CAB 176, War Cabinet, Ministry of Defence and Cabinet Office: Joint Intelligence Sub-Committee, later Committee: Secretariat: Minutes (JIC(SEC)), 1942-1957

This series contains selected secretariat minutes of the Joint Intelligence Sub-Committee. Secretariat minutes were used to pass information to members of the Committee. Some covered fairly mundane topics such as the dates and times of meetings or changes of contact details. Others covered substantive documents such as intelligence assessments that were to be noted or that were to be discussed at future meetings. Until the late 1950s (when discrete symbols and registry arrangements were introduced), secretariat minutes were used to disseminate the reports of JIC sub-committees and working parties. The minutes are arranged by serial number with a typed index available at the beginning of each year. In order to understand the full context of these secretariat minutes, the collection should be read in conjunction with the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) minutes and memoranda available in CAB 81, CAB 158 and CAB 159 to which they refer.

The discussions in this series cover a wide range of subjects including the collection of information in enemy-occupied countries, the development of German long-range rockets, and U.S. activities in India. This latter collection contains an interesting selection of “most secret” cypher telegrams and a report outlining the proposed creation of a combined US/UK Joint Intelligence Committee for India “to control all Anglo-American service intelligence organisations and all Anglo-American semi-military and civilian organisations.”[1]

In addition to the usual concerns surrounding Soviet expansion and the defense of the empire, the post-war material in this series contains information about contemporary communication methods that now seem archaic. For example, the minutes for January 1946 contain a discussion on the use of carrier pigeons in war, supplemented by a Short History on the Use of Carrier Pigeons From 1914-45, which includes details of their use by the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). The conclusion was upbeat: “taken as a whole, the results obtained by SIS were good, and a record of 70% success was obtained. Failures were almost invariably due to bad despatch or bad handling and not to any fault of the birds.”[2]

By the end of the 1940s, the secretariat minutes are primarily concerned with Cold War planning and assessments of Soviet interests and intentions. Although there are a number of exceptions, with topics ranging from the Joint Consultative Committee on Captured German Archives to the requirements for inter-service language training, the primary purpose of the JIC was to assess the actions and intentions of international communism. In the wake of the Chinese communist victory in 1949, the outlook was bleak. The final paper in CAB 176/22 contains an update on Soviet activities in the Far East and concludes with the chilling realization that “the resources and territory of the whole of China will be available to the Soviet Union in the event of war.”[3]

 

Dr. Stephen Twigge, Head of Modern Collections, The National Archives, UK

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