Jump to content
Free downloads from TNA ×
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

army censors


silky28

Recommended Posts

Hey all,

 

I am doing a research project on the BEF's censorship operation, specifically its administration and the officers that oversaw it. Through online research I have found 125+ names of officers involved in a censorship operation but the documents do not often state which...could be press, telegraph, army, or postal...I know that a Martin Hardie was 3rd Army's Censor but I have not found censors for the other armies. Other than that all I can say is that the first wave of censors seem to have come from the Inns of Court regiment, OTC.

 

Anyone looked into this before? can anyone suggest a way I might identify the people involved?

 

thanks all!

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome to the Forum !

I can provide a War Diary reference for the Chief Censor HQ France/Belgium  from 1914 to 1916, which might help you along the way as it might have links to lists and organisation etc. WO95/3987/1 is digital and downloadable from the Discovery database at the National Archives:

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/979fd58b48704a809893b80f16943f3e

Edited by sotonmate
Link to comment
Share on other sites

thank you very much, I will take a look at that in the morning.

 

other than in works on censorship stamps, the army postal service and morale, little has been written on the censorship operation. As such I do not have a pool of secondary source works to guide me in the archive. As such my plan is to identify s man of the censors as I can to target my efforts. So,far I know Martin Hardie has a collection at IWM but that is it. On the other 125 names, I do not know if the archives have anything else bit the medal index cards I found online.

 

thanks again

Link to comment
Share on other sites

An officer, Captain William (Pat) Armstrong, XRH, from Moyaliffe, County Tipperary, was a Censor. He was killed at Arras in 1917.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On ‎6‎/‎23‎/‎2017 at 07:57, museumtom said:

An officer, Captain William (Pat) Armstrong, XRH, from Moyaliffe, County Tipperary, was a Censor. He was killed at Arras in 1917.

 

 

May I ask how you discovered that he was a censor?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It was in his papers, now in the University of Limerick. The funny thing about it was the letters he sent home did not go through any censor and were full of information.

Edited by museumtom
Link to comment
Share on other sites

15 hours ago, museumtom said:

It was in his papers, now in the University of Limerick. The funny thing about it was the letters he sent home did not go through any censor and were full of information.

Ya, that's not uncommon. For an interesting read grab the letters of Agar Adamson.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Hi Silky-  Army censorship and it's records is a problem. The networks of censorship/intelligence were extensive-but where are the records???  I have another thread about whether there is a similar "discreet"  MOD store somewhere to match Hanslope Park and the FCO operations. Many of the touchy subjects for the Colonial Office particularly suggest that War Office records would have been generated as well. Destroyed? Probably-BUT one must presume that records known/strongly believed to have been generated continue to exist somewhere unless one has definite knowledge of their destruction.

    It might be asking William Spencer at The National Archives-always cheerful, practical and very helpful. I suspect there might be a clue in the destruction schedules of documents-or lack of them- for the War Office. I cannot see that specimens were retained, while destruction schedules might give an unwanted clue to the vast extent of the operation

   My own view is that one must backtrack the better-known experiences of the Second World War to the Great War and then take a flying guess-The experience of 1939-45 was the generation of numerous new intelligence agencies, which transmogrified and stayed on in peacetime. I find it hard to believe that IF similar censorship/surveillance organisation mushroomed during the Great War, then it is highly unlikely to have gone away in peacetime.

   I have visions of that splendid old actor Sir C.Aubrey Smith in "Lives of a Bengal Lancer" taking his pipe out of his mouth to worry that things were "too quiet" on the Frontier. Similarly, with censorship/surveillance/intelligence-  A lack of stray papers, odd files in other departments,etc suggest (to the paranoid and the non-paranoid) that the archives are "too quiet"- that the screeners and weeders have been very efficient- and their efficiency creates an administrative black hole- we suspect that something exists but it's the devil's own job to prove it. Army censorship was just too extensive not to have generated more administrative strays hither and thither without a conscious desire to restrict/retain/destroy the materials.

