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The Historical Archive of the Italian Istituto storico e di cultura dell’Arma del Genio

By Paolo FORMICONI, historian and military archivist

The Committee of Military Archives thanks Paolo Formiconi, as both historian and archivist, for the active participation to this blog


This Archive constitutes an anomaly within the Italian Army as it preserves and collects documents which, given their technical-operational character, would be destined for the Historical Archive of the Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito (Army General Staff).

This exception is the result of a long historical journey, a cultural vision that saw, at the beginning of the twentieth century, Italian engineering and architecture as one of the greatest values ​​of the newborn nation, therefore deserving of a particular status also in the military field.

In 1886 the director of the Military Engineers Corps of Rome, Luigi Durand de la Penne, decided to set up a Museum of weapons in Castel Sant’Angelo or Mole Adriana.

Picture 1. The Castel Sant’Angelo or Mole Adriana view.

Finally, he obtained the permission in 1901, but unfortunately the Museum had been established in Turin, in the Maschio della Cittadella.

It was decided to allocate the Mole Adriana to house the Museum of Italian military architecture, later opened in 1906. From all over Italy, plastics, drawings had been collected in Rome together with documents taken from the State Archives of the pre-unification States.

From the archival point of view the project was very questionable but conceived in the positivist climate of the time, with the idea to collect a summa of the centuries-old Italian engineering culture.

Moved in 1911 to the barracks of Urban VIII, the Institute was renameds Historical Museum of Military Engineers. The royal decree dated 2 May 1911 provided the legal framework to host the “collection” of documents and relics.

With the demolition of the barracks, the museum was moved in 1933 to the Piave barracks.

In 1927 the new-born Institute of Military Architecture was placed in the Museum, to which the work of bibliographic and iconographic collection of “what referred to that architecture […] was transferred in order to constitute a worthy cultural monument to this branch of science and activities of our fathers”.

Picture 2. The view of the Institute as it was conceived.

With the merge of the Museum and the Institute in 1934, the new Statute (royal decree 4 July 1934) provided the mission to collect and store all the documents related to the history of the Engineers corps, the military architecture and military architects. In 1937 it was decided to establish a new worthy site on the Lungotevere whose completion, expected in 1940, will be postponed and then finished with haste and economy of materials during the war.

Did the function assumed by the museum conflict with the role of the Historical Archive of the Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito? It depends by the point of view.

No, if we consider the Museum as a document collector, or rather as a conservation of documents, comparable to the finds of a museum or the volumes of a library.

Yes, if you consider it as the Institute to which the Engineer Corps and Engineer departments of the Army must transfer their archivesThis ambiguity is still half defined.

Closed from 1943 to 1953, the Museum currently is open to the public upon reservation and the archive as well. Since the post-war period it has experienced moments of activity as bookbinding, plastic preparation and disinfection laboratories.

Currently there is no reordering and inventory work. Based on a summary census of 2005 it can be said that most of the documentation, in addition to that produced by the Museum itself, was transferredby the Director General of the Engineers and by the Inspector of the Engineers Corps.

Documentation continues to be transferred by the Military Engineers Corps and units.

Picture 3. An internal view of the main area of the Institute.

The Historical Diaries of the departments of the Engineer Corps are at the Archivio dellUfficio Storico dello Stato Maggiore dell’Esercito (Historical Branch Archive of the Army General Staff) – Black Series: First World War 954 packs of General inspection of the Engineers corps, General Command of the Engineers, Engineers Command of the armies (1908-26); – Red Series: World War II 415 registers of the Inspection of Engineers Corps and SME Offices I, Operations and Transmissions (1917 -48); – Ethiopian War – 8 Inspections envelopes of the Engineers Corps (1934-1938); – Iconographic Archive: computerized, it includes the Archive of fortification drawings (1918-38). – Istituto Storico e di Cultura dell’Arma del Genio; – Museo del Genio; – Consiglio Superiore del Genio Militare; – Comitato del Genio Militare; – Comitato d’Artiglieria; – Comitato di Artiglieria e Genio; – Ispettorato generale del Genio.

Really interesting are the documents related to the studies and researches submitted to the evaluation of the Engineers corps command, like the radar prototype; documents signed by Paolo Caccia Dominioni (architect, engineer, spy, writer, artist); iconographic items (plans, drawings, photographs) from the Renaissance to the Cold War.

Picture 4. the view of some documents stored in the Institute.


The most remarkable element for the ISCAG structure is the peculiar nature of his archive. It grew up as a part of a cultural institute instead of being preserved as an Archive.

The Archival richness of the institute provides a clear understanding of the idea to create an archive specialised in military technology, differing from the Army General Staff archives focused on the technical-operative perspective of documents stored.

It represents exception in the Italian law. Despite this, the archival science remains an empiric discipline and exception must be considered

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The Portuguese Army Archives System

By Colonel Carlos Alberto Borges Fonseca, Secretário-Geral da Comissão Portuguesa de História Militar and Assessor no Instituto da Defesa Nacional

The Committee of Military Archives thanks our colleague Carlos Alberto Borges Fonseca for his committment and his participation to this project after the 2021 CAM meeting.

1. Introduction

The need to control the growth of documentation produced by the Army services determined the need to define and standardise the documental series and assign them their final destination.

The Law 121/92 established the principles for managing documents produced and received by the public administration. The General Archives System and Archive Heritage sought to rationalise the life cycle of documents, controlling their growth in numbers and minimising the costs of their conservation.

New legislation within the framework of the Basic Law of National Archives was needed, which would define the life cycle of Army documents through a Selection Table and an Archival Conservation Regulation to control documents from their production to its final destination.

The elaboration of this draft regulation necessary for the archival conservation of the Army and the respective selection table was the main task of the Army Archives Working Group (GTAE).

The GTAE was appointed with the objective of studying the application of adequate norms for the management of archival documents and proposing guidelines for the elaboration of the Army Archival Conservation Regulation (RCAE) in order to regulate document management operations in their evaluation, selection, transfers and disposal phases.

Picture 1. Law n. 121/91

A diagnosis of the Army archives enabled the knowledge and assessment of the archival reality. On the other hand the consequent characterisation of the situations experienced allowed the definition of objectives and the design of strategies for the level of the archive system and the presentation of proposals in order to preserve the Army’s documentary heritage. These strategies included:

– The development of an urgent action in order to prevent the dispersion and destruction of files and documents, namely those of the former overseas provinces, those related to the 25th of April/Movement of the Armed Forces, with those of Military Units that were extinguished or transferred, through the survey and identification of documentation;

– The standardisation of archival procedures;

– The definition of forms of accessibility to documents, with special interest for documents with security classification, taking into account the procedures in force, as well as the application of security standards;

– The awareness of the various Army services about the importance and the need to preserve documents of a historical nature in order to preserve the historical-cultural memory of the institution;

– The intensification of cooperation between the primary archives, the General Archive of the Army (ArqGEx) and the Military Historical Archive (AHM);

– The publication of the RCAE, through a proposal from the GTAE, in order to regulate document management operations in their aspects of evaluation, selection, transfer and elimination;

– The correct and timely working of the documentary circuits, transferring the documentation to ArqGEx and from there to the AHM, according to the administrative and historical value of the documents;

– The study of the problem of documentary reproduction (microfilming, digitisation, etc.), especially historical documentation, in order not only to avoid the handling of the originals and their consequent deterioration, but also to allow the decentralisation of their storage;

– The elaboration of permanent execution rules for the working of the document management system, with regard to the evaluation, selection, classification, transfer and incorporation of archival fonds.

2. Elements of the Army file system

The AHM was created in 1911 following the reform of the Army but it was not until 1964 that the Army’s archive system was established with the approval of the provisional regulation of ArqGEx. The Army started to have its own organ with archival competence and three types of archive to which the different phases of the so-called life cycle of documents correspond.

Currently, the Army Archives System consists of three levels, classified according to the value of the documents and their frequency of use:

– Current Files of Units/Establishments/Organs (U/E/O);

– General Archive of the Army;

– Military Historical Archive

a. Current Files of Units/Establisments

The Current Army Archives of the U/E/O hold the documentation that is in current use or available for consultation as they are of major importance for current administrative practice.

