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Churchill contains:
<-- See earlier
CHTY Commemorative issues of magazines and newspapers 1897, 1953, 1965 and various
CHWL Chartwell Manuscripts
CKFT The Papers of Sir John Cockcroft
CKFT AS Cockcroft Associated Material
CLBK The Papers of Major General Richard Clutterbuck
CLKE The Papers of William F Clarke
CLNS The Papers of Joseph Collins
CLRK The Papers of Sir Richard (Otto) Clarke
CLSN The papers of Hugh Clausen
CLVL The Papers of Sir John Colville
CNDN The Papers of Con Condren
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The Papers of William F Clarke

Title The Papers of William F Clarke
Reference GBR/0014/CLKE
Creator Clarke, William Francis, 1883-1961, Intelligence Officer
Covering Dates 1914–1959
Extent and Medium 3 files
Repository Churchill Archives Centre
Content and context

William Clarke was born on 22 May 1883, the son of the solicitor-general Sir Edward George Clarke and his wife, Kathleen Mathilda Bryant. He was the youngest of three children and the only child of his father's second marriage. Educated at Harrow School and Magdalen College, Oxford (1902-5), Clarke was called to the bar in 1906. On 31 July 1907 he married Dorothy Mainland: they had one son and two daughters.

When war broke out, Clarke left the law for the Navy. In February 1915 he was commissioned as an assistant paymaster (later promoted to paymaster lieutenant-commander). Then in early 1916 the director of naval intelligence, Captain [William] Reginald Hall, recruited him into the new code-breaking unit Room 40. Clarke was particularly good at analysing information, and together with his colleague Frank Birch, he was selected to write a history of Room 40. However, due to Clarke's rather outspoken approach, the history was never published.

In 1919 Clarke joined the Government Code and Cypher School (GCCS), the successor to Room 40 and its War Office counterpart. In 1924 he made a return to more specifically naval work when he was promoted to head the new naval section within the GCCS, a post which Clarke retained until 1941. The GCCS moved to Bletchley Park during the Second World War and Clarke had an important role in the successful decryption of the German and Italian (Enigma) machine codes, particularly devoting himself to Italian naval codes, 1939-40. He retired after the war in October 1945 and died on 5 February 1961.

The papers relate to the setting up of Room 40 and the Naval Intelligence's code-breaking activities in the First World War and to Clarke's service in the Government Code and Cypher School from 1922 to 1945.

This small collection was given to Churchill College Archives Centre in September 1980 by Judge Edward Clarke, QC, the son of William F. Clarke, through the good offices of Patrick Beesly.

The papers are owned by Churchill College.

Access and Use

The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge. Churchill Archives Centre is open from Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. A prior appointment and two forms of identification are required.

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.

Please cite as Churchill Archives Centre, The Papers of William F Clarke, CLKE

Further information

Further papers of William Clarke are held by the National Archives in series HW3, Government Code and Cypher School and predecessors, 1914-1945.

A copy of this finding aid is available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, the National Register of Archives, London and on the Janus website, http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/.

This finding aid was adapted by Katharine Thomson of Churchill Archives Centre in February 2005 from an existing catalogue. Biographical information was taken from Joseph A. Maiolo's essay, 'Clarke, William Francis (1883-1961)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.

Index Terms
Clarke, William Francis (1883-1961) Intelligence Officer
Royal Navy
Churchill/CLKE contains:
1 Remarks on the question of supplying fuller information to the Commander-in-Chief. Draft memorandum by Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Oliver [Chief of Admiralty War Staff] on the importance of keeping Britain's possession of the German naval codes secret, suggesting that a daily summary of information from German intercepts be given to the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet [Admiral Sir John Jellicoe] in person, rather than risk using the telegraph. Also includes: a covering note from Oliver to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Arthur Balfour, suggesting that a letter from him on the subject would carry more weight; a rough draft of the resulting letter by Oliver, annotated by Balfour; and the finished copy of Balfour's letter to Jellicoe.
1 file.
08 Nov 1916–14 Nov 1916
2 The original Charter of Room 40. Draft minute drawn up by [Edward Marsh, Private Secretary to Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty] and annotated by Churchill and [?] Admiral of the Fleet 1st Lord Fisher [1st Sea Lord] drawing up the system for continuous monitoring and analysis of de-coded German signals, with memorandum from the director of naval intelligence, Captain [William] Reginald Hall, to Vice-Admiral Henry Oliver, Chief of Admiralty War Staff, adding his proposals.
1 file.
08 Nov 1914–09 Nov 1914
3 History of Room 40 and the Government Code and Cypher School. Includes: draft typescript of the history, with a list of documents used by Clarke, with notes on individuals mentioned in the history, Admiralty dockets relating to the Battle of Jutland and publications about Jutland; letter from Sir [James] Alfred Ewing [formerly in charge of the Admiralty department dealing with enemy cipher] agreeing to join a club for former Room 40 members.
1 file.
Feb 1925-Mar 1959

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