The papers of Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck constitute a rich and detailed record of his military career in the years 1940 to 1947. The bulk of the material concerns two periods in particular: when he was Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, masterminding the campaign against Rommel in the Western Desert, June 1941 to August 1942 (AUC/275-1023); and when he served as Commander-in-Chief, India, and latterly Supreme Commander, June 1943 to November 1947 (AUC/1024-1312), first overseeing the expansion of the Indian armed forces and military production for the war effort, and later preparing the Indian Army for independence and partition. The archive is of central importance for students of military history, particularly the Desert Campaign of the Second World War, and for research into the final years of British rule in India, the rise of the nationalist independence movement, the transfer of power from Britain to India, and the formation of Pakistan. Items include typescript and autograph letters, cipher messages, telegrams, dispatches, reports, military orders, memoranda, and the texts of speeches by Auchinleck.
Correspondents include Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke (Viscount Alanbrooke), Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces (1940-1), Chief of the Imperial General Staff (1941-6); Leo Amery, Secretary of State for India and Burma (1940-5); Clement Attlee, Deputy Prime Minister (1942-5), Prime Minister (1945-50); Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister (1940-5); General Sir Alan Cunningham, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, 8th Army (1941); Field Marshal Sir John Dill, Chief of the Imperial General Staff (1940-1), Head of the British Joint Staff Mission, United States (1941-4); Victor Hope, 2nd Marquess of Linlithgow, Viceroy and Governor-General of India (1936-43); Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Governor-General of Pakistan (1947-8); Liaquat Ali Khan, Finance Minister, Viceroy's Executive Council (1946-7), Prime Minister of Pakistan (1947-51); Sir Gilbert Laithwaite, Private Secretary to the Viceroy of India (1936-43); Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander, South-East Asia (1943-6), Viceroy of India (1947), Governor-General of India (1947-8); Jawaharlal Nehru, President of the Congress Party (1936-47), Prime Minister of India (1947-63); Lt.-General Sir Charles Willoughby Norrie, General Officer Commanding, 1st Armoured Division (1940-1), GOC, 30th Corps (1941-2); General Sir Neil Ritchie, Commander, 8th Army (1941-2); Field Marshal Jan Smuts, Prime Minister of South Africa (1939-48); and General Sir Archibald Wavell, Commander-in-Chief, Middle East (1939-41), Commander-in-Chief, India (1941-3), Viceroy and Governor-General of India (1943-7).
The strong emphasis in the papers on the two aspects of Auchinleck's career which have most significance (as Commander during the Desert Campaign of 1941-2 and as Commander-in-Chief, India, 1943-7) suggests that at some point Auchinleck undertook a process of selection on his papers. He was keenly aware of the historical important of the events in which he partook, and of his own role within them; for example, he annotated a memorandum by Churchill on the importance of artillery, "Keep as history!" (AUC/304). This selection process may explain the almost complete absence of any pre-war papers. Auchinleck's private life is also entirely unrepresented in the archive. It is noteworthy that there is not a single reference to his wife Jessie, who left him for another senior officer at the end of the war. Auchinleck intended the archive to document (and perhaps to justify) his military career, and there was no place for extraneous material.