They comprise the set of archives in use in the different areas (sections, divisions, etc.) and the primary archive of the respective unit.

They depend on the command of the unit to which they belong in accordance with the provisions of the  General Regulation of Service in Army Units (RGSUE).

b. Army General Archives

The Current Army Archives of the U/E/O hold the documentation that is in current use or available for consultation as they are of major importance for current administrative practice.

They comprise the set of archives in use in the different areas (sections, divisions, etc.) and the primary archive of the respective unit.

They depend on the command of the unit to which they belong in accordance with the provisions of the  General Regulation of Service in Army Units (RGSUE).

Picture 2. Army General Archive
c. Military Historical Archive

The AHM working as definitive archive holds the documentation that has lost its administrative character and has gained informative and historical value therefore receiving a permanent conservation status (inactive phase).

In this context, it should be understood as the archival entity with competence to carry out the custody, treatment and preservation of all Army related historical valued documents.

Picture 3. Military Historical Archive – old building

3. Documental circuit

The documental circuit is ensured by sending documents from the primary archives to the intermediate archive and from there to the definitive archive, as established by the general rules of public administration and by the specific rules of the Army.

The remittances of documents from the primary archives of the U/E/O to ArqGEx and from there to the AHM make it possible to rationalise the spaces and use of the Army archives and keep the documentary circuits in operation with a view to preserving documentation of historical and informative value.

This circuit was interrupted until 1995 due to the lack of effectiveness of the regulatory norms. Back then the option was to expand the ArqGEx facilities, both due to pressure from the U/E/O that intended to deliver their files, and as a result of of general restructurings that implied the extinction or alterations of the U/E/O. The lack of space and the impossibility of ArqGEx receiving documentation caused the destruction of many document fonds at the military units level, without any intervention at a higher level, thus losing essential testimonies of the historical memory of the Army.

In order to overcome this situation, the final decision in terms of the destination to be given to the documentation, from 1995 onwards, came under the competence of the Document Classification Commission (CCD), which ensures the Army’s document management.

Based on this principle, remittances can only be made by decision of the CCD according to priorities previously determined or according to a plan prepared by the CCD itself and provided that they respect the Army’s document circuit.

Document fonds, although subject to screening at the three levels of archival, maintain, whenever they are transferred, their original organisation, normally based on the producer U/E/O classifier.

Picture 4. Law 107/2001
a. Remittances to the General Archive of the Army

It is up to each U/E/O to prepare an annual plan for sending documents to ArqGEx that after the administrative retention period are no longer in everyday use, but which may be considered occasionally due to their administrative interest.

Each U/E/O must send to ArqGEx, for approval by the CCD, a list of documents by installation units (packs, boxes, books, etc.) that they propose for disposal (from the point of view of U/E/O with no administrative value within its scope), after the administrative retention periods set out in the Selection Table. The original classifiers, recovery instruments developed by the producing administrations, must accompany the document lists. According to the needs, the CCD, together with ArqGEx, can elaborate particular complementary provisions for the elaboration of these backlogs.

Picture 5. Army General Archive

Remittances to ArqGEx imply the transfer of ownership of documents from the U/E/O to this Archive, although the transport of the documentation to the receiving service is the responsibility of the sending unit.

The ArqGEx, as an intermediate archive, must establish the frequency of shipments, without prejudice to the conservation periods established in the selection table.

b. Remittances to the Military Historical Archive

When documents acquire a secondary value, translated into their historical interest, that is, whose archival value justifies their permanent conservation, they are finally sent by ArqGEx to AHM. Sometimes, though rarely, there may be direct transfers from the primary archives to the historical archive.

These remittances are made, by way of incorporation, by mutual agreement between the ArqGEx and the AHM. Complementary control and reference instruments such as classifiers, auxiliary files, indexes, etc., which have allowed the retrieval of information in the current U/E/O file or even in the intermediate file, must also be sent to the AHM, accompanying the corresponding documentation.

The incorporation of documents, in addition to their transport and deposit in the archive, also means an official change in the title of ownership and custody of the documentation on a definitive basis. The receiving archive having now full jurisdiction over these documents. However, there may be some exceptions, in the case of documentation sent as a simple deposit, which does not imply a change of custody, in which case there must be an agreement between the two parties on the conditions that the documentation needs to be available to the public and the date from which the documents may be communicated must be clearly specified.

Picture 6. Military Historical Archive – old building
c. Special documentation Shipments

The transfer of documents with security classification complies with specific regulations established in specific legislation.

All classified documents older than 5 years and not of interest to the U/E/O but of historical interest must be proposed for transfer to ArqGEx or AHM.

However and whenever possible, these documents must be declassified by the producing entity, before being sent to ArqGEx or AHM. In the case of mixed consignments, classified and unclassified documents, the respective classification grades must be marked at the installation units and proceed in accordance with the corresponding standards.

The documentation of extinct units in the possession of current units, must be transferred to the ArqGEx without any selection and accompanied by a list by installation units. This list must indicate the installation units (boxes, bundles, folders, etc.) that contain classified documentation and the respective degrees of security classification, proceeding in accordance with the specific standards.

From the transfer of documentation related to former overseas provinces and mobilised units or over 20 years old, documents in which their administrative conservation is governed by specific rules, namely individual, clinical, criminal or financial processes, are excluded.

The files useful to the activity of the heir or depositary unit can be kept on file, in which case ArqGEx must be informed.

Picture 7. Law 16/93
d. Remittance formalities

Any shipment of documents from the primary files of the U/E/O to ArqGEx, and from there to the AHM must be accompanied by a Delivery Notice and a Delivery Note.

e. Deletion of documents

Deletion is the operation by which documents with no secondary value are destroyed, after the statute of limitations for administrative conservation established in the Selection Table. Performed at the level of the primary files of the U/E/O, it is the responsibility of the person responsible for the service holding the documents, after approval by the CCD.

Whenever it is intended to eliminate documentation that is not included in the aforementioned Selection Table, the CCD must proceed with the preparation of an evaluation report that it will submit to the appreciation of the National Archives Institut/ Torre do Tombo as the coordinating body of the national policy of files.

The disposal of documents with security classification must take into account the security conditions established in specific legislation, except if it is a single copy, autographed copy or copy no. as soon as convenient, all classified documents replaced or not necessary, provided that their historical value is not recognised. Installation units with classified documents, included in the list of documents proposed for disposal, must have the respective classification grades marked.

Disposal must be done through a system that makes it impossible to reconstitute documents, namely destruction or maceration followed by sale and incineration, in accordance with criteria of rationality, confidentiality, means and costs.

The elimination of documents is done according to the Selection Table according to the administrative retention periods and the final destination assigned to each document series.

At the beginning of each year, the existing documentation in the unit’s primary file, which may be deleted, must be analysed. Each U/E/O will send a list of the documents it proposes for elimination after the expiration of the conservation periods, to ArqGEx, which will present it to the CCD for consideration. After authorisation, the documentation must be destroyed by the primary archives under the guidance of the referred commission. Destruction of documents that are not included in the Selection Table or without the authorisation of the CCD is prohibited.

The elimination of documents must be registered in a Notice of Elimination that will provide legal proof of asset write-off.

This record must be accompanied by a list containing the eliminated archival units, which makes it possible to subsequently constitute the so-called “Ideal Inventory”, i.e. the joint inventory of the preserved and eliminated documentation.

Picture 8. Law 447/88

4. Army File System Control Elements

a. U/E/O Document Review Committees

The directive “Provisional Standardisation on the Preservation of Military Documentation” corrected some of the procedures of the Permanent Enforcement Norms (NEPs) of the former Office of Documentation, Libraries and Archives, preventing the elimination of any documentation at U/E/O level without that there was a prior appraisal of the document lists, by the CCD, at the request of the units. This directive was then generally integrated into the RCAE and the NEPs of the Archives. These should continue to nominate, annually, a commission to proceed with the analysis of all the documentation existing in the respective archive, drawing up a list of the one proposed for destruction, as its administrative and administrative value has expired, within the scope of the U/E/O. technician.

