Foreign and Commonwealth Office files

In this release

FCO 8 (6095-6480) Arabian Department and Middle East Department: Registered Files (B and NB series)

This series of files from 1986 cover events such as the scenario for possible UK military intervention in the Gulf, UK policy on terrorism in the Middle East, Islam in the UK and the Middle East, Women in Middle Eastern Countries, Kurdish affairs in Iran and Iraq, an assessment of the Iran-Iraq war, including the use of chemical warfare.

The use of chemical warfare in the Iran-Iraq war

Catalogue reference: FCO 8/6399

Deals with the repeated use of chemical weapons by Iraq in 1986 within the context of the Iran-Iraq war. It discusses the way in which the UK might put pressure on Iraq, the fear that the conflict may escalate should Iran retaliate in kind and spread to neighbouring countries, and the necessity to avoid the normalisation of chemical warfare. The file also contains briefing points and drafts of the speech made by Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Tim Renton, at the Conference on Disarmament on 15 July 1986 to launch the new UK Initiative at the Chemical Weapons Negotiations in Geneva.

Kurdish affairs in Iran

Catalogue reference: FCO 8/6259

Contains a report sent by the Dutch ambassador to Iran after the Political Committee commissioned a report from the embassies of the Twelve in Tehran and Baghdad on the Kurds.  The report covers the situation of the Kurds against the background of the Gulf War, human rights, and the position of the Kurds within the Iranian society.

Possible UK military intervention in the Gulf, 15 July 1986-8 August 1986

Catalogue reference: FCO 8/6113

Contains guidance on the kind of scenarios in which the power demonstrated by Exercise Saif Sareea (Swift Sword) might be deployed. Assistant Under-Secretary for the Middle East, David Miers, thought there were three possible scenarios: an escalation of the military situation in the region, a request by an individual State for support (in the event of internal insurrection), or an external threat to one of the Gulf States. The file also contains the response of the Middle East Department, detailing how these scenarios might be implemented after exhaustion of all diplomatic means.

UK policy on terrorism in the Middle East

Catalogue reference: FCO 8/6114

Contains guidance setting out the Government’s philosophy of counter-terrorism policy at home and abroad. It also includes the annotated agenda for a meeting of counter-terrorism experts in Hakone, Japan, in September 1986, and notes on foreign terrorist and guerrilla groups and the Government’s attitude towards them.

FCO 8/6398 contains an assessment of the Iran-Iraq war.

FCO 21 (3278-3662) Far Eastern Department: Registered Files (F and FE series)

The records in this release concern UK relations with China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia and Taiwan in 1986 and are arranged under geographical headings. These documents mostly contain information relating to UK policy and Far Eastern relations with the UK, foreign policy and relations with countries other than the UK (especially the Soviet Union, China and the USA), internal political affairs, annual reviews from 1985, official visits to and from the UK, trade policy, British defence sales, and human rights issues.

Specific areas include the visit to China by Elizabeth II in October 1986 (FCO 21/3470 to 3475 and 3477), religion in China, UK policy towards Tibet, the G7 economic summit in Tokyo and the visit by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to Japan and South Korea in May 1986.

(FCO 21/3474 and FCO 21/3475 have been digitised)

FO 1110 (2132-2167) Information Research Department: General Correspondence (PR and IR series)

These files cover 1950-1967 and provide details gathered from a range of sources, including BBC Monitoring and Reuters, of meetings and individuals associated with organisations considered to be communist front organisations.

The organisations covered include the World federation of Trade Unions;  the World Peace Council; the World Federation of Democratic Youth; the International Union of Students; the Women’s International Democratic Federation; the International Association of Democratic Lawyers; the World Federation of Scientific Workers; the Committee for the Promotion of International Trade; the International Organisation of Journalists; the International Broadcasting Organisation; and the International Federation of Resistance Fighters.

(FO 1110/2132, FO 1110/2146 and FO 1110/2163 have been digitised)

FCO 161 (1-71) Office of the Governor (Spandau Prison), British Military Government, Berlin: Files

These records include files relating to Nazi deputy leader Rudolf Hess (FCO 161/2-3).

Papers left by Lieutenant Colonel A.H Le Tissier, British Governor of Spandau Allied Prison

Catalogue reference: FCO 161/66

These relate to the military governor of Spandau Allied Prison in Berlin. These extremely wide-ranging files form Le Tissier’s personal papers and include material that is duplicated elsewhere in the collection, sometimes in different stages of draft. Of particular interest are the minutes from the Spandau governors meetings, communications concerning prison rules, correspondence with Ilse Hess (Hess’ wife), a 1966 memo on the future of the prison, and the special arrangements for Prisoner Number 7 – Hess – once all the other prisoners had been released. Another theme of interest in these files is Le Tissier’s work under the British Commanders’-in-Chief Mission to the Soviet Forces in Germany (BRIXMIS), which very clearly included intelligence gathering.

