Army Bureau of Current Affairs Pamphlets

The Army Bureau of Current Affairs was set up in August 1941 to help inform soldiers of ideas and events in public life. It’s founding document set out the thought behind this new agency:

Many regimental officers have noted among their men a widespread ignorance about Current Affairs. It is not the Army’s fault, for this lack of knowledge about national issues is a chronic condition among the citizens of this country, and it does not disappear because a man changes his dungarees or pin stripe trousers for a khaki battledress. But if an ill-informed or indifferent citizen is a menace to our national safety, so, too, is a soldier who neither knows nor cares why he is in arms.

The ABCA set out its argument for existence then on three key principles:

(a) The soldier who understands the cause for which he fights is likely to be a more reliable soldier than the one who doesn’t.

(b) Many soldiers have no such understanding, and many others are losing touch with the sources of knowledge and information they used to possess.

(c) It is the business of the army to make good this deficiency of knowledge, and therefore to devise what means are possible to keep men abreast of current affairs.

The army decided to set up the ABCA to assist officers in giving weekly talks to their men on current affairs. These sessions were to last around an hour and were designed to stimulate debate between the men to get them to think and question current affairs. ABCA sent officers a handbook to guide them on how to run the training sessions:imageThey were advised to make the groups small, to use visual aids wherever possible, to choose warm and comfortable conditions in which to run the talks and to ensure they were well publicised. The handbook provided some illustrations of teaching in action to inspire the officer:SKM_C30819021108300SKM_C30819021108301SKM_C30819021108301 - CopySKM_C30819021108310Alongside this emphasis on the officer, the ABCA also published short informational pamphlets including titles on new science such as Atomic Energy, politics such as Trades Unionism and history:imageFurther pamphlets were also issued covering aspects of the war itself, such as this one covering the Battle of Arnhem:imageThe ABCA was seen by many as being very left wing in outlook and those teaching and taking the classes were predominantly interested in areas of Social Justice. Churchill was opposed to the work of the ABCA as he felt it was a waste of soldiers’ time. It has been argued that part of Labour’s victory in the 1945 General Election was due to the ‘khaki vote’ which was largely driven by the work of the ABCA, something vociferously denied by the army at the time.

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