top of page

(b.) Propaganda in the East. - The distribution of propaganda in Egypt, Palestine and Mesopotamia was entrusted to M.I. 7 (b) (3) in March, 1918. In this respect the subdivision maintained liaison between General Headquarters, Cairo - which was the distribution agency for propaganda in the Near East - and the Foreign Office and Ministry of Information. Oriental publications were also received from Cairo, arrangements made for their publication, and summaries of their contents circulated to the different departments interested. Arrangements were also made for the translation of any articles that were of interest to M.I. 7 (b).

4. M.I. 7 (b) (4). - Propaganda Library and Aerial Propaganda over Enemy Lines –

This subdivision was started with the appointment of Captain Chalmers Mitchell, F.R.S., in June, 1916, to examine, analyse, and report on the Propaganda Library of the subsection referred to on page 2.

(a.) Propaganda Library. - A catalogue of the library, which numbered some 2,000 to 3,000 books and pamphlets, and included practically all enemy war publications, other than newspapers, to that date, was printed in 1917 from the MSS lists prepared by M.I. 9, and various supplements, were subsequently issued.

A comprehensive report was also prepared and printed, summarizing the contents of the library and indicating the general lines of enemy propaganda, including the use made of British authors. The report was widely distributed, copies being sent to the War Cabinet, the Admiralty, the Military Mission in France, the Department of Information, the British Museum, and public and University libraries in various parts of the country.

(b.) Aerial Propaganda. - The production of propaganda literature for distribution by aeroplane over the enemy lines was begun in M.I. 7 (b) before the end of 1916, and was continued with increasing volume and success throughout 1917.

For the production of this propaganda M.I. 7 (b) (4), under Captain Chalmers

Mitchell, was made responsible; and, on the publication of the Propaganda Library Report mentioned above, it became the subdivision’s main duty.

The propaganda literature produced was of the following kinds:-

(1.) Reproductions of German prisoner of war letters and postcards, received either from General Headquarters, France, or through the Postal Censorship (M.I. 9), and selected by M.I. 7 (b) (4), as showing the good treatment of prisoners in England.

(2.) Reproductions of photo postcards of prisoners of war, or groups taken in prisoner of war camps in England.

(3.) Prisoner of war photo books, as arranged for by General Headquarters,

France, and supplied by Wellington House.

(4.) Leaflets of an “inflammatory” and socialistic nature, produced by

M.I. 7(b) (4), urging German troops to surrender and stop the war. Later on,

cartoons were designed to produce the same effect.

(5.) Leaflets designed to give to the German troops information which had

been withheld from them by their own authorities, e.g., the numbers of

Americans landed in France, numbers of submarines sunk by British, &c.

(6.) The weekly Courrier de l’Air, already referred to on page 5, designed to encourage the inhabitants in occupied territory.

The distributions for 1917 were as follows: 594,000 reproductions of 88 prisoner of war letters and 7 postcards; 90,000 reproductions of 17 photo postcards; 85,000 large edition, 25,000 miniature edition, and 20,000 photo sheets of prisoner of war photo books; 888,200 leaflets and surrender notices; and 250,000 copies of 50 weekly numbers of Le Courrier de l’Air.

From the first these proceedings had an effect. Early in 1917 a Note Verbale was received from the German Government intimating that the dissemination of inflammatory literature by means of aeroplane would be dealt with as an offence against the laws of war, and in the following December two British airmen were court-martialled and sentenced to 10 years penal servitude. It was then decided to abandon the method of aeroplane distribution on the Western front.

Many other methods were suggested, and experimented with, such as kites, rockets, rifle grenades, and shells.

Experiments with balloons were also conducted, and in February, 1918, a

satisfactory type of paper balloon was prepared capable of carrying 4 lb. of

propaganda on a length of tinder fuze which released bundles of literature at intervals.

From that date increasing consignments of balloons and releases loaded with

propaganda were sent, weekly by M.I. 7 (b) (4) to General Headquarters, France, and from there distributed to appointed despatching centres on the Army fronts.

