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"Notes on Security from the Middle East" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   A report with British notes on field security in the Middle East, from the Intelligence Bulletin, March 1943.

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on enemy tactics and equipment published for Allied soldiers. In most cases, more accurate data is available in postwar publications.]



"Security in the military sense consists not only of denying information to the enemy, but also preserving information about the enemy which is of use to ourselves." This statement sums up the British attitude regarding security. All members of the armed forces are continually reminded of the importance of acquiring and guarding enemy documents and materiel so that they may be studied by the proper experts, even though the items may not seem important in themselves. In the following notes the British illustrate very clearly how troops in the field are in a position to cooperate with intelligence officers in preserving information about the enemy, and why the individual soldier is to regard such cooperation as "must."


Proper guarding of enemy aircraft which has come into our hands is essential. It is especially important to insure against the looting of such planes. Personnel have sometimes been heard to ask "Why bother? Don't we know all about enemy aircraft already?" No, we certainly don't! And even if we did, it could only be because flawless security work had been done in the past.

As an example of the information that can be obtained from a crash, consider the case of a Heinkel which was shot down by night fighter action. This aircraft crashed in flames, and the wreckage was spread over a square mile. At first glance, it seemed as though nothing remained but charred and unrecognizable fragments. Nevertheless, examination by the proper authorities quickly revealed new points of technical value, as well as production details about where and when the engines and various other parts were made. In addition, valuable papers were retrieved. It cannot be overemphasized that even a scrap of paper may be of value from an intelligence point of view.

At the moment, we are searching for an important development in German radio. A certain apparatus is fitted with a destroying device, and if anyone should happen to tamper with one of these devices on an enemy aircraft which has come into our possession, the apparatus will be lost and essential information along with it.

Therefore, individuals who tamper with items of enemy equipment are doing the Axis a service and are slowing down our own war effort.


During the Libyan campaign a New Zealand intelligence officer made quick use of some maps that a German major general had not been given time to destroy, and therefore was able to inform the New Zealand commander that the German 21st Armored Division was due to arrive in the immediate future. The New Zealand general was able to plan his strategy accurately.

A truck serving as an office for the adjutant general and quartermaster of the German 15th Armored Division was captured intact during the Libyan campaign. Intelligence officers rushed its contents back to G.H.Q. by air. There probably had been no greater find in the course of the war up to that time. Not only did the truck contain documents of enemy operational value, but also up-to-date German manuals, publications, and other items, which were enormously useful. Thus, from the military intelligence point of view, it is not an exaggeration to say that the contents of a single truck preserved intact may influence the whole course of the war.

On October 17, 1942, an alert trooper of the 7th Hussars snatched a document from a German prisoner who was in the act of tearing it up. This bit of quick thinking enabled us to identify and locate several German units at a time when information was more than usually scarce.

When charred remnants of paper are salvaged, the complete destruction of which has been prevented just in time, it often turns out that they contain some useful items of information.

Whenever documents are captured, every possible step must be taken to destroy all evidence pointing to the fact that they have been captured; that is, the office in which they were found must be burned, the officer from whose person they were taken must be removed from the scene, and so on.


A desire to keep captured documents and equipment as souvenirs sometimes results in the loss of much information which would be helpful to the armed forces as a whole.[1] This point is well illustrated by the case of a battalion commander who, in forwarding his unit war diaries to second echelon, made a special request that certain attached captured documents should not be removed from the file in which he was sending them. It was discovered that these documents had been captured sometime before, and unfortunately had never been passed on to the proper authority. Soldiers sending parcels home have included the following articles as souvenirs:

(1) Binoculars and compasses, of which our own fighting troops are short.

(2) Many rounds of ammunition (for a German antitank gun) that our own tank designers needed urgently for test purposes.

(3) An electrical gyroscopic compass, also urgently wanted for research.

(4) Enemy tank logbooks giving us valuable information regarding enemy tank production.

(5) Many useful photographs of enemy equipment about which our information was not yet complete.

(6) Valuable items of signal equipment.

(7) Specimens of Axis food which would have provided useful clues for our blockade authorities.

(8) Many types of fuzes, or igniters, and detonators, some of which were new to us and all of which were helpful in some way.

(9) Italian shoulder straps and a German football jersey with a badge, which gave us valuable identifications, including the fact that a new unit had been formed.

[1] These statements by the British regarding captured documents and equipment are equally applicable to our own troops. See that all enemy documents and materiel get to your commanding officer for inspection. Should you desire any of these items as souvenirs, make arrangements with your commander for them to be returned to you after they have served their purpose.

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