Records created or inherited by the Central Office of Information

COI information policy on central government conventions regarding publicity and advertising

  • Catalogue ref: INF12/1491
  • Date: 1988 Jun 01-1988 Nov 30

This file contains a proof of a press advertisement for Royal Navy recruitment featuring an image of Margaret Thatcher's face accompanied by the heading 'The Bombshell that hit the Armilla Patrol'. The advert sought to capitalise on the success of PM Thatcher's recent visit to Britain's Armilla patrol in the Persian Gulf to thank British sailors for their success in escorting merchant ships safely through the Strait of Hormuz, without firing a shot. Another variant suggested for the strapline was 'The only bombshell to ever hit the Armilla Patrol'. The Central Office of Information advised against the idea for the poster, but apparently it got to an advanced stage before it was quashed.

A section of this file is available to view on Discovery.

Records of the Cabinet Office

Disclosure of information by Dr K E J Fuchs

This file commences in the days following Atomic Physicist Klaus Fuchs' confession to supplying information to the USSR from the American and British atomic bomb research on the Manhattan Project (development of the first atomic bomb during World War II). The file shows the run-up to the trial and his sentence to 14 years imprisonment, the maximum for espionage at that time. The file shows that Britain was blamed for 'lax security regulations' that cleared Dr Fuchs for access to highly secret matters on both sides of the Atlantic. In the file the British government acknowledged they 'did not screen Dr Fuchs for his communist past'. However, further correspondence suggests the British government suspected the US security measures were not as rigorous as they could have been.

This file is available to view on Discovery.

Records created and inherited by HM Treasury

Review of honours scales: permanent establishment of the Order of the British Empire

  • Catalogue ref: T 344/5
  • Date: 1933 Mar 25-1933 Oct 26

A review committee was set up in order to ensure the honours did not fall into disrepute by limiting the number of medals awarded to retain a sense of prestige. The file notes King George V's reported concerns whether the high standard the decorations had attained would be preserved or 'if they are to be allowed to deteriorate and become as common and ridiculous as some of the foreign decorations'. The file includes suggestions that the title and award 'Dame' should be replaced with 'Lady' as the term would always be associated with 'a woman of great age' by the public. There is also a suggestion that 'Knights' be replaced with 'Chevaliers'. The file also contains a complaint from the Navy who thought they were receiving fewer awards than the Army or Air Force and their subsequent request for an inquiry.

This file is available to view on Discovery.

Records created or inherited by the Home Office, Ministry of Home Security, and related bodies

WAR: Anti-gas protection of civilians in Germany: German preparations for serial gas attack

This file contains reports of German preparations for chemical and biological warfare against Britain in the Second World War with British Intelligence warning 'reports are accumulating of German intention to use gas in an invasion of the UK'.  The file details possible German plans including the use of mustard gas, a cloud gas attack from the sea, mortar shells infected with anthrax and even the 'germs of foot and mouth disease'. There are reports that the Germans were preparing to accuse Britain of using gas in order to justify their own use of it in retaliation. This file is dated after the British and German governments agreed to abide by the Geneva Protocols restrictions on poison gas and germ warfare in September 1939.

A section of this file is available to view on Discovery.

BEGIN, Menachem: Prime Minister of Israel (1977-1983); visits to the UK

  • Catalogue ref: HO382/78/1
  • Date: 1946 Jan 01 - 1978 Dec 31

This file contains correspondence between the Home Office and FCO as to whether the controversial Prime Minister Begin should be allowed a visa to visit Britain. The Foreign Office was of the view that Begin 'should not be allowed to enter'. This file contains Begin's Passport Control card dated 1946 which contains an unflattering description of his appearance, stating he is 'thin faced, bad teeth, long hooked nose, may wear black horn-rimmed spectacles'. There is also a letter from the president of a Zionist organisation in the UK asking the Home Office to grant Begin entry, asking them to look beyond the historical episodes he was associated with. The letter requests that Begin be allowed to meet with the future PM Winston Churchill suggesting such a meeting 'might serve an extremely valuable purpose for the future' although the letter does not detail what this purpose may be.

A section of this file is available to view on Discovery.

WEISSENBERG, Karl: Austrian scientist; refugee from Nazi oppression; interned in 1940; letter from Albert Einstein requesting his release.