For the transfer of existing military documentation in the U/E/O, attention should be paid to the provisions of the aforementioned directive, which prevented any destruction of documents before the procedures recommended therein were carried out.

According to this directive, all U/E/O must transfer to ArqGEx, accompanied by a list of installation units (packs, boxes, books, etc.), all documentation belonging to extinct U/E/O and deposited in current U/E/O, related to former overseas provinces and mobilised units and over 20 years old, not currently used by U/E/O.

Picture 9. Military Historical Archive – new building

Files of extinct units whose heir, depositary or continuator U/E/O considered useful for their own activity were excluded; and documentation whose administrative conservation was regulated by specific rules, namely individual, clinical, criminal and financial processes, in which case ArqGEx must be informed.

In accordance with the RCAE and the Rules for Permanent Execution of the Army Archives, the Documentation Analysis Commission is appointed at the beginning of each year, in a Service Order, consisting of 3 elements: Head of the Secretariat, Department of Expedient and Archive or equivalent body, and two people familiar with the handling of documentation, in order to proceed with the analysis of the existing documentation in the primary archive, drawing up a list of what it proposes to the CCD, operating at ArqGEx, to disposal, after the administrative retention periods have expired.

All documentation accumulated (produced and received) by the U/E/O must be analysed and the security officer must support the CCD with regard to security classified documentation. The Document List must be structured based on the file classifier of the U/E/O, and the installation units (boxes, folders, packets, etc.) must be numbered according to this structure. After being approved by the Commander or Director of the U/E/O, the list of documents is sent together with a copy of the classifier to ArqGEx, which will present it to the CCD for consideration in order to decide on the possible historical value of the documentation contained in the backlog.

By indication of ArqGEx, the U/E/O will exclude from elimination the documents selected by the CCD to transfer, awaiting indication of the ArqGEx to carry out their transfer.

The remittance or transport of the documentation to ArqGEx is the responsibility of the U/E/O sender, and a Delivery Note attached to the Delivery Notice must be prepared for identification and control of the documentation sent. The remaining documentation will be destroyed at the U/E/O, and a duplicate elimination notice will be prepared. The original will remain at the U/E/O and the duplicate will be sent to the CCD, which will send it to the National Archives Institute/Torre do Tombo (IAN/TT).

Picture 10. Military Historical Archive – new building
b. Document Classification Commission

The CCD coordinates the operation of the Army’s file system through document evaluation and selection operations, both of which are its sole responsibility.

Through the evaluation of the documentation, this CCD determines the archival (primary) and/or historical (secondary) value in order to establish the administrative conservation periods and determine the final destination of the documentation (deletion or permanent conservation). The transfer and elimination of archival documents proposed by the U/E/O can only be carried out by the U/E/O after the authorisation of the CCD.

Initially its action was defined in the Regulation of the General Archive of the Army, being later regulated by the Directive of “Provisional Standardisation on the Preservation of Military Documentation”, and finally by the RCAE.

In accordance with ArqGEx’s regulations, it is responsible for examining and classifying all documents, classifying them as useful and useless and proposing the destruction of the latter; classify useful documents into historical and administrative interest, proposing the delivery of the former to the AHM after a deadline to be established, sub-classify the latter and send them to the respective sections; specify from among the documents of administrative interest those that have potential historical value, allocating archiving time to them; and collaborate with the U/E/O primary archives.

Within the scope of the RCAE, the CCD is responsible for coordinating the operation of the Army archives; to prepare the internal regulation of document management; and monitor compliance with the rules in force within the scope of the file system.

In order to carry out the functions of classifying and evaluating documents, this commission is assisted by an AHM delegate, and this representative is responsible for definitively deciding on cases of classification in which there is disagreement with the other members.

Picture 11. Military Historical Archive. new building

5. Selection Table

Since the evaluation, while determining the primary and secondary value of the documentation, is based on the documentary series, constituted by archival units of the same fund whose aggregation was determined by the needs of the service, taking into account criteria of administrative or other rationality, the GTAE built a Selection Table organised by functional areas, to be adopted by the current files of the U/E/O, to which reference numbers were assigned.

For the elaboration of the draft regulation, the following steps were necessary:

– Survey of Army documentary series based on unit classifiers, interviews with those responsible for U/E/O files, legislation study, etc.;

– Assignment of administrative conservation periods and final destination of the documentary series that make up the selection table;

– Development of a database to support the Selection Table design;

– Introduction of documentary series in the database;

– Preparation of the index of the documentary series, entered in the Selection Table, as an auxiliary tool for information retrieval;

– Elaboration of the text of the ordinance project composed by the RCAE.

The project proposal was submitted for consideration by the U/E/O, in order to consider criticisms, opinions and suggestions for the timely planning of possible changes.

The organisation of the series in functional areas to the detriment of the organic-functional areas was related to the fact that the Army is an extremely complex institution since it is composed of numerous units, bodies and establishments, each with its specific organic structure.

The reference number consists of two fields, the first corresponds to the functional area and the second to the alphabetical order of the series, however the Selection Table should not be used as a document classifier.

In each functional area, the documentary series, ordered alphabetically, were numbered with a minimum of 4 digits and spaced out to safeguard the eventual entry of new document series, thus allowing the continuation of the alphabetical order. Whenever a series is composed of documents of a particular type (eg invoices) it can be processed in batches on a half-yearly or annual basis.

The Selection Table indicates, for each document series, the minimum periods of administrative conservation of the documentation, in years, related to the interests of the services themselves and with the tax deadlines and legal obligations that the law defines. This minimum term must be understood as the minimum time of permanence in the primary archives of the U/E/O. The table applies, in principle, to documents issued by the issuing body (originals), namely to single copies or, in the case of multiple documents, to the autographed copy or to copy no. 1.

The documents must be kept in the files of the U/E/O according to the minimum periods indicated in the Selection Table, attached to the RCAE. Documents whose conservation is determined by special regulations, in the case of documents with a security classification, are subject to the provisions of the respective regulations. Any documentary series not included in the Selection Table is considered permanent conservation until the respective conservation period is defined.

Once the administrative retention periods have been indicated, the final destination to be given to the documentation was established: elimination or permanent conservation, with the consequent entry into the documentation transfer circuit, based on its remaining administrative, historical-cultural or other interest. Documentation with reduced fees for administrative use, and in accordance with what is stipulated in the selection table, must be sent to an intermediate file, in order to rationalise the use of current U/E/O files.

The indication of the final destination must be understood as a rule, although the CCD may decide on a case-by-case basis, establishing its own criteria. In this way and in accordance with the ordinance, the U/E/O are always obliged to make proposals for the elimination or transfer of documents or archival funds to the CCD, since this commission, operating at ArqGEx, is the coordinating body of the Army Archives System, being responsible for the decisions regarding the application of the table and document transfers.

It is, therefore, the responsibility of the CCD to verify the application of the Selection Table, especially in terms of series that are no longer of current use, which presupposes the regular examination of conservation plans, in order to identify the documents that should be deleted or transferred to ArqGEx.

The remarks field appears to explain some references.

This draft legislation containing the RCAE and its Selection Table, was submitted to the National Archives Institute/Torre do Tombo as the management body of the national archival policy, and approved by the Ministers of National Defence and Culture on 22 May 2000.

The entry into force of this table introduced some innovations in terms of conservation and selection of documentation as well as in the circuit of periodic transfers of archives from the U/E/O to ArqGEx and from this to the AHM, allowing the standardisation of archival procedures at the level of Army.

The Selection Table must be subject to periodic reviews in order to adapt it to possible changes in the documental production and in the archival structure that organizes it. Table changes or revisions of selection, introduction of new documentary series, change of deadlines, etc., are prepared by the CCD, based on proposals from the Army’s U/E/O. These proposed changes must be communicated to the CCD, mentioning the following: name of the department or service that proposes the change; recommended changes, inclusion or deletion of certain measures, namely at the level of series, retention periods, etc.; explanation and justification of proposed changes; signature of the person proposing the change and authorising it; proposal date. In turn, the CCD must send the final proposal for revising the Selection Table to the National Archives Institute/Torre do Tombo.

