For Your Eyes Only Document Stamps



Classifications were not always physically added to documents via a rubber stamp and in most cases the classification of the document was typed into the headings with all other pertinent information. A rubber stamp makes a document more photogenic, hence the use of a rubber stamp for the props on the cover of Fleming's novel.



From The Man with the Golden Typewriter by Fergus Fleming, Ian Fleming relates in a letter how the title came to be chosen:

   1st October, 1959
   Dear Michael,
   I have thought over the question of a title and I rather like ‘FOR YOUR EYES ONLY’. This used to be stamped on secret papers in the early days of the war and is still occasionally in use.
   If you like this, it could perhaps go on the jacket above a really splendid colour photograph extended to the borders of a fine rule human eye (with a grey iris – this is James Bond’s). The pinkish surround could then be bled upwards and downwards into, say, a pale grey, on which the lettering could be superimposed.
   I think this could be made handsome and startling.
   If you like this idea, perhaps we could re-title ‘Man’s Work’ accordingly and start the book with it. If you could let me have that story back I could write in an appropriate sentence or two embodying the title.


The following paragraphs were retrieved from:


The realization of a need for protecting defence related or war making potential and capabilities information (i.e. The practice of stamping the security marking 'Secret' or 'Confidential' on armed-services documents and the attendant apparatus for controlling the practice) and the arguments 'pro' and 'con' about it took place principally in England between about 1867 to 1889, with the passage of the Bill which became the Official Secrets Act marking the end to a serious controversy over the matter.

The earliest formal examples of defence - or official-information security markings or non-disclosure instructions appear to be the War Office "A Papers" which were prepared for the information of the Cabinet at the time of the Crimean War, but it was 1894 before the Army instituted an organised security and classification system. Formal security non-disclosure instructions and the 'officer only' or 'by hand of officer only' instruction may be traced to 1904. Red printed Memoranda slips issued on the authority of the Chief of the General Staff dated 1904 August 5 which may be seen, for example, in WO 106/47 specify that 'secret.' or 'very secret.' papers handled by the War Office General Staff which make reference to offensive projects are not to be marked or passed through Central Registry, must be kept under lock and key at all times when not in use in the personal custody of the officer responsible and must be passed only from officer to officer, or forwarded by secure means to named officers only. Branches were to keep track of the transit of such papers only in a secret notebook which was to be kept in the dealing branch and these were to be maintained only by an officer. Interestingly, the instruction slip itself has no special handling instruction or warning on it and there is no advice or guidance offered on how to deal with the secret notebook itself! The procedure foreshadows Admiralty 'Hush' signals procedure which performs the same function for naval offensive operations or plans in active contemplation. As it does also for 'Eyes Alone' (subsequently 'Eyes Only') markings for information to be seen exclusively by a person nominated either by name or appointment held.

Arising from the Norway Campaign in 1940 a 'Most Secret', 'Secret', 'Confidential' and 'Restricted' level of security marking was comprehensively introduced following the Prime Minister's wish for greater security, although security markings of various kinds and the use of 'Officer Only' handling instructions were in use before this date and are dealt with in King's Regulations for the Army. The Standing Committee on Army Administration of the War Office, through the Dunkeley sub-committee, considered and reported on the issue in 1941 - WO 216/58 refers. Before 1943 the whole subject is an untidy one, such evidence emphasises the absence of conformity between the various Departments of State in the United Kingdom. On 1943 July 1 a uniform four-tier system of classification was introduced for use by all government departments, following some fifteen months of interdepartmental discussion.

However the American authorities were unclear over the practical difference between the security marking 'Secret' and the ostensibly higher 'Most Secret' marking, especially given the variation and anomalies in British practice. We can see from the advice of Sir Edward Bridges (later Lord Bridges) during his time as Secretary to the Cabinet throughout the Second World War to his successor Sir Norman Brook (later Lord Normanbrook) on 1952 April 1, his recollection of the origin of the classification 'Top Secret' (T 273/4 and PREM 11/268). This was that it had resulted from the endeavour to seek a common standard between the Americans and the British particularly over use of signals intelligence, cryptography, codes and cyphers and the information contained in them, and was begun about or shortly before the time the British authorities themselves had achieved uniformity between departments.

