New government files released
New files released online today by The National Archives give insight into government decisions, espionage inquiries and secret wartime intelligence.
The files comprise a range of subjects, from an advertisement proof featuring Margaret Thatcher as a Royal Navy 'bombshell'; a review of the Order of the British Empire, suggesting that 'Knight' and 'Dame' be replaced by 'Chevalier' and 'Lady'; an account of Germany's alleged plans to use poison gas; an atomic physicist's confession of spying; to a file about an SOE Agent-turned Oscar winner.
COI information policy on central government conventions regarding publicity and advertising (INF 12/1491)
This file contains discussions about a proof of a press advertisement for Royal Navy recruitment featuring, amongst others, 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 Prime Minister 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.
Review of honours scales: permanent establishment of the Order of the British Empire (T 344/5)
A review committee was set up in order to ensure the honours did not fall into disrepute and retained a sense of prestige. The file notes King George V's reported concerns as to whether the high standard the decorations had 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 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.
WAR: Anti-gas protection of civilians in Germany: German preparations for serial gas attack (HO 144/21584)
This file contains reports of German preparations for chemical and biological warfare against Britain in the Second World War with British Intelligence warnings. The file details possible German plans including the use of mustard gas, a cloud gas attack from the sea, anthrax and even the 'germs of foot and mouth disease'. There are reports that Germany was preparing to accuse Britain of using gas in order to justify their own use as retaliation.
Disclosure of information by Dr K E J Fuchs (CAB 126/305)
This file commences in the days following Atomic Physicist Klaus Fuchs' confession to supplying information to the USSR from the American and British research on the Manhattan Project (the development of the first atomic bomb during the Second World War). The file shows that Britain was blamed for 'lax security regulations' that cleared Dr Fuchs for access to highly secret matters. In the file the British government acknowledged they 'did not screen Dr Fuchs for his communist past'.
Raphael Beugnon, aka Raoul Berger - born 07.02.1920 (HS 9/142/3)
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's character is summarised as 'conceited, self centred and petulant'. 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. It is noted Beugnon 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'.