Early in September, 1918, the British War Mission, Crewe House, to which Captain Chalmers Mitchell had already removed as liaison officer, took over from M.I. 7 (b) (4) the entire production of leaflets and cartoons. The subdivision under Captain Legh, with two other officers, was left to deal with all questions of manufacture of balloons and releases, the selection and reproduction of prisoner of war letters, the production (through M.I. 7 (b) (1)) of the Courrier, and the despatch of the printed propaganda and balloons to France.

Balloons and their equivalent propaganda loads were at this date being despatched to France at the rate of 2,000 a week.

The total number of leaflets, prisoner of war letters, cartoons, &c., handled by M.I. 7 (b) (4) from the start is 25,986,180.

The total number of balloons supplied by M.I. 7 (b) (4) is 32,694.

The effectiveness of the propaganda is notorious. Hindenburg’s manifesto,

reproduced in the British Press on 6th September, 1918, and numerous reports from repatriated inhabitants and captured Germans, testify to its enormous influence on the enemy. A German officer, in a private letter, said latterly that the 100,000 leaflets we showered down on his nation every day had done more than anything else to show the people where they stood, what they had to expect, and who was responsible for their ruin. It should be noted that up to the time of the publication of Hindenburg’s manifesto the whole British propaganda material distributed emanated from M.I. 7 (b). It was not till later, in September, 1918, that the pamphlets from Crewe House reached General Headquarters.

5. M.I. 7 (b) (5). - Summaries of Home Press.

M.I. 7 (b) (5) was formed early in November, 1917, under Major Goldman, to

produce daily summaries of all matter in the Home Press having a bearing on the war. The maximum number of staff has been 15, including the officer in charge, two summary writers, 11 leading officers and one record and filling officer.

The number of summaries produced was increased as time went on. The following were being issued on 21st November, 1918:-

Daily -

9.30 a.m. - Brief summary of London morning Press.

2.30 p.m. - Considered summary of London and Provincial Press.

2.30 p.m. - Summary on Russian affairs.

5.00 p.m. - Summary of London evening Press.

Weekly -

Monday. - Summary of Labour Press.

Tuesday. - Summary of weekly Press.

Wednesday. - Summary of weekly Provincial Press.

The 9.30 a.m. summary had a small circulation among heads of branches in the War Office. The Russian summary was circulated only to Branches concerned and to the Foreign Office. Other summaries had a circulation of about 150 copies, being sent to His Majesty the King, the Members of the War Cabinet, Secretaries of State, various Government Departments, General Headquarters (France and Italy), and to various branches of the War Office.

About 550 newspapers were read per week, including all London daily and Sunday papers, the 30 leading Provincial daily papers, all weeklies of importance, all the principal Labour and pacifist newspapers, the religious Press, and some 70 weekly provincial newspapers.

Each of the principal summaries was issued under six main headings, viz., Military, Foreign Politics, Home Polities, Labour, Food, and Shipping. Broadly, the line adopted was to deal with all editorial comment, news from military and foreign correspondents, reports of meetings, strikes, protests, &c. Official news was not as a rule dealt with as such.


Under the supervision of the officer-in-charge, the general policy was guided by the senior summary writer, the junior summary writer dealing with the allocation of work, &c. A certain set of papers was allocated (usually in geographical groups) to each reading officer so that he might become familiar with them, and these reading officers produced their “copy” on slips under their appropriate headings. The summary writer then built up the various reports into a comprehensive summary, in the course of which general tendencies could now be indicated. Officers with peculiar knowledge were usually confined to certain subjects, e.g., Russian affairs, pacifism, &c.

Each newspaper was indexed by means of adhesive slips, on which items of special interest were recorded, and these items entered in a card index. All newspapers were filed for at least 3 months.

This filing and index system proved to be of value on many occasions, as, for

instance, when the Prime Minister was supplied with a complete series of the attacks upon himself and the Government in connection with the “Robertson” affair.