Picture 12. Law 272/2000

6. Conclusions.

The RCAE made it possible to regulate the functioning of the Army Archives System, in its current, intermediate and final phases; ensure the conservation and remittance of permanent conservation documentation to the definitive archive; promote the elimination of documentation with no secondary value, after the administrative retention periods have expired; guide and support the classification of documents; regulate the replacement of supports and the accessibility and communicability of documents.

The practical results of the entry into force of this regulation will promote a reduction in the volume of documents to be read and the information to be retrieved; to save space by removing documents that lose their current usefulness, as it avoids the use of additional locations and equipment; effective document control; and identification of documents that must be preserved according to their archival value.

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Declassification procedures in different countries: food for thought


The Committee of Military Archives thanks Kathleen Van Acker, our Secretary General, for her great committment and active participation to this blog


One of the most discussed topics during our annual conferences is dealing with classified archives. Military archivists deal with these kind of archives on a daily base; we all have similar but also different legislations and directives. So we decided to give an overview of what we found online and what we learned during our discussions.

This summary doesn’t pretend to be complete, on the contrary, like mentioned above, it was mostly an online search and we had to deal with language barriers. It is an invitation for colleagues and researchers to add their information about declassifying procedures, the changes in legislation, etc… So please go ahead and comment in the comments section and send an e-mail to We will adapt this list on a regular base.






  • The Army History Directorate:
    • in 2020 all classified documents of the Directorate’s archive issued by Army institutions until 1955 were declassified
    • access to the more recent ones and those not issued by the Army still remain restricted








  • Thirty year rule”: all governmental records are released after 30 year (now 20 year)
  • Exemptions: Intelligence services have a “blanket approval” given by the Lord Chancellor to keep their records as long as they are classified, in order to protect national security.
  • More information: 


  • Declassification after 25 years after creation of the document.
  • Exemptions:
    • reveal the identity of a confidential human source, a human intelligence source, a relationship with an intelligence or security service of a foreign government or international organization, or a non-human intelligence source; or impair the effectiveness of an intelligence method currently in use, available for use, or under development;
    • 25X2 – reveal information that would assist in the development, production, or use of weapons 25X1 of mass destruction;
    • 25X3 – reveal information that would impair U.S. cryptologic systems or activities;
    • 25X4 – reveal information that would impair the application of state-of-the-art technology within a US weapon system;
    • 25X5 – reveal formally named or numbered U.S. military war plans that remain in effect, or reveal operational or tactical elements of prior plans that are contained in such active plans;
    • 25X6 – reveal information including foreign government information, that would cause serious harm to relations between the U.S. and a foreign government, or to ongoing diplomatic activities of the U.S;
    • 25X7 – reveal information that would impair the current ability of U.S. government officials to protect the President, Vice President, and other protectees for whom protection services, in the interest of national security, are authorized;
    • 25X8 – reveal information that would seriously impair current national security emergency preparedness plans or reveal current vulnerabilities of systems, installations, or infrastructures relating to the national security;
    • 25X9 – violate a statute, treaty, or international agreement that does not permit the automatic or unilateral declassification of information at 25 years.
  • More information:

military archives


The evolution of the military archival system


The Committee of Military Archives thanks Marius Cornelius Crotoru, our Romanian delegate within the CAM, for his committment and his contribution to this initiative

The reorganization of the Romanian Army, started in the 1830s, took place in the conditions of an ample effort of socio-economic regeneration of the society, of affirmation of the national ideal. The experience gained during the revolution of 1821, after which, a year later, he returned to earthly reigns, was an important source of education for the socio-political forces that initiated the process of building the military institution on a new, modern basis.

            The first regulations regarding the archives in Romania appeared starting with the Organic Regulation of 1831, implemented on May 1, 1831 in Wallachia and on January 1, 1832 in Moldavia.

            The organization of the Romanian Army after the Union of the Principalities from 1859 and the establishment of the General Staff on November 12/24 in the same year, by the High Order no. 83, determined the appearance of a structure that had the same attributions (of course adapted to the organizational needs determined by the socio-historical realities) with those of the Romanian National Military Archives, today.

            Throughout its existence, the Romanian National Military Archives bore the following names: Section II Historical Works (1867; 1870 – 1893), Office 3 Historic (1893 – 1896; 1897 – 1904), Office 1 (1896 – 1897 ), Office 4 (1904 – 1906), Office 3 History (1906 – 1907; 1918 – 1920), Office 6 Information (1907 – 1918), Section VI History (April 1, 1920 – 1922), Section VIII- of History (1922 – 1927), Section VII of History (1927 – January 30, 1928), Historical Service (January 30, 1928 – March 18, 1949), Section XI of History (March 18, 1949 – August 1, 1950), Section of History ( August 1, 1950 – April 1, 1959), Military History and Geography Section (April 1, 1959 – May 16, 1962), Historical Studies Section (May 16, 1962 – October 11, 1969), Military Archives Section (October 11, 1969 – April 1, 1973), Archives of the Ministry of National Defense (April 1, 1973 – January 25, 1984), Archives Section (January 24, 1984 – March 1, 1998), Romanian Military Archives (March 1, 1998 – December 1, 2000), Service July Military Archives and Documentation (April 1, 2002 – May 1, 2006), Army Historical Service (May 1, 2006 – July 31, 2017), Romanian National Military Archives (August 1, 2017 – present).             On March 17, 1867, by High Decree 380, within the Ministry of War, the General War Depot was established, as an independent directorate, composed of Section I – Map of Romania. Interior topographic works and Section II – Historical works. Military statistics and regimental works. The new structure had a very short existence, being abolished by the High Decree no. 1163 of August 11, 1867.

In 1870, by the High Decree no. 181 of February 3, King Carol I approved the “Regulations on the Service of Staff Officers”, which also provided for the re-establishment of the War Depot. According to art. 68 of the regulation, Section II – Historical works and military statistics had the main duties of classifying and preserving the archives regarding war operations, gathering all the necessary documents for the military history of Romania and foreign powers, the history of the regiments since their creation, preserving the library and archive of the warehouse. A subsequent regulation was to establish, in detail, the manner in which the activity of the warehouse would be regulated.

            In the content of the “Staff Regulations”, approved by High Decree no. 158 of January 17, 1884, which maintained the division of the General Staff into three sections, within Section I is found as a separate attribution “the diary and the historian in time of peace and war.”

            In 1893, the General Staff became a senior directorate in the composition of the Ministry of War, in accordance with the new “Staff Regulations” (High Decree No. 1170 of April 13, 1891), in Section I, Office 3 having as duties and “Statistical Issues and History.” In 1896, the History of the General Staff appeared in Bureau 1 of Section I Organization, mobilization and training of the army, and in 1897 in Bureau 3.

            In 1904, the issue of drawing up the Campaign History appeared in the attributions of Sub-office B, Office 4 within Section II, entitled “Stages. Means of military correspondence and regulations. The history of the campaigns”, and starting with July 5, 1904, Office 6 within Section II also had as responsibilities“ Historical, geographical and statistical studies  Library. The editorial office of the magazine ”Romania militară” (Military Romania).

            In 1906, the History of the Campaigns is the responsibility of Office 3 of Section I, which, since 1907, has become the Bureau of History and Library, structured on the departments of Historical Studies and Statistics, Historical Reports. Library, Accounting of the ”Military Romania” Library and Barracks.             On May 1, 1918, during the reorganization process of the General Staff, through the Order no. 36, within the Second Section, the 3rd Historical Bureau was established. The main task of the Bureau was to draw up a “history of the 1916-1918 campaign”.

