Military Intelligence Files: Land, Sea & Air, 1938-1974

Cold War and World War Two intelligence from the British Army, Navy and RAF

Cold War and World War Two intelligence from the British Army, Navy and RAF

The collection provides a definitive and unrivalled source covering international relations, military history and the role played by service intelligence from the Second World War to the early Cold War.
Stephen TwiggeHead of Collections (Modern), The National Archives

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Learn about the military tactics and morale of the many countries the UK spied upon

World War Two and the Cold War feature heavily in these files. The reports relating to World War Two cover different subjects and countries, depending on which service they came from. Army reports cover Italy, as well as the second Sino-Japanese War. The Navy would focus more on Russia, as well as merchant shipping. The Air Force covered Japan, morale in Germany and Japan, and dropping propaganda on the enemy. All of the armed forces monitored Germany. During the Cold War, spying on Russian weapons and diplomacy with the enemy became more common. Britain's colonies would feature in more reports before the Cold War than during it, unless they displayed signs of Communist activity.

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Military Intelligence Files: Land, Sea & Air, 1938-1974...

Containing 73,344 pages belonging to 23 documents housed in 12 volumes...

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Quarterly Army Intelligence Summaries, 1955-1962

The USSR shot down an American B29 Bomber in December 1954. The Soviet forces blamed the incident on America, saying that they had entered Soviet air space.

Weekly Naval Intelligence Summaries, 1940-1945

The Soviet Air Force was thought to be in poor condition when the Red Army joined World War 2. Many reserve pilots were believed to have been killed in the purge of 1937-38.

Monthly Naval Intelligence Summaries, 1946-1954

Hydrogen weapon development was ongoing in 1949, using technology captured from Nazi Germany. Details of the experiments with hydrogen are included here.

Secret Air Force Intelligence Summaries, 1946-1960

Hitler's last days in the bunker were recorded after one of its last tenants was captured. A summary of the account from Hanna Reitsch is reproduced here.


  • These files include records from The British Commanders'-in-Chief Mission to the Soviet Forces in Germany, also known as BRIXMIS. They cover from the end of World War Two to the Cold War in the 1960's.
  • The types of reports printed in a year depended on the military events in that year. World War Two led to weekly summaries for all forces, the Royal Air Force alone had Secret Intelligence Summaries printed afterwards.
  • Intelligence gathering itself changed over this time, as these reports show a move from learning where the enemy’s ships and troops are to analyzing their internal politics.
  • While the BRIXMIS papers from the Foreign Office do cover internal politics, they are released alongside armed forces’ reports on Russian military might and British defectors to Russia.
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