A series of intelligence handbooks produced during the First World War had proved valuable both during the conflict and as subsequent reference sources. Early in the Second World War the Director of Naval Intelligence ordered the preparation of a new and improved series to meet the requirements of the day.
The Handbooks were designed to provide, in the words of the Preface, ´for the use of Commanding Officers, information in a comprehensive and convenient form about countries which they may be called upon to visit, not only in war but in peace-time; secondly, to maintain the high standard of education in the Navy and, by supplying officers with material for lectures ... to ensure for all ranks that visits to a new country shall be both interesting and profitable.´
Authorship of the Handbooks
A sub-centre of the Naval Intelligence Division was established at Oxford to recruit contributors of the first quality. It was directed by the Professor of Geography, Lieutenant-Colonel (later Sir) K. Mason who had, after first war service in Mesopotamia and Persia, spent many years in the Survey of India. He himself wrote much of the volume on Iraq and the Persian Gulf. The principal author of the volume Western Arabia and the Red Sea was Dr Hugh Scott of the Natural History Museum, whose book on the Yemen published in 1942 was by far the best available. The volume on Syria was written mainly by J. W. Crowfoot, who had been Director of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem and, as a pupil of D. G. Hogarth, the great archaeologist-cum-intelligence officer of the first two decades of the century, had been a colleague of T. E. Lawrence and Leonard Woolley. The main contributor to the volume on Persia was Dr J. V. Harrison, formerly the geologist of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, who made a name as an explorer in little-known parts of Iran and Borneo. Palestine and Transjordan was largely the work of A. H. Hyamson, late Director of Immigration, Palestine, and author of several scholarly books.
Not all the contributors were academics and information was collected from many other sources. The Western Arabia volume acknowledges the assistance of St John Philby, while photographs were forthcoming from such explorers as Sir Claremont Skrine, Bertram Thomas, Gertrude Bell and Freya Stark, as well as such organisations as the Royal Air Force, the Royal Geographical Society and the Palestine Exploration Society.
ARRANGEMENT OF VOLUMES