In addition, special reports were compiled for the use of the authorities, showing the tendencies of the Press on matters of importance, such as the League of Nations. When the question of peace negotiations and conditions became topical special weekly résumés were issued of the views of the Press.

Special reports were also made from time to time on journals of a mischievous or suspect character, with a view either to legal action or the prohibition of export abroad; and attention was constantly drawn to the utterances and writings of persons engaged in pacifist and revolutionary propaganda.

A task which fell to the sub-division later in its career was that of sending to the forces in Russia a daily telegram giving all news of importance.

6. M.I. 7 (b) (6). Liaison with Press Representatives and arrangements for Official Press Lectures, &c., Cable and Wireless Propaganda.

(a.) This subsection was originally created, under Captain du Vallon, to provide a link between the War Office and the representatives of the Press. The need of some such medium for the issue of authoritative information, whether for publication or, confidentially, for guidance, had long been felt, and when the system of official lectures mentioned on page 2 was inaugurated, the supervision of the arrangements was entrusted to M.I. 7 (b) (6).

These lectures were given by the Director of Military Operations or his


They began on 26th October, 1916, with a weekly lecture to American

correspondents; and later, in May, 1917, after the entry of America into the war, this

lecture was thrown open to accredited Dominions, Allied and neutral



A separate weekly lecture was also started in December, 1917, for representatives of

the British Press, to which, from April, 1918, Dominions correspondents were also


The British Press representatives were under the control of the Newspaper

Proprietors’ Association, which was responsible that no unauthorized person was admitted. This was secured by a system of permits. The Dominions, neutral and Allied correspondents were under the charge of the Ministry of Information, which accepted the same responsibility.

The lectures were attended by from 30 to 50 correspondents and were very

successful. They supplied a great deal, if not all, of the information required on the military situation, and afforded opportunities of asking questions. Even if no full answer could be given to these questions, it was at least possible to point out why a full answer could not be given.

To prevent misunderstanding, a typed copy of the lecture was issued to each

representative before leaving, in which the publishable and confidential matter were clearly distinguished. With very few exceptions this distinction was loyally observed.

The lectures had originally been intended to be used as a basis for leading articles, and to assist editors in checking the statements of their correspondents; but as time went on the custom grew up in the Press of giving a paraphrased summary of the lecture, and ascribing it to “a high military authority,” “the British General Staff,” &c. This occasioned some difficulties particularly on the appointment of a French General as Generalissimo; and early in June, 1918, it was prohibited (though the publication of the paraphrase was still permitted).

(b.) Another branch of the work of M.I. 7 (b) (6) was the production of various

military summaries for transmission by cable and wireless.

A weekly summary of operations on all fronts was prepared for the Ministry of Information, and cabled to His Majesty’s officials in foreign countries. Later, this summary was issued also to the British Provincial Press.

A tri-weekly military article of 200-300 words was prepared for the Ministry of Information for the Carnarvon Wireless Service. It was headed “Military

Correspondent of the British Wireless Service,” and was intended to inspire neutrals with belief and confidence in the Allies’ cause. It was not always easy to combine this policy with the necessity of impressing the gravity of the situation on our Allies; but it was clear that the articles were intended for neutrals, and this, on the whole, our Allies understood. It was, for instance, considered more important to point out Germany’s difficulties in 1918 than to insist on the Allies’ need of reinforcements.

The articles were so frequently quoted in neutral papers that the request was increased to one daily military and one or two daily counter-criticism articles; and in the end the Ministry of Information asked for all possible output, offering to send by cable whatever could not be included in the wireless service. The editor of the cable and wireless service was of opinion that with these contributions he could fight theenemy service.

The staff of the subdivision averaged four officers.

This concludes the history of all subdivisions of M.I. 7 (b). Except for M.I. 7 (b) (5),

demobilization was begun on 23rd November, 1918.

bottom of page