Catalogue reference: FCO 161/3

Includes a note from Baldur Benedikt von Schirach (another prisoner in Spandau released after the full term of his 20 year sentence in 1966) on the mental and physical deterioration of Hess, and the suggestion that he have access to a psychiatrist. It also includes an intercepted card from British Neo-Nazi and Hess-sympathiser Colin Jordan that the censorship department prevented from reaching Hess. There is an evident fear among the four powers that Hess – dead or alive – was a natural rallying point for these groups, which clearly influences many of the decisions made around his time in prison.

Rules and regulations for the operation of Spandau Allied Prison

Catalogue reference: FCO 161/6

Contains a full copy of the printed rules and regulations for the prison, including daily routine, food and punishments.

Spandau Allied Prison: contingency plan in the event of the death of Rudolf Hess and protocol for the disposal of his remains

Catalogue reference: FCO 161/9

Documents the increasing concern the death of Hess might be seen as a magnet for neo-Nazi interests and includes plans for the removal and disposal of the body. There is a clear disagreement between the Western powers and the USSR on this aspect.

Public release of records concerning Spandau Allied Prison and Rudolf Hess

Catalogue reference: FCO 161/10

Begins with reports that West German journalists had been speculating that secret files concerning Hess were still in the hands of the British government. There is correspondence concerning the release of documents via the Public Records Office and the worry this could fuel a resurgence of Nazism or generate problems with the UK’s relationship with the USSR. Also included is correspondence with notable individuals, including Adrian Liddell Hart (the son of military theorist Sir Basil Liddell Hart) and the historian David Irving.

Rudolf Hess: general papers

Catalogue reference: FCO 161/21

Contains discussions concerning Hess’ early release, the state of his health, the procedure to follow in the event of his death and the future of the establishment once that had taken place. The Russians seem to have no qualms about him dying naturally in captivity while the file includes statements of the British, French and American desire to secure Hess’ early release. There are also details of Hess’ lawyer from the Nuremberg trial, Dr Alfred Seidl, and his continued efforts to secure his release. The file also contains some discussions concerning the future of the prison once vacated.

Rudolf Hess: general papers

Catalogue reference: FCO 161/24

Concerns matters including: the disposal of Hess’ remains; press reports on Hess’ health; attempts made to secure his early release; newspaper cuttings on Hugh Thomas’ book; and correspondence with Hess’ Lawyer, Dr Seidl.

Book entitled ‘The Murder of Rudolf Hess’ by Hugh Thomas: comments and responses

Catalogue reference: FCO 161/28

Deals with the Foreign Office’s response to the publication of Hugh Thomas’ book which alleged the man in Spandau was in fact an imposter. The claims are dismantled by medical and technical evidence in internal correspondence.

Rudolf Hess: repentance and possible release from Spandau Allied Prison

Catalogue reference: FCO 161/30

Details the Western Allies’ desire to see Hess released before his death. By 1979 Hess had been in custody for 38 years, 13 of which were effectively in solitary confinement after the release of Speer and Von Schirach in 1966. Soviet resistance to his early release seems to stem from the possibility that he would not live out the rest of his life in peace and would instead become a rallying figure for neo-Nazi movements.

Rudolf Hess and Spandau Allied Prison

Catalogue reference: FCO 161/54 and 55

Large, general files concerning the administration of Spandau Allied Prison and issues concerning the final prisoner, Hess. Both files contain extensive material on Hess’ declining health, efforts to secure his early release (including minutes from a meeting with the ‘Free Rudolf Hess Campaign’), details of his hospitalisation and minutes from governors meetings.

FCO 161/54 contains correspondence concerning a televised CBS documentary The Last Nazi in which it was suggested that the British had used their veto to prevent Hess’ early release to prevent him sharing secrets. Along with a letter addressed to Margaret Thatcher and a transcript of the documentary, the file includes memos denying this.

FCO 161/55 contains an account of a visit by Wolf Rüdiger Hess in August 1982 and a statement made by him about his father’s supposed reasons for still being detained.

Death of Rudolf Hess: autopsy report and copy of death certificate

Catalogue reference: FCO 161/67

Begins with a minute outlining the known circumstances of Hess’ death at 4.10pm on 17 August 1987. This is followed by a copy of the death certificate indicating the cause of death as ‘asphyxia due to compression of the neck due to suspension’, and a detailed, eight page post-mortem completed by Professor J. M. Cameron, University of London. The latter part of the file deals with statements and briefings around the death, namely reiterating that it came as a result of suicide. A copy and translation of the suicide note is present. Details of the transfer of Hess’ body to his family is also included. It is also noted that a decision was made not to release the autopsy report to the family or the press.

Spandau Allied Prison: photographs of the garden house in which Rudolf Hess died

Catalogue reference: FCO 161/68

Includes six pictures of the garden house in which Hess was found dead.

FO 598 (29) Embassy, Washington, United States of America: General Correspondence

This file contains a series of telegrams and letters between the British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, and HM Ambassador in Washington, David Ormsby-Gore, concerning the Cuban Missile crisis of October 1962. The file also includes correspondence between Macmillan and President John F. Kennedy in which the Prime Minister confided that any Soviet retaliatory action against Berlin would lead eventually to World War Three or the holding of a conference. Ormsby-Gore mentions various issues concerning Berlin that he could not place on record.

(This file has been digitised)