Picture 2: Order no. 36 of May 1, 1918

After the First World War, by High Decree no. 3179 of October 28, 1918, within the Section II History and Stages, in the structure of which is also the Bureau 3 Historic, later its organization undergoing numerous changes, given by the new regulations and needs of the army, inspired by the organization of similar structures in the French army.             An important moment is the date of July 26, 1920, when, in addition to the 6th Historical Section of the General Staff, there is a historical archive deposit at Mogoșoaia (the forerunner of the current Central Archive Depot in Pitești), in which, initially, were collected and preserved the documents created by the structures of the Romanian Army during the War of Integration from 1916-1919 (Service note no. 4 of June 24, 1920 of the Deputy Chief of the General Staff).

Picture 3: Fort Mogoșoaia

After January 30, 1928, the Historical Section took over the National Military Museum and the Central Archive Depot of the Ministry of War, becoming the Historical Service of the General Staff.

            In 1931, the General Archive of the Ministry of War was moved from Mogoşoaia to Obor, next to the General Print Depot, and in December 1939 to the Otopeni fort.

Picture 4: Fort Otopeni

In 1933 the Historical Service of the General Staff drew up the “Regulations of the Army Archives”. It was promulgated by Royal Decree no. 1830 of June 20, 1933 and published on July 10, 1933. The “Regulation of the Army Archives” was the first normative act regulating the archival activity in the Romanian Army. The regulation provided for the procedures for the storage and preservation of the army archives, as well as the rules for the organization and operation of the Archive Deposit of the Ministry of National Defense and the Archive Deposit of the General Staff – Historical Service. At the same time, this regulation provided for the establishment of seven regional archive repositories in addition to the seven territorial commands. The purpose of these repositories was to receive and preserve the archive of all military structures within the respective territorial army corps.

The evolution of the military operations in 1944 forced the Historical Service of the General Staff to adopt a series of measures for the security of the archives, by evacuating and dispersing them in localities without military and industrial importance. However, on the night of April 15/16, following the British aerial bombardment of the city of Drobeta-Turnu Severin, many files created between 1921 and 1944 were destroyed, which are kept by the Historical Service.

            After August 23, 1944, in the difficult circumstances of the Soviet occupation, the Historical Service was forced to hand over to the Allied Control Commission (Soviet) numerous valuable historical documents, such as the archives of the Head of State’s office or the archives of the Moldovan Democratic Republic. The Soviet occupier also requested all the logs of operations of the Romanian army between June 22, 1941 and August 23, 1944. Secretly, the military archivists proceeded to copy these logs of operations before handing them over to the Soviets.

            Starting with July 15, 1947, regional archive repositories are established, according to the new territorial organization by military regions, each military region corresponding to a warehouse, located in Timisoara, for Region I, Bucharest, for Region II, Floresti/Cluj, for Region III and Bârlad, for Region IV, as well as a Central Depot of the Ministry of National Defense in Otopeni. These repositories centralized the archives of the commands, units and formations on the respective territory, and the archive of units and formations directly subordinated to the Ministry of National Defense, as well as of the aeronautical and naval units, was handed over to the Archive Depot of the Ministry of National Defense.

            On September 20, 1947, with Order no. 892900, the General Staff ordered the sorting of the archive and the removal from the files and the destruction of fascist and/or anti-Soviet documents until December 31, 1947, with an extension period of March 31, 1948, on the commands, units, army formations.

            After the war, the Historical Service of the General Staff underwent a series of changes, becoming on March 18, 1949 Section 11 History, and on March 15, 1954, the Archives Section was established separately, soon becoming the Archives Office within Section 11 History. Starting with April 1, 1959, the History Department changed its name to the Military History and Geography Department, being subordinated to the new Directorate of Studies and Scientific Research, within the General Staff.

            After the Archive Depot of the Ministry of the Armed Forces was moved from Otopeni to Pantelimon in the autumn of 1958, between June 15 and December 31, 1960, the regional archive depots and the Archive Depot of the Ministry of the Armed Forces merged into a only unit, the Archive Depot of the Ministry of the Armed Forces, located in the Râmnicu Sărat garrison.

            From May 15, 1961, the Department of Military History and Geography became an independent structure of the General Staff, following the abolition of the Directorate of Studies and Scientific Research, and on May 16, 1962 it was transformed into the Department of Historical Studies of the General Staff, with two new structures: Institute of Military History and Theory and Military Archives Section. As of September 1, 1969, the Military Archives Section became an independent structure within the General Staff.

            On July 18, 1962, an archive fire caused by an electric shock at one of the warehouses of the Râmnicu Sărat Archive Depot, resulting in the complete burning of 2 archive wagons and the partial burning of 2 other wagons led to significant losses of funds historical documentary of the Army.

          Between April 10, 1973 and January 16, 1974, the Archive Deposit of the Ministry of National Defense was moved from Râmnicu Sărat to the Piteşti garrison, where it is still today. As of June 1, 1984, the Archive Deposit of the Ministry of National Defense is called the Center for the Recovery and Preservation of Military Archives.

After the December 1989 Revolution, the Romanian National Military Archives, together with the Center for the Study and Preservation of Historical Military Archives (today’s Central Archive Depot), took over and preserved an impressive volume of archival material from various military units and institutions disbanded in the process of restructuring and modernization of the Romanian military body. Starting with 1998, due to the need to deposit and process a very large amount of archive from the disbanded units, three intermediate depots were created, at the level of the General Staff of the Land Forces (Pitești), the General Staff of the Naval Forces (Constanța). and the General Staff of the Air Force (Ploiești), and in 2000, following the exit from the Ministry of National Defense of the former armament and military equipment enterprises, a Technical Archive Depot (Clinceni) was also created.

In 1970, the microfilming of valuable documents from the archives of the Ministry of National Defense began, and starting with 2008, the computer system for ensuring the integrated management of military archives was implemented, meant to achieve the digitization and electronic archiving of archive funds and facilitate scientific research of the national military archival patrimony.

Romanian National Military Archives today

The Romanian National Military Archives are the structure of the General Staff that organizes, coordinates and controls the management of the military archival patrimony and elaborates the policies in the field of research, protection and administration of the archival fund of the Ministry of National Defense. The Romanian National Military Archives provides the organizational and methodological framework for the application of national legislation in the archival field in the Ministry of National Defense.

The Romanian National Military Archives have as areas of responsibility: elaboration of draft normative acts specific to archival activity in the Romanian Army, management, coordination and monitoring of archival activity at the central structures of the Ministry of National Defense and subordinate structures, planning and execution of controls in the field of archives, capitalization scientific research and making available to researchers archival documents, coordinating the resolution of requests addressed to military archival structures and researching complaints/ notifications in this field, coordinating the issue of computerization of archival activity and management of the program “Integrated Management of Military Archives”.

Currently, the Romanian National Military Archives manages the equivalent of 90,952 km of archives, consisting of 6,507 archive holdings, with a number of 4,051,557 archival units, which contain documents, some of them unique, orders, reports, summaries, statistical situations, registers of nominal control, transcripts, diaries of operations, letters, postcards, albums and collections of periodicals, documents that highlight the evolution of the military institution in Romania. Also, over 75,000 photos, more than 500,000 personal files of retired military personnel, 2800 historical and instructional films and over 38,000 microfilm rolls are preserved.

The archival documents kept by the Romanian National Military Archives constitute historical sources, an integral part of the National Archival Fund of Romania and can be used for scientific research, solving administrative or documentation works, cultural-educational activities.

Within the Romanian National Military Archives can be studied the historical documents from the archive funds opened for research, on microfilm, at the headquarters of the Romanian National Military Archives (Bucharest), or on paper, at the headquarters of the Central Archive Depot (Pitesti).

