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Australian Joint Copying Project: War Office - WO

A guide to the holdings of the State Library of South Australia

War Office records

The administration history of the War Office is a fragmented and at times confusing one, simply because there existed a plethora of independent offices all claiming some jurisdiction over Army administration.

The office was first made a political appointment in 1704, but it wasn't until 1783 that the Secretary-at-War was made responsible to Parliament. From that time payment of troops and expenditure on recruiting was removed from the regiments and became the responsibility of the Secretary-at-War. The Secretary-at-War became the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies in 1801. As the affairs of the Colonies became more and more demanding these two offices were separated in 1854 and the Colonial Office was established. Further steps were taken to amalgamate various departments dealing with the civil administration functions of the military until 1858, when the 'War Office' was created and moved into new headquarters in Pall Mall.

The records filmed by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) relate mainly to Australia and New Zealand. Troops in the Colonies were under the control of each Governor, although administratively they were controlled from London.

Contents of reels have not been described in detail or individual items indexed, however a general description of reel contents may be found in the Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook, Part 4, War Office produced jointly by the National Library of Australia and the State Library of New South Wales. 

WO 12 - Returns - muster books and pay lists - general

Reel No.                       Date Range                   INCOMPLETE set
412 - 418 1798 - 1823  
3784 1860 - 1862  
3787 1861 - 1863  
3906 - 3917 1798 - 1867  

WO 22 - Returns - out-pensions records - Royal Hospital Chelsea - pensions returns

Reel No.                         Date Range                 INCOMPLETE set
920 - 922 1849 - 1880  
1155 - 1162 1845 - 1880  
3918 - 3919 1845 - 1880  

WO 25 - Returns - registers - various

Reel No.                        Date Range                  COMPLETE set of WO 25
1302 - 1303 1808 - 1869  

WO 86 - Judge Advocate General's Office - courts martial - district courts martial 

Reel No.                        Date Range                 COMPLETE set of WO 86
2716 - 2723 1829 - 1865  

Locating information

Below are extracts from the Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook, Part 4 - War Office that may be of assistance when looking for more detail.

Some of the extracts below have been marked with yellow highlighter. This indicates which reels the Library has in its collection where the holdings are not complete for that Class.

UK National Archives

Recently the UK National Archives began a Digital Microfilm Project to allow access to its most used items. Amongst the documents currently uploaded are items from the War Office. Items are grouped by Class (e.g. WO 117) and many of the documents are very large. For more details go to Digital Microfilm Project, UK National Archives.