    As to the realities: Well, here are the 5 names that come up by searching the Solicitor's War Service volume in PDF format:

GEORGE ROBERT HEATHCOTE

SYDNEY LEADER

JOHN LANCELOT MARTIN

GEORGE BROWN MEDLICOTT

ROBERT HENRY PAWSON

 

      I have a memory that the lists of those member of the Stock Exchange or employees of constituent firms which appeared in the Financial Times in 1914-1915 have the odd censor listed-but it's not worth a search throigh so I will see if I can un-corrupt a memory stick and read what I have.

 

     Barristers were commonly employed in the de-briefing of returned POW officers-as there had to be an enquiry of honour into the officer's conduct. Many (if not pretty much all) of these took place in and around the Inns of Court. Might I suggest that you have a word with the archivists at the Inns of Court??  They always seem relieved to be talking to real,non-lawyer human beings when I have approached them on something historically interesting-  It may take a bit of plodding but obituaries of barristers may tell a story-Worth asking . And the various Bar Lists for the war years may well tell a story of who was employed as a censor. From experience, try Middle Temple first-always helpful 

   And a last thought-Worth having a word with the Post Office archives people- always happy to deal with folk other than stamp collectors. The Post Office of 1914 was Civil Service and the largest employer of Civil Servants. Very much worth a shout-and an enjoyable experience-good archivists and helpful

     

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

 Hi Silky-  Army censorship and it's records is a problem. The networks of censorship/intelligence were extensive-but where are the records???  I have another thread about whether there is a similar "discreet"  MOD store somewhere to match Hanslope Park and the FCO operations. Many of the touchy subjects for the Colonial Office particularly suggest that War Office records would have been generated as well. Destroyed? Probably-BUT one must presume that records known/strongly believed to have been generated continue to exist somewhere unless one has definite knowledge of their destruction.

    It might be asking William Spencer at The National Archives-always cheerful, practical and very helpful. I suspect there might be a clue in the destruction schedules of documents-or lack of them- for the War Office. I cannot see that specimens were retained, while destruction schedules might give an unwanted clue to the vast extent of the operation

   My own view is that one must backtrack the better-known experiences of the Second World War to the Great War and then take a flying guess-The experience of 1939-45 was the generation of numerous new intelligence agencies, which transmogrified and stayed on in peacetime. I find it hard to believe that IF similar censorship/surveillance organisation mushroomed during the Great War, then it is highly unlikely to have gone away in peacetime.

   I have visions of that splendid old actor Sir C.Aubrey Smith in "Lives of a Bengal Lancer" taking his pipe out of his mouth to worry that things were "too quiet" on the Frontier. Similarly, with censorship/surveillance/intelligence-  A lack of stray papers, odd files in other departments,etc suggest (to the paranoid and the non-paranoid) that the archives are "too quiet"- that the screeners and weeders have been very efficient- and their efficiency creates an administrative black hole- we suspect that something exists but it's the devil's own job to prove it. Army censorship was just too extensive not to have generated more administrative strays hither and thither without a conscious desire to restrict/retain/destroy the materials.

    As to the realities: Well, here are the 5 names that come up by searching the Solicitor's War Service volume in PDF format:

GEORGE ROBERT HEATHCOTE

SYDNEY LEADER

JOHN LANCELOT MARTIN

GEORGE BROWN MEDLICOTT

ROBERT HENRY PAWSON

 

      I have a memory that the lists of those member of the Stock Exchange or employees of constituent firms which appeared in the Financial Times in 1914-1915 have the odd censor listed-but it's not worth a search throigh so I will see if I can un-corrupt a memory stick and read what I have.

 

     Barristers were commonly employed in the de-briefing of returned POW officers-as there had to be an enquiry of honour into the officer's conduct. Many (if not pretty much all) of these took place in and around the Inns of Court. Might I suggest that you have a word with the archivists at the Inns of Court??  They always seem relieved to be talking to real,non-lawyer human beings when I have approached them on something historically interesting-  It may take a bit of plodding but obituaries of barristers may tell a story-Worth asking . And the various Bar Lists for the war years may well tell a story of who was employed as a censor. From experience, try Middle Temple first-always helpful 

   And a last thought-Worth having a word with the Post Office archives people- always happy to deal with folk other than stamp collectors. The Post Office of 1914 was Civil Service and the largest employer of Civil Servants. Very much worth a shout-and an enjoyable experience-good archivists and helpful

     

Thanks for this very detailed reply...