Archival funds open to research:

– Leadership structures: The military cabinet of the head of state (1941-1944); Cabinet of the Minister of War (1913-1950); (1947-1948); Office of the Chief of the General Staff (1917-1951); Royal Military House (1936-1947); Ministry of Air and Navy (1936-1938); Ministry of the Army (1938-1945); Undersecretariat of State for the Army (1940-1947); Undersecretariat of State for Air (1932-1946); Undersecretariat of State for the Navy (1940-1946); Air Staff (1940-1946); Navy General Staff (1940-1946); General Staff (1858-1960); General Headquarters (1913-1942); Weapons Inspectorate (1922-1949);

– Weapon Commands (1939-1945); Army Commands (1921-1971); Army Corps Commands (1919-1946); Division Commands (1932-1946); Military Regions Commands (1937-1945); Air Regions Commands (1942-1944); Military Command of the Capital (1939-1945); Odessa Military Command (1941-1942); Military Command of the Oil Region (1941); Military Command of the Nămoloasa-Brăila Fortification Zone (1941-1944); Military Command of the Focsani-Nămoloasa-Galaţi Fortification Zone (1911-1918); Territorial Circles (1942-1947); Recruitment circles (1921-1944); Military Colleges (1920-1945); Central Directorates: Superior Directorate of Control (MR) (1939-1945); Military Justice Directorate (1915-1952); Army Estates Directorate (1934-1941);

– Other military structures: Government of Bessarabia (1941-1944); Military Geographical Institute (1896-1951); Hydrographic Institute (1919-1947); 9th German Army Fund (1914-1918); Military high schools (1939-1945); Army Episcopate (1939-1945); Military Bodies of the Romanian Commission for the Application of the Peace Treaty (1942-1948); Statistical Service (1915-1948); Liquidation and Settlement Service with Allied Troops (1944-1947); Army Treasury Service (1916-1945); Officer and Non-Commissioned Officer Schools (1920-1945); Iasi Military Sons School (1885-1948); Field Hospitals (1941-1945); The Cult of Heroes (1927-1940); “Regina Maria” National Settlement (1940-1948); Society “Tombs of Fallen Heroes” (1919-1927); “Monitorul Oastei” (1833-1947).

– Volumes from the “Recent Library” containing volumes of military history, printed after 1989, the result of research undertaken by specialists from the Romanian National Military Archives;

– Volumes from the “Archival Library” at the headquarters of the Central Archive Depot – Pitești, which contains in particular regulations, instructions, general orders and other official documents elaborated over time in the army.

On the website of the Romanian National Military Archives (, in the section “Research domains” you will find information regarding all the archival funds held. Also, the efforts made by the specialists from the Romanian National Military Archives to capitalize scientifically on the archival patrimony of the Romanian Army materialized in the publication of numerous collections of documents. Many of these works can be read (and downloaded) by accessing the website, the section “Scientific activity”, at the same web address being, in PDF format, and the complete collection of the magazine “Document- Bulletin of the Romanian Military Archives”.

At the same time, the capitalization of the archive documents was carried out by participating in exhibitions organized by the National Archives of Romania, the National Museum of Romanian History, the Cotroceni National Museum, etc. or to many other cultural-scientific projects or events. In recent years, the merits of the personnel within the military archival system in the activity of conservation and capitalization of the archival patrimony of the Romanian Army have been recognized at the highest level. By Presidential Decree no. 302 of March 17, 2017, the President of Romania awarded to the Historical Service of the Army (from August 1, 2017 – Romanian National Military Archives) the Order “Cultural Merit” in the rank of Knight, Category “F – promoting Romanian culture”, for the remarkable results obtained by -within the time in preserving, researching and capitalizing on the historical treasure and military traditions of the Romanian Army”, and in 2019, he was awarded the Commemorative Medal “Centenary of the War for the Unification of the Nation”, for ”carrying out concrete and constant actions to promote significance The War for the Integration of the Nation, the creation and/or promotion of scientific, artistic, educational creations regarding the War for the Integration of the Nation, the collection, conservation, restoration and enhancement of documentary materials related to the War for the Integration of the Nation”.

Picture 16: Order “Cultural Merit” and Commemorative Medal “Centenary of the War for the Unification of the Nation”

ICMH Congress military archives

Declassification and GDPR in military archives

By Kathleen Van Acker, Archivist with the section Classified Archives (Belgian Ministry of Defense).

The Committee of Military Archives thanks Kathleen Van Acker, our Secretary General, for her committment and her participation to this blog after she presented “new privacy rules and declassificationin Belgium during the 2021 CAM meeting

A topic that is always present during CAM meetings is the classification and declassification of military archives. This year we once more discussed this topic, exchanging views and practices.

It was also part of my presentation. However classified information and declassification is only one problem archivists have to deal with. In my opinion privacy can be a much more difficult topic when dealing with information in military files. Both topics were discussed in my briefing where I presented the section Classified Archives (Belgian Ministry of Defense) and our regulations and methods for dealing with classified information and personal data.

An example of a declassified document in the section Classified Archives

Classified information and classified archives.

Military archives contain classified information, this is a reality military archivist have to work with.

They have to walk the thin line between providing information to researchers and be careful not to break the rules on classification or give information which may endanger national security or individuals.

Does this mean that classified archives are by no means accessible to researchers? No, after all the purpose of classification is to protect information, and not to keep information away from the public. 

With the passage of time classified information can become less sensitive, and may be declassified and made public.

In Belgian law only the person who classified the document can declassify the document or give his/her permission to declassify (art.5 de la Loi relative à la classification et aux habilitations de sécurité, 11 décembre 1998) Which means that a lot of requests are send to ask for declassification. This procedure is used in “ad hoc” demands: A researchers asks for information, the archivists scan the files and if they find a classified document they evaluate whether the information is still sensible. If not, they send a request to the person, organisation (or his successor) with a demand to declassify. When they get the official permission, the documents and/or file is also officially declassified and open to the public.

A second method is used for larger archives. It treats complete archive funds that are being declassified and transferred to the War Heritage Museum or the National Archives as a whole. The most recent example is the archive fund of World War I which was declassified and transferred to the War Heritage Museum. This procedure takes a lot of time. First a detailed inventory is made of the archives, including remarks about potential sensible documents. The inventory is examined by the Commission of Archives, which gives its permission to declassify, followed by an official declassification note from the Minister of Defense.

The presentation held by Kathleen Van Acker during the Congress in Athens on 29 August 2021

Personal data protection.

Archivists are used to dealing with personal data protection, but for the last couple of years the protection  of those data has been under steady attention and as a result of that the protection measures have become more and more extensive. 

Since 25 May 2018 we have the GDPR or General Data Protection Regulation in the EU, a binding legislative act which must be applied across the Union. The key principle of the GDPR is data minimisation. To use the terminology in the GDPR: “Personal data should be collected and processed only if it is really necessary to do so (…) only as long as it is necessary in order to achieve the purpose for which the personal data was collected” (art.5).

Luckily the GDPR left some room for exemptions, one of them is “archiving purposes in the public interest”, or archives would no longer contain any personal data in the future.
EU lawmakers acknowledged that archives are important and even necessary to enforce fundamental and democratic rights an stated that “personal data may be stored for longer periods insofar as the personal data will be processed solely for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes”(art.5).

This definition can be confusing to people not dealing with this kind of information, but they can trust archives services: they will not disclose their personal data incorrectly, because:

  • Archivists only select those documents for permanent preservation that are necessary for historical research or to enforce human rights;
  • Storing personal data is not the same as giving access: the closure period can vary in different countries. 

Important for historical research is that the GDPR protects personal data of living persons, not the personal data of deceased persons. It seems simple, but how can archivists know that the person is deceased? They can assume that persons born more than hundred years ago are no longer alive. In cases where the 100-years mark isn’t reached, archivists can ask for a prove of decease (eg. an obituary). 

The poster related to the exposition “History of the Belgian Military Intelligence and Security Service”.

It is clear that in case of a declassification request and handling personal data, archivists will have to make case-by-case assessments. Much to the frustrations of researchers sometimes, these procedures take time and a lot of careful consideration, but I learned that informing the researchers about this way of working and the tight legislation we have to deal with, makes them understand the delays or the refusal to access in the worst case. 

Air Force Archives Army Archives Navy Archives

Military Archives under the Hellenic Ministry of National Defence

By Dr. Pigi P. Kalogerakou Historian-Archaeologist Head of 1st Dept. of Historical Archives Service – Army History Directorate

The Committee of Military Archives thanks our colleague Pigi Kalogerakou for her committment and her participation to this project after she presented the Hellenic military archives within the National Defence Ministry during the 2021 CAM meeting.

