the index

The catalogue of the Foreign Office’s secret archive at Hanslope Park is available on data.gov.uk and it is as cool as you may have hoped. Literally every mark in here exudes history. It also reminded me of the J.G. Ballard short story The Index, a novella that only exists as its own index. I mean, the very first item is a:

substantial eclectic collection comprising primarily of geographic maps typically with political, economic or strategic emphasis that are mostly printed on translucent paper from A4 up to approximately A0+ in paper size, with diagrams and building floor plans

Maps. Maps. Maps! Quite a bit of it seems to relate to Hanslope Park’s primary function, the centre of the FCO’s world-wide radio network, as originally built for SOE and the distribution of ULTRA decrypts during WW2. Like so:

3 acetate maps depicting FCO local communications – world disposition of HFSSB radio telephone terminal equipment in Africa, Southern Europe, Central Asia, South Asia, South America and the Caribbean (drawing number EC 200/1)

Others are just special:

A small collection of files returned from posts on a variety of subjects LIVE OAK; zonal executive instruction No.68 detention of dangerous persons; control of Berlin population in an emergency; Rhodesia secret negotiations; Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas; UK and Ireland security liaison; IRA Cease fire; Dhofar Rebellion; implementation of Allied Control Authority Law No 43 in Berlin production of implements of war; reporting on armed forces; development of nuclear weapons by additional countries up to 1980; flights into the Berlin Control Zone; British intelligence and security exchanges with the German authorities; JIC Germany meetings, papers and correspondence; air operations Operation Nylon; Operation Manoeuvre; UK Defence Policy; Defence review

Really, is there anything in that list that isn’t potentially fascinating? And it gets better.

7; Bethhel and Greenhill and Gladwyn – Russia Committee

Presumably Gladwyn Jebb, wartime SOE official, postwar diplomat and Labour MP?

11. disclosure of information by Col Harrison re WWII ops in Iran;

Speaks for itself.

38. Subhas Chandra Bose; 24. Hess; 25. Australian War Crimes; 26. Nazi War Criminals in Britain; 27. Minister and Massacres – papers relating to the repatriation of Cossacks

You’ve got my full attention.

14. Atomic Blanket

ATOMIC BLANKET. ATOMIC BLANKET. There’s a file on ATOMIC BLANKET.

What about this little fella? This one’s a floppy disk. A floppy disk!

Lonhro; loose papers relating to visits abroad; sensitivity reviewers’ contracts; Robert Maxwell; Iraq and the Gulf; Olympics Bid; Lord Alerdice.

Iraq. The Gulf. Maxwell. Tiny Rowland. The Olympics. All in 720KB. (Presumably that’s the NI good-bloke politician, Alderdice.)

Migration and Visa Department file GV 15022T on the Menacham Begin, former leader of the Jewish Irgun terrorist organisation

Begin’s immigration file.

Drawers contains a few unestablished and established British staff employed by Control Commission of Germany..Marked “Control Commission Index”, believed to be an index of staff employed by the Allied Control Commission (Germany); index cards include names and years of birth, first drawer contains similar but crossed out (deceased?)

Now I demand more noir set in the Attlee-era occupation of Germany. Don’t you? Or do you prefer more sunshine in your cynicism?

Finding aides relating to correspondence and files used by BE Beirut and papers relating to the construction of the Karatchou to Tartus oil pipeline. Some documents in Arabic. Includes a FCO confidential Print titled `a collection of oil agreements and connected documents relating to the Persian Gulf Sheikdoms and the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman’.

This one, included in “Admin Indexes”, makes you snap bolt upright:

papers relating to the kidnapping used in connection with a request under the Code of Practice on Access to Information.

And who could resist:

Colonial photographs including: Cyprus, Suva, Freetown, Mauritius, Sabah, Malaysia, Zanzibar, Gold Coast, East Africa, Gambia, Nigeria, Hong Kong, Australia, Fiji, Jamaica, Southern Cameroons, Peking and Hamburg (approx. 70 photographs); Arctic Expedition by Soviet Union (approx. 30 photographs)

They’ve got the land registry of Port-Royal, Jamaica, as it was before the earthquake. Just in case.

Index of Real Estate Transactions before 1692 earthquake, City of Port Royal Jamaica

There is a lot on Germany.

Papers returned by the last British Governor of Spandau Prison after the death of Rudolph Hess and closure of the Prison. Includes documents held as evidence in the Hess theft case and returned by the Prosecutor’s Office in Russian, French and German, photographs of the scene of Hess’s suicide.

Hm.

The German Holdings of the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, New York (including non German holdings held through German subsidiaries, by FO (1945)

Now you’re talking. Weirdly, one item seems to be a substantial library of good German literature.

Plus, the full runs up to 1968 of security intelligence reporting on the remaining colonies, the investigation into the Kenyan foreign minister’s murder, poignant registers of British marriages and deaths in odd ports in South America where nobody goes any more. And this is just what’s in the first 100 records.

It’s not all gems, though.

Papers relating to the annual Regional Learning and Development Conference, the Springboard Women’s Development Programme and related budget and expenditure matters.

And:

Material from Mr Hoon’s Private Office: letter float of outgoing letters and minutes

1 Comment on "the index"


  1. These are great. Some more favourites:

    Collection of folders containing papers relating to submissions from named individuals facing criminal prosecution requesting to be granted public interest immunity certificates
    Papers relating to the requests by the Three Rivers District Council – one of the BCCI creditors – for the FCO’s assistance in disclosure of certain documents in support of litigation that was launched by the council against the Bank of England
    principles and practice about recognition of coup d’etats in commonwealth countries
    a forged UK Cabinet paper about African Trade Unions(1962);
    Leopoldville. Coordination of anti-communist work

    Reply

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