can include all manner of "stores", not just small arms. An advance search at Kew limited to series WO32 and "warlike" and "54" also brings up a few random former file references similar to the examples given above.

    Reference: WO 32/12093
    GENERAL & WARLIKE STORES: Small Arms (Code 45J): Rifle - Automatic or Self-loading 30" proposed development
    Date: 1946-1949
    Held by: The National Archives, Kew
    Former reference in its original department: 57/SA/2643
    Legal status: Public Record(s)
    Closure status: Open Document, Open Description
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  6. Aixman

    Aixman WE addict Patron

    War Office Letters are different from the Army Counsil Instructions.
    The ACIs are held in TNA under WO 293 and appeared before WWII I think in a fortnightly mode, ending up in 1941 or 1942 appearing twice a week. They seem to deal with nearly everything, and the WEs appeared in a weekly mode in the end, filling each week about 4 to 10 pages only with their headlines.
    I will start in November to compare the WEs (headlines) published in the ACIs (WO 293) with the WEs I collected completely (WO 24) in order to get an idea what existed and put them in a context. Results may appear somewhere here afterwards ...
    Sorry, no idea about finding War Office Letters. I spent last week in Kew but have to admit that I had no time left looking for them. I expect them being held in a comparable way to the ACIs but might be wrong.
    Any further suggestions appreciated.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
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  7. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Thanks for the clarification on ACIs, so they do provide something of a 'catalogue' of Army publications, each of which still has to be tracked down separately?

    I'll have a wander around Discovery and hope something looks promising...
  8. DannyM

    DannyM Member

    Attached are a few sample pages from one of the 1944 ACI held at Kew, WO 293/32.



    DSCF1015  b.jpg DSCF1016  b.jpg DSCF1024  b.jpg DSCF1025  b.jpg
  9. Aixman

    Aixman WE addict Patron

    And one sample for Gary with WEs ...

    Attached Files:

  10. Gary Kennedy

    Gary Kennedy Member

    Thank you both very much, always wondered what they looked like!


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