A Royal Navy signals book from World War 1 has recently been located in an Oxfam book shop in Bath more than a century after it should have been destroyed, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.

The General Signals Book, which is replete with secret signals, was located in a box of various donations at the rear of the Bath branch of Oxfam by the store's manager, Simon Berry.

Above: The book, dating from 1917, contains confidential signals. CREDIT: OXFAM/PA

Observing the book’s connection to the Royal Navy, Simon handed the book to volunteers, Richard Danns, a retired marine engineer, and Stuart Murray, who researched the book before placing it on Oxfam’s online shop. They soon realised how historically significant the book was when a number of historians started to telephone the shop.

The National Museum for the Royal Navy purchased the book which is now within its archives.
Above: The 'General Signal Book, 1917'. CREDIT: OXFAM/PA WIRE

The survival of the book is surprising due to the fact that all signal books were supposed to be destroyed after they had been used.

The book has an unusual lead lining which was intended to ensure the book sank should the ship be in danger of capture by the Germans. The plan being for it to be dropped over the side to avoid falling into the enemy's hands.

Simon Berry, told the Daily Telegraph:

“I found the book at the end of the year among other donations in the back room. I knew the book was something to take note of because it had the lead-lined cover, so it looked quite obscure. But I don’t think we realised quite how special it was until we started getting calls from historians telling us how important it was. It felt like you were holding a piece of history in your hands. We are so pleased the book has found its way into the right hands"

Heather Johnson, who works at the Royal Navy museum, stated:

“Signal books are quite rare as copies were officially ordered to be destroyed when they went out of use. This would have been the duty of the officer in charge of keeping the confidential books, who had to send a certificate of destruction back to the Admiralty."

The original article appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 20 May 2024