 

I hold onto the hope that the documents have not been destroyed or, if they have, that at least some of what I am after exists in personal archives. My hunch is that the documents have not been unearthed because there has been a near complete lack of interest in censorship by historians and, therefore, there has not been a concerted effort to find them. Again...I hope!

 

Thank you for suggesting I contact Mr. Spencer, I will be sure to do so. I have been lucky enough to build friendships with some of the UK's top WW1 historians who have offered advice and to meet me at the Kew.

 

Of those names only Martin and Pawson are unfamiliar to me. The others are on my list. My plan is to identify as many men involved in censorship as possible so that I can understand the process and chain of command, so to speak, of the censorship operation. My next step is to refine my list down to 15 or 20 of the most highest ranking/senior censors (head censors, assistant censors etc.) from which I may be able to find documents and the names of other censors to study.

 

I know this is not going to be easy!

 

Thanks again.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In case it might be useful.

 

I came across an address for next of kin in a Tank Corps officer's service records, as follows:

 

EC Hannan, Esq. (father)

Cable Censor's Staff

Central Telegraph Office

London

 

The Edward Champion Wade Hannan was a vicar who had been struck off by the Bishop of London in 1908 because he had been successfully divorced on the grounds of cruelty. He later described himself as a military man, so I am not sure that the "Esq" title is appropriate.

 

David

Added by edit

 

He was in fact a Temporary Lieutenant on the General List, never served overseas and therefore probably not of interest.

Edited by dgibson150
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some years ago now I purchased a cased OBE with supporting documentation awarded to Captain Oswald T.HITCHINGS. Commissioned March 1916 as a Censor and served on Intelligence Staff 1916-18 in France - graded  as a Staff Captain, Despatches 1917, OBE 1919. see his entry under Bridlington School B.

https://www.scribd.com/document/52442132/Role-of-War-Service-1914-1918-Officer-Training-Corps-Junior-Division-Public-School-Officers-Other-Members-of-the-Staffs

 

He later taught at Malvern College, being in charge of Modern Languages  and I believe he was still working there when he died in 1937. I am uncertain as to the whereabouts of his WW1 medals.

 

Philip

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On ‎6‎/‎28‎/‎2017 at 16:10, Philip Wilson said:

Some years ago now I purchased a cased OBE with supporting documentation awarded to Captain Oswald T.HITCHINGS. Commissioned March 1916 as a Censor and served on Intelligence Staff 1916-18 in France - graded  as a Staff Captain, Despatches 1917, OBE 1919. see his entry under Bridlington School B.

https://www.scribd.com/document/52442132/Role-of-War-Service-1914-1918-Officer-Training-Corps-Junior-Division-Public-School-Officers-Other-Members-of-the-Staffs

 

He later taught at Malvern College, being in charge of Modern Languages  and I believe he was still working there when he died in 1937. I am uncertain as to the whereabouts of his WW1 medals.

 

Philip

 

Thanks, I actually found a few other censors just by searching that book.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...

So I got my list up to nearly 200 censors, 70 of whom worked as censors of some sort on the Western Front. I am currently slogging my way through personnel files to see what I can uncover...so I can find new ways to attack this. 

 

I looked through the Establishment Tables for the entirety of the war. From what I gather there was no censor unit or its equivalent - censor section - until 1917. I know there were censors working before that so I guess they were just attached as staff officers. 

Edited by silky28
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On ‎6‎/‎22‎/‎2017 at 22:39, sotonmate said:

Welcome to the Forum !

I can provide a War Diary reference for the Chief Censor HQ France/Belgium  from 1914 to 1916, which might help you along the way as it might have links to lists and organisation etc. WO95/3987/1 is digital and downloadable from the Discovery database at the National Archives:

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/979fd58b48704a809893b80f16943f3e

 

Thanks, I will check it out when I visit the archive next and let you know.

11 minutes ago, charlie962 said:

Would letters home from PoWs in Germany, Turkey etc have been read by censors or by intelligenge staff?

I believe they were and there was a special censor section for POW's. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...