Current Affairs: A Background Bulletin

Keeping serving soldiers informed during the Second World War

31st August 2018

How could you keep troops serving abroad abreast of current affairs during the Second World War?

These six ‘Current Affairs: A Background Bulletin’ pamphlets, published by the Army Bureau of Current Affairs (ABCA), aimed to answer that particular question. The ABCA was set up in 1941 by William Emrys Williams. Bulletin No. 7, 20th December 1941, claims that “one of ABCA’s functions is to give the troops a chance to know and consider the important events of the day.” Williams wished to educated Servicemen and Servicewomen in order to raise morale ­- though the idea was initially met with resistance for being a poor use of the military’s time.

Current affairs brochure smallThe Archive has six of the first seven ABCA pamphlets, dating from 27th September 1941 to 20th December 1941, though unfortunately we are missing Number 4, 8th November 1941. Each pamphlet was based on a discussion, breaking down such themes as ‘America’s Part in the War’, ‘Oil and the War’ and ‘Our Ally Russia’ into easily digestible chapters. The final ‘From Day to Day’ section included a commentary of the progress of the war and global events, with brief reports on battles and recent sinkings of both allied and enemy ships. The text is a curious mix of education and propaganda.

Officers were to attend short courses and advised to prepare their fifty minute talks by listening carefully to the wireless or reading newspapers. From pamphlet No. 2 onwards, the bulletins included lists of possible questions and skeleton answers for the officers. Suggestions for presentation style, pronunciation guides, reminders on how to prompt discussion, and the importance of including shy soldiers were regularly included.