In Greece, military archives are the responsibility of specific services and institutions under the four General Staffs of the Hellenic Ministry of National Defence (Hellenic National Defence General Staff, Hellenic Army General Staff, Hellenic Navy General Staff, Hellenic Air Force General Staff). Each service is responsible for a different part of archive, which is original and unique, depicting and documenting the history, tradition and special characteristics of the Armed Forces Branch it represents.

1. Fireproof cupboards used for the storage of the historical archive of the Army History Directorate. ©Army History Directorate.

All services, apart from one, are not strictly archival institutions; maintenance and exploitation of the archive is only part of their mission, which also includes other activities, such as the compilation and publishing of military history and its promotion to the public. All military archives are being constantly enriched with new material: official documents coming from archive clearance, according to each Staff’s regulations, or private documents purchased from or mainly donated by individuals and institutions.

2. Handwritten document of the late 19th century. ©Army History Directorate.

Hellenic Army General Staff / Army History Directorate 

The richest archive is that of the Army and it is kept by two different services. The oldest is the Army History Directorate, which belongs to the 4th Branch of the Army General Staff. Its mission is the collection, cataloging and preservation of archival material related to the history of the Hellenic Army, the documentation of its participation in wars since the late 19th century, and the recording of its activities and structure in post war times. 

The directorate itself has a long history going back to 1887, when a department was first established under the General Staff assigned with the collection of war diaries and reports and subsequently with recording the Army war history. Over the years, it has been renamed and reorganized several times. Nowadays, it comprises two services, responsible for the publications and the archives, respectively. Since the late 1970s it is hosted in a listed building of the early 20th century, in Plaka, the oldest neighborhood of Athens.

The Directorate’s archive includes more than 2.5 million documents. It is divided chronologically in fonds, covering all war periods of the Hellenic state from 1897 onwards and the peace period from 1950 until today. 

The war period archive includes collections on the following: Hellenic-Turkish War (1897), Macedonian Struggle (1904–1908), Balkan Wars (1912–1913), World War I (1914–1918), Northern Epirus Struggle (1914), Campaign in Meridional Russia (1919), Asia Minor Campaign (1919–1922), Interwar period (1923-1939), World War II (1940–1945), German-Italian occupation of Greece and National Resistance (1941–1944), Hellenic Army in the Middle East (1941–1944), Civil War (1945–1949), Greek Expeditionary Corps in Korea (1950–1955). The archival material consists of reports, orders of battle, orders of the day, operational plans, war diaries, correspondence of units, maps, drawings, photographs, and personal archives of senior officers and politicians. These earlier collections are kept in iron fireproof cupboards for safety reasons and their old storage files are currently being replaced with new, antifungal, acid-free boxes.

The archive of the post war period includes annual reports and diaries of more than 2,500 Army formations, regiments and units, documents on the Army’s participation in Peacekeeping Missions, logs of the Army General Staff Operation Centre, documents on Army organization, structure and mobilization, data on the history of each unit and short biographical notes for almost 13,000 retired or deceased in war senior officers. 

The greatest part of the whole archive is paper documents, both handwritten and typed, and only the recent material comes exclusively in electronic form. There is also a database with the names of all officers and soldiers fallen in wars starting with the 19th century conflicts (available also in the Directorate’s website, in Greek).

The major part of the war archives has been digitized since the 1990s and is accessible to researchers at the directorate’s premises. Moreover, a small part is documented according to the International Standard Archival Description and is accessible in the directorate’s website. A few thousands of these documents are also included in the Europeana digital library and similar websites giving access to archival material on specific periods or subjects.

A very large number of documents are highly classified and not accessible to individual researchers. This is why, in 2020, all classified documents of the directorate’s archive issued by Army institutions until 1955 were declassified. Access to the more recent ones and those not issued by the Army still remains restricted. 

The Directorate has a library open to the public. It includes more than 18,000 books and journals on Military History, as well as a unique collection of more than 3,000 Army regulations dating from the 19th century. It also keeps laws, decrees and circulars issued for the Armed Forces from the 19th century onwards, and a series of Greek daily Press. 

The Army History Directorate has published more than 100 books on all war periods and keeps an average of 1 or 2 publications per year. For its contribution to the promotion of Military History in general, it has received two awards by the Athens Academy. 

3. Telegram announcing the occupation of the city of Kilkis by the Hellenic Army in 1913. ©Army History Directorate.

Hellenic Army General Staff / Service of Military Archives

The actual archival service of the Army is the Service of Military Archives, under the Registry and Linguistics Directorate of the Army General Staff. In its present form it was established during World War II, in 1941, in order to gather, preserve and essentially save the archives kept until then by all Army institutions which were dismantled after the German-Italian Occupation of Greece. A key point to the history of the service was the year 1966. It was then that it started receiving the official documents cleared, according to an annual program, by all units and services of the Army General Staff and the National Defence General Staff. It also became the official repository for personal documents of retired personnel, both military and civil. The service is located in the Hellenic Army Park, in Athens, and its archive is stored in impressive 19th century buildings.

The archive, in its physical form, is almost 36 kilometres long. The historical archive dates back to 1863, however it is incomplete for large periods of time until 1966, as the major part of documents covering the long war period until the late 1940s is kept by the Army History Directorate. Thus the Historical Archive of the Military Archives Service includes incomplete general military records from 1863 onwards, for the Balkan Wars (1912–1913), World War I (1918–1919), the Campaign in Asia Minor (1921–1922), and World War II (1940–1941), and complete records of military hospitals since 1920.

The general archive, dating from 1966 onwards, includes all the original official documents of the Army and is organized in fonds and files depending on the nature and subject of the documents: Administrative (personnel, judicial affairs, military service and conscription), information, operations – training – organization, health related (files of health status), management (inventory and supplies – finance and treasury), various issues and services (Army’s Geographical Service, military schools, peacekeeping operations). 

The Service, after receiving the archive, proceeds to inspections of completeness, sorting, classification, listing, indexing and temporary storing. Following the practice of public archives in Greece, it microfilms all documents and preserves them mainly in this form – today, the archive extends to almost 20 kilometres of microfilm. 

The Archives Service has recently undertaken a major digitization project financed by the European Union. More than 15 million pages have already been digitized and thanks to the hardware obtained, the digitization continues on a regular program. In this way, it aims at the creation of a complete digital library of all Army archives, available to both the General Staff institutions and the public.

6. Officers of the Hellenic Army during the Campaign in Asia Minor. ©Army History Directorate.

Hellenic Navy General Staff / Naval History Department

The Naval History Department is an independent service coming directly under the Chief of the Navy General Staff. It is responsible for the collection, classification and preservation of official documents referring to the history of the Hellenic Navy and for its promotion to the public. Since 1952 it is housed in the installations of Votanikos Naval Fort, in Athens.

It was established in 1917 and its initial mission was closely connected with the publication of the “Naval Review”, a popular journal which is still one of its main responsibilities (all issues are available in its website). In parallel, its History Department started collecting and classifying the naval archive. 

Today, the Naval Historical Archive includes general documents dating between 1821 and 1938, documents on the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), World War II minutes and reports, war diaries, Civil War archives, personal archives of general officers of the Hellenic Navy donated to the Department. It also includes the official archives of warships and services of the Hellenic Navy, which are delivered to the Department on a regular basis. Moreover, it possesses more than 40,000 photographs of services, warships and Fleet Command, audio, video and cinematographic material, as well as microfilmed documents since 1900. It also preserves every other piece of data that comes to its possession through its activities or is donated by individuals and other organizations. In general, every year, the Department receives almost 2 million pages, while the already stored archive exceeds 1 billion documents.

The archive delivered every year by the naval units and warships is catalogued and classified and after 20 years it is microfilmed. Because of its great importance and the necessity for its availability to researchers and individuals, the historical archive as well as a large part of the recent general archive was documented and digitized through a project financed by the European Union, starting in 2015. As a result, the digitized unclassified material is easily available to researchers in the service’s premises as well as in its website.

