'Frank Hudleston's language and deciphering skills '

Frank Hudleston's language skills

Francis (Frank) Josiah Hudleston (1869-1927)
C.B.E., Librarian at the War Office, Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.

   With thanks to the research efforts of Richard Searle and by courtesy of the MOD Library, reprinted below are a few notes prepared for an application for a salary rise in 1920. These give an indication of the range of his abilities and mention his deciphering an important telegram. The internal correspondence was primarily between the War Office and the Treasury.

      Mr Hudleston, the Librarian, petitions for improvement in the pay of the Library Staff.

     The present scales are: Librarian: £400 - £600 + £50 Charge Pay.
Deputy: £350 - £450.
Asst.: £150 - £300.
      There are also two unestablished Assistants.

     Mr Hudleston submits a list of salaries attached to the Libraries in Government Offices. The only one showing better pay than the W.O. is the Foreign Office, but we have ascertained that the two posts are not comparable, the F.O. Librarian being in charge of the Registry and responsible for the preparation of Blue Books.

      I have, however, long thought that Mr Hudleston is underpaid, and I have had the opportunity of taking Mr Pedley's valuable opinion on the point. He was emphatic that the General Staff rely greatly on Mr Hudleston and would be in an impossible position without the help of a man of his calibre. Enclosed is a rather remarkable list showing the sort of questions put to Mr Hudleston. (You will note that some of them come from other Departments, which bears out one of the arguments he advances). Clearly only a scholar of the widest reading in many languages (Mr Hudleston knows nearly all the chief European languages) in military and general history and saturated with library-lore could know where to look for the answers. It is equally obvious from the origin of these questions that momentous decisions may depend on the answers given.

      Scholarship, as such, is badly paid in the Public Service, but this is a case of responsibility. It seems to merit at any rate the scale of an Assistant-Principal and I recommend that we ask the Treasury for that scale, with an immediate increment, without prejudice to his being placed on the £700 - £900 scale when that is adopted. He has been 8 years at his maximum.

      I would add that he is responsible for selecting the majority of the books which are being continually added, only a minority being bought at the request of branches. He thus administers a not inconsiderable sum of public money.

      He came to this Office 25 years ago from the British Museum and you may remember that late in the S.African war he succeeded, through his linguistic knowledge and his studies in cryptography, in deciphering a diplomatically most important telegram which had baffled the experts of the Intelligence Directorate and elsewhere for weeks. At any rate the present Asst. Secretary will remember that the secretary of State offered him (Sir B. Cubitt) £1,000 for a decipher. For this achievement we secured for Mr Hudleston from the Treasury an increase of pay.

      As regards Mr Baldry, Mr Hudleston speaks most highly of him and is satisfied that he will be fit to succeed in due course to the chief post. I have seen something of Mr Baldry and share Mr Hudleston's good opinion of him. He was trained in the London Library and specialises in Russian, Dutch and German and is adding other languages to his repertory. At the same time we cannot ignore the fact that, without having entered the Civil Service by competitive examination he obtained at the age of 36 an appointment paid as a Staff Clerkship, and that if Mr Hudleston retires on attaining the age of 60, Mr Baldry will not have too hopelessly distant prospects of advancement,

      The Asst. Librarian (£150 - £300) has only recently been appointed. We could make no present case for varying his emoluments.

E.V. Fleming.

(Principal Establishments Officer)


A memorandum to The Secretary of the Treasury by H.J.Creedy:

1/Estab./4403 (C.4)

24 March 1920.

    I am commanded by the Army Council to lay before the lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury the circumstances in which it is desired to increase the rate of pay of the Librarian of this Office.

    The present holder of the appointment is Mr. F. J. Hudleston C.B.E., who is assisted by a Deputy and an Assistant His scale of £400 - £600 (+£50 charge pay) a year was fixed in 1898 when the library was but a section supplying information to the Military Intelligence branch. Since that date the War Office library has developed enormously and is now the largest of those belonging to Government Departments. According to Rye's Libraries of London (1908) it possessed 80,000 books, as compared with 75,000 at the Foreign Office, which has the next largest Departmental Library. The war Office Library now comprises over 100,000 books.

    Apart from the number of books, the War Office library issues Accession Lists every month and annual supplements to its subject-index. The subject-index is the standard military bibliography in English and is indispensable to any serious student of military affairs, covering as it does the whole range of military literature, British and foreign, while the accession list is used by military educational establishments generally as a guide in purchasing now books.

    The services of the library have been gratefully acknowledged by many eminent students, and by public departments abroad. It is also of great value to other Government Departments. The Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence makes use of it as if were an integral part of itself, and many departments and institutions have expressed their indebtedness to it.

    The wide scope of the librarian's duties may be gathered from the attached list of specimen queries addressed to him. It is obvious from the origin and nature of some if these that decisions of great importance might turn upon the answers furnished.

    With the advent of peace, and the general desire for collating the experience gained in the war, the importance of the library will undoubtedly increase, both as regards the War Office and outside.

    Mr. Hudleston joined this Office from the staff of the British Museum in 1895. He is a scholar of the widest reading and knows nearly all the chief European languages. His help is practically indispensable to the General Staff. He is moreover responsible for selecting the majority of the books added to the library and therefore administers a not inconsiderable sum of public money.

    In those circumstances I am to request Their Lordships' approval to the scale of pay for the War Office librarian being raised to that of an Assistant Principal viz:- £600 - £25 - £800. As Mr. Hudleston has now been for 8 years on his maximum it is requested that he may come in at his present sent rate plus one increment, viz. £675.

I am,
        Your obedient Servant,
            H.J. Creedy

MS note of Frank Hudleston's in support of an application for a salary increase - circa 1920.

(Part of War Office internal correspondence & correspondence with the Treasury regarding F.J.H's claim for increased salary)

Dutch *
Dano-Norwegian *
Swedish *
Italian †

*Before the war I translated for the N.I.O. Admiralty from these languages (out of office hours) and during the War translated from them for M.I.

†Translated from this fore various branches of the office.

    Of the books added to the library 70% are selected by the Librarian. The work of selection involves a very careful perusal of the reviews in the foreign military magazines.

    The Librarian is constantly referred to on various points of general history, military history and International Law and if necessary compiles précis dealing with such questions. He is also, ex-officio, a member of the Advisory Committee on Honours and Distinctions and is frequently called on by the Secretary to furnish information for use by the committee.

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