  • Catalogue ref: HO382/84/1
  • Date: 1934 Jan 01 - 1976 Dec 31

This file contains the Naturalisation application by the scientist Karl Weissenberg. His application is supported by various prominent scientists and academics including a letter from Albert Einstein. This file states that this is 'the only case for which Einstein has made an individual appeal'. In his letter Einstein describes Weissenberg as an 'exceptionally fine and reliable character and a man of high gifts'. The letter is sent to the Home Office by way of The Royal Society who refer to Einstein as 'one of the best known people in the world - next to Hitler'. In his application under the section asking for his contribution to the national war effort Weissenberg writes that he was involved in the 'development of flame throwers'.

A section of this file is available to view on Discovery.

Records of the Prime Minister's Office

Ireland: Prime Ministers meetings with the Taoiseach Charles Haughey part 2

  • Catalogue ref: PREM 19/283
  • Date: 1980 Mar 03 - 1980 Aug 08

This file contains papers and briefings surrounding Margaret Thatcher's first face to face meeting with her Irish counterpart Charles Haughey in May 1980. In a scathing briefing Haughey is described as 'calculating' and 'ruthless' and a man with 'few real friends'. Although he had 'acquired a taste for the good things in life' he had become something of a 'puritan' in recent years and rarely drank. His dress sense and sense of humour are praised. On matters of religion, Haughey is said to have told the British Ambassador to Ireland that 'he was not a deeply religious man and did not mind if someone wanted to worship Ali Baba and the seven thieves'. The briefing concludes that Haughey 'is a tough, clever, wily man, no friend of ours, but not, perhaps actively hostile'. Following their meeting the file shows Thatcher thanking Haughey for the gift of a 'beautiful teapot'. For his part, the Taoiseach leader is said to have been 'most impressed' by Thatcher and says the atmosphere at their meeting was 'wonderful'. In later papers Mrs Thatcher has scribbled 'no' next to a passage suggesting Irish membership of NATO.

This file is available to view on Discovery.

Records of Special Operations Executive

Raphael BEUGNON, aka Raoul BERGER - born 07.02.1920

This file contains character assessments of Raphael Beugnon, who went on to become an Oscar-Winning Hollywood Set Decorator and Art Director under the name Raphael Bretton. Beugnon is described as 'pre-occupied with women, dancing, music' and demonstrating 'occasional bouts of childish temper followed by sullen looks'. His character is summarised as 'conceited, self centred and petulant'.

Although this file does not contain details of his missions it is known that despite this poor character assessment and being deemed 'not likely to do well under stress', Beugnon went on to be awarded the Croix de Guerre and Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy. The file also states that 'as a leader he neither inspires confidence or bestows it' yet he later reportedly became involved in leading resistance groups in sabotage activities against the enemy. The record notes that he showed 'special interest in demolitions'. He was later nominated for an Oscar in Art Direction for the films The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure.

This file is available to view on Discovery.

Records of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and predecessors

International sport in the aftermath of the Moscow Olympic Games

  • Catalogue ref: FCO 13/1001
  • Date: 1980 Jan 01 - 1980 Dec 31

The file contains reports and correspondence between the Cultural Relations Department of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the delegates of British Olympic Association in the aftermath of the Moscow Olympic Games. The file shows the growing fears about Soviet influence in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the global reaction to the appointment of Juan Antonio Samaranch as successor to Lord Killanin as head of the IOC. Australia's member of the IOC David Mckenzie allegedly 'stormed out of the IOC session in disgust upon the election of Samaranch' and a Canadian telegram to the FCO describes Samaranch as a having 'little, if any, knowledge or understanding of foreign affairs' and has 'shamelessly kow-towed to soviets'. The telegram states that Samaranch was 'so consumed with his ambition' that 'he would have a nervous breakdown if he lost the election'. Samaranch served the second longest term as the head of the IOC, the longest being that of Pierre de Coubertin (29 years).

A section of this file is available to view on Discovery.

Civil disturbance in South Africa: political prisoners, including James Mange and Nelson Mandela

  • Catalogue ref: FCO105/443
  • Date: 1980 Jan 01 - 1980 Dec 31

This file details the campaign to free Nelson Mandela: how it was gaining momentum in the country; the reluctance of the South African government to release him; and the political parties involved in the fight to free him. The file discusses whether the government could use their influence to bring about change but they acknowledge the fact that they had no 'locus standi' to make representations in Mandela's case. The file also briefly mentions the confiscation of Bishop Tutu's passport after he called for a boycott of South African coal.

A section of this file is available to view on Discovery.