World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Committee of Imperial Defence

The Committee of Imperial Defence was an important ad hoc part of the government of the United Kingdom and the British Empire from just after the Second Boer War until the start of the Second World War. It was responsible for research, and some co-ordination, on issues of military strategy.

Typically, a temporary sub-committee would be set up to investigate and report at length on a specific topic. A large number of such sub-committees were engendered over the decades, on topics such as foreign espionage (a Committee report in 1909 led to the founding of MI5 and MI6), food rationing, and aerial defence. It is possible to argue that the Committee of Imperial Defence was an important step in the development of national security coordination in the UK, and to see the current National Security Council (United Kingdom) as one of its descendants.[1]


  • History 1
  • See also 2
  • External links 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5


The Committee was established in 1902 by Arthur Balfour, then British Prime Minister, following the recommendations of the Elgin Committee, chaired by Lord Elgin.[2] It was intended as an advisory committee for the Prime Minister, one that would be small and flexible; it replaced the Cabinet's decrepit Defence Committee, which had usually only met during periods of crisis. A reform in 1904 strengthened its secretariat support even further.

The original concept was to create a strategic vision defining the future roles of the two military services, the civil servants.

Under the guidance of Maurice Hankey, the Committee slowly gained in importance. Hankey was appointed Naval Assistant Secretary to the Committee in 1908, and became Secretary to the Committee in 1912; he would hold that position for the next twenty-six years.

By 1914, the Committee had begun to act as a defence planning agency for the whole British Empire, consequently providing advice to the Dominions on occasion. It continued to perform such a role into the 1920s. It was effectively a peacetime defence planning system, one which only provided advice; formal authority remained with Ministers and service chiefs, which helped ensure the Committee's acceptability to the existing bureaucracy.

Chaired by the Prime Minister, members were usually cabinet ministers, the heads of the military services, and key civil servants; Prime Ministers from Dominion countries were de facto members of the Committee in peacetime as well.

The Committee was wound up following the outbreak of the Second World War.

See also

External links

  • How Imperial was the Committee of Imperial Defence?
  • The National Security Council: national security at the centre of governmentInstitute for Government/King's College London -


  1. ^ Dr Joe Devanny & Josh Harris. "The National Security Council: national security at the centre of government". Institute for Government & King's College London. Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
  2. ^ "Records of the Cabinet Committees". The National Archives. 

Further reading

  • Johnson, Franklyn Arthur: Defence by Committee: The British Committee of Imperial Defence, 1885-1959 (Oxford University Press, London, New York, 1960)
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.