10. Logbook of the Greek destroyer “Adrias”, entry of October 22, 1943. On this day, during operations in the Dodecanese, along with the British destroyer “Hurworth”, the ship survived a mine explosion, which tore off its bow, while “Hurworth”  was sunk by another mine. Despite its missing bow, “Adrias” managed to reach Alexandria, a few weeks later. ©Naval History Department.

The Naval History Department also includes a library accessible to the public. It possesses more than 4,500 titles and participates in the naval library network. It also has its own printing house and, apart from the Naval Review journal, publishes books on naval history. It participates in innovative activities, such as the location of shipwrecks, and for its contribution to naval history and culture, it has also been awarded twice by the Athens Academy. 

11. Greek soldiers leaving for the front in 1940. ©Army History Directorate.

Hellenic Air Force General Staff / Hellenic Air Force History Museum

The Hellenic Air Force History Museum is a service of the Hellenic Air Force General Staff. Its mission is to collect, classify and preserve the archival material of the Air Force Staff, as well as to record, document and promote its history and tradition. It was first established in 1950, assigned to collect Air Force unit logs and reports compiled by officers having participated in World War II. In the following decades it was reorganized several times resulting to a History Directorate, which included a distinct Archives Service. Since 2005, it is incorporated as a unit under the Air Force History Museum. It is housed in a listed 19th century building in Palaio Faliro Delta, an area south of Athens closely linked to the history of the Hellenic Air Force since the Balkan Wars period. 

The historical archive is organized in chronological periods: 1908-1918, 1919-1929, 1930-1940, 1940-1944, 1945-1949, 1950-1967, 1967-1974, 1974-1989, 1990-2001. It includes official documents, operational orders, unit logs, lists of fallen in war and peace time and also photographs, films and videotapes. There are also some individual flight books of World War II pilots, Squadrons’ flight books and reports, operational reports of various periods, a few personal archives and an original draft of the tour of the Mediterranean. 

The service also collects all documents issued by the Air Force services and units, and preserves them by microfilming. It also keeps a collection of laws and decrees published by the Air Force General Staff, and a number of Air Force magazines and publications. It maintains a library available to researchers, that includes over 1,000 books on military history. It also has a website and produces its own publications on Air Force history in Greece.

War Museum

The War Museum is an independent institution supervised directly by the Minister of Defence. Apart from its numerous exhibits, it keeps an important collection of historical documents and a library with many rare books on war history.

16. Royal Decree announcing the general recruitment of the Hellenic Army on October 28, 1940. ©Army History Directorate.

The historical archive contains various items purchased by the museum or mainly donated to it by individuals. It includes personal records, unit reports and logs, warriors’ interviews, and newspapers of the 19th and 20th centuries. More specifically, it covers the following periods: Greek Revolution (1821), King Otto reign (1832-1862), King George I reign (1863-1913), Hellenic-Turkish War (1897), Balkan Wars (1912–1913), Northern Epirus Struggle (1914), World War I (1914–1918), Campaign in Asia Minor (1919–1922), Interwar period (1923-1939), Hellenic-Italian and Hellenic-German War (1940-1941), German-Italian occupation – National Resistance (1941–1944), Participation of Greece in Middle East operations (1942-1944), Civil War (1945–1949), War in Korea (1950-1953), Post war period. 

The museum has a unique photographic and video archive. The first includes more than 35,000 original photographs covering all war periods since 1897. The video archive is in fact one of the largest in the Balkans and includes filmed views of all war periods of the Hellenic Army since 1897, films on Greece for the years 1897-1935, videos produced by the Armed Forces television network and private videos donated to the museum by individuals.

17. Documents from the collection of National Resistance (1941-1944). ©Army History Directorate

Hellenic National Defence General Staff / Hellenic Commission on Military History

Last but not least, among the ministry’s institutions on military history is the Hellenic Commission on Military History, under the Hellenic National Defence General Staff. It was founded in 1980, and since 1985 it is a regular member of the International Commission of Military History. It has issued editions on several subjects and on several occasions, mainly as part of military cooperation programs and major events. However, it does not systematically collect or maintain archives; it does so only in order to present them in Congresses held by the International Commission or on other special occasions. For example, it gathered the documents referring to the contribution of the Hellenic Armed Forces in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and presented a special edition based on it. In 2021, this archive was handed over to the Army History Directorate.

18. The collection of Greek daily Press kept in the Army History Directorate. ©Army History Directorate.
Air Force Archives military archives visit to archives

The visit to the Hellenic Air Force Archives

31 August 2021

The presentation of the Hellenic Air Force history. The first period

On 31 August 2021, in the framework of the XLVI Congress of Military History held in Athens (Greece), the Committee of Military Archives, the delegates and the auditors moved to the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) History Service, located in Palaio Faliro (Athens). All the members received a welcome by the chief of the Service, colonel Ioannis Karakostas.

The colonel told that the Air Force History Service is organised in two areas: History and Archives. The HAF history is divided in 9 main periods from the foundation of the first flight activities till the new millenium, as depicted in the website.

The first period of the pioneers (poster in the main hall of the Service)

The visit has been organised on two different moments: first a short presentation of the history of the Hellenic Air Force, and then a visit to the archives present in the building.

The main hall is organised with posters and small museum exhibitors with documents and small items of the different periods presented by the HAF Service personnel.


One of the exibitors dedicated to the first period of flight

The CAM had the possibility to visit the depots and to speak with the personnel who managed the archives and the historical files, so it was possible an exchange of views on the main problems and possible solutions regarding the historical files considering the national legislation applicable.

The depots stored the documents of HAF units and pilots together with the most significant historical files on the main operations (in war and during peace-keeping missions) led by or with the presence of the HAF units.

At the end of the visit, the CAM presidency with the delegates and the auditors together with the Hellenic Air Force personnel at the end of the visit. The building in the back is the HAF Historical Service main construction.
CAM meeting ICMH Congress

Athens, August 2021

The Committe of Military Archives meeting

On 29th August 2021, the Committe of Military Archives convened in Athens in the framework of the XLVI International Congress of Military History on the theme “Independence wars since the XVIII Century” (29 August – 03 September 2021).

The Hellenic Military Archives presentation by Pigi Kalogeraton

According to the agenda of the meeting, the Committee discussed for 2 hours of the main important topics as in the agenda. Ten attendees (delegates or observers) from 8 countries (Belgium, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Turkey and USA).

After a quick introduction by each attendee, the discussion took place and then two presentations were held by Pigi Kalogerakou (on the Hellenic Military Archives within the Ministry of Defence) and Kathleen Van Acker (new privacy rules and declassification). The presentations will be published in future posts.

The Hellenic Military Archives presentation by Pigi Kalogeraton (2)

The first main outcome is connected an initiative that the Committee launched some years ago. The CAM decided to continue the project launched by the previous steering committee led by Michael Steidel, the Online Guide of Military Archives

The Online Guide of Military Archives project (see below the ICMH Newsletter n. 35 – June 2021, pp. 20-21 where there is an history of the guide as well) has the aim to become a gateway the help researchers and scholars to find the most important military archives or archives with significant military archival funds.

The form is very simple and it takes about 30 minutes to be filled with the all the relevant information. No specific requirements are needed to fill the form.

At the moment, a first group of national commissions members of the ICMH sent the template filled as proposed (the template is available in the ICMH Newsletter as above, p. 22). As far as a second group of national commissions will send other filled forms, the Guide will be available on-line on the ICMH website. The subsequent forms will be added subsequently.

The declassification process presentation by Kathleen Van Acker

The second main outcome of the discussion was related to “Mars&Janus”, the CAM newsletter according to the Statutes. The newsletter has not been published since 2010. So to re-launch the information strategy of the Committe, it has been approved to transform the newletter in a permanent blog hosted on line (here the presentation). There are some reasons behind the decision. The most important, in our view, is to spread as much as we can the information and products that CAM received.

So the steering committee of the CAM decided to move to because it is a platform for humanities and social science research blogs. The texts are in open access and they are not intended at specialists solely; in this regard it could be raise more to a broad audience.

The results of the meeting have been presented to the general assembly of the International Commission of Military History on 3 September 2021.

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