The British had a tiered security marking system comprising:

NTBP | Not to be published
FOUO | For official use only
available for public information [According to a legal brief prepared for the Security Service, otherwise MI 5 now in KV 2/1271. It is unclear from the brief whether this expression is an actual printed marking applied to documents produced 'by authority' as are the other markings above, or is simply a description of a concept. The writer of this update has never seen such in over 40 years of extensive review of official British documents.]
Usually written as such, in all capital letters, in conformity with Service Writing practice which had to be reconciled with the lesser developed United States system of

The level of security protection required between the United States of America 'Secret' seems to be covered by the overlapping British 'Most Secret' and 'Secret' categories. There was also an additional need to introduce security markings for information and intelligence derived from signals intercept.

But, as Bridges recollects, the greatest difficulty, which a delegation which went from Britain to Washington DC had in their discussions with the Americans, was in coming to terms with them over the use of the classification 'Most Secret' which referred, so to speak, to the papers which were kept in 'the top drawer of the cupboard' in which the secret files were kept.

'Top' is not therefore, Bridges asserts, used as an adverb: 'Top Secret' was intended as a telescoped way of describing the 'top layer of secret papers' thereby overcoming the American objection to 'Most Secret'. It was from this, he says, that the expression 'Top Secret' arose and it further enabled necessary extensions and variations in handling what has become commonly know as 'classified information', now sometimes also referred to as 'compartmented information' and further developed what is generally known as the 'need to know' principle.

Bridges had the clear recollection that having got agreement with the Americans at the conferences on this matter he submitted the matter to Winston Churchill, who gave instructions that all Departments should henceforth work on the basic four-tier system and that the ostensible top tier should, in future, be called 'Top Secret' and not 'Most Secret'. However in 1952 Prime Minister Churchill proposed changing from 'Top Secret' back to 'Most Secret' but Norman Brook believed that this would involve "a major upheaval, but serious loss of efficiency" (PREM 11/268). The marking 'Most Secret' continued in use, in parallel with 'Top Secret' and, until the introduction of the superadded 'Guard' marking (Indicating British interest only, not to be shown to any other nationality, originally 'not Americans' and equivalent to the USA 'NOFORN' (No Foreign Dissemination) marking) meant no-disclosure to foreign powers without exceptional permission. Not mentioned by Bridges is the whole series of above 'Top Secret' markings which began with the ISSB code word 'Boniface', through 'Pecksniff' or 'PS' and settled to 'Ultra' or 'Top Secret' 'Ultra' or 'TS(U)' which were applied to documents and handling procedures for information and resulting intelligence and appreciations derived from the reading of enemy secure signals traffic.

The question of the earliest origins of security markings for the purpose of safeguarding state information is even more obscure. But the archives inherited at that time, and subsequently had public records responsibility for, the documentation of the Committee of Imperial Defence and its secretariat; and for its marginally earlier predecessor, the Colonial Defence Committee. Neither of these Committees had any 'uniform' application of security markings, and both often employed a generic 'Confidential' marking. However, the classification 'Secret' was used from time to time for particularly sensitive documents. Amongst the earliest of these latter were, both in the Colonial Defence Committee CAB 8/1 Memo 19 'Local Preparations in anticipation of War' (1886 November 18) and CAB 9/1 Memo 30 (R) 'Report by Local Committee - Straits Settlement' (1886 February 2), which would appear to confirm the time frame for the controversy as stated earlier.

The use of 'Confidential' as a formal security classification has long been a source of irritation to security advisors, owing to its possible confusion with the courtesy and privacy markings both within Government circles and outside on personal, management, commercial, banking, etc correspondence. And although there was never the prospect of converting the 'private sector' to the authorities way of thinking on this, there was equally strong resistance on the part of government departments to the abandonment of its use for the protection of information which should not be generally disclosed or published. In addition some Budget material was 'Top Secret' until it was announced or the Budget had passed. The term 'Confidential' is now used on British official documents in respect of defence/political/diplomatic etc information; while the alternative 'In Confidence' is used therein in respect of personnel, management, commercial, honours and appointments etc, correspondence. 'Confidential' continues to have its multiplicity of meanings in private and other non-governmental usage. At the lower end of the scale is to be found the marking 'For official use only' applied as below, or in contra-distinction to 'Restricted' for documents that are, or may be, released to particular individuals, commercial contractors or other public bodies of foreign governments or supra-national agencies with which the UK government may share information which it is not desired to make generally available to the public. It should be noted that none of these markings or references to control of publication override the provisions of the various copyright or intellectual property laws which give a copyright owner, in this case the United Kingdom government, the right of veto or control of dissemination and publication of any work of which they are the lawful author.

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