Early in the war the lack of regular comprehensive statistics was recognized as a real impediment to the war effort; smooth administration was impossible without such figures. In the summer of 1940, therefore, the Central Economic Information Service—a group of economists and statisticians within the War Cabinet Secretariat—ebgan a series of statistical digests which assembled the information necessary for reviewing economic and other problems arising out of the war. In January 1941 the Central Economic Information Service was split into two sections—the Central Statistical Office and the Economic Section. The funciton of the Central Statistical Office was to collect from Government Departments regular series of figures on a cohreent and well ordered basis covering the development of the war effort of the United Kingdom.

2. In planning the civil series of war histories the editor felt the need for a general statistical volume which would give the main statistical series illustrating the war effort of the United Kingdom. The individual civil histories on food, manpower, shipping, etc., will, of course, include a good many statistical tables; moreover, a great deal of statistical material about the war years has already been published. It would, however, be inconvenient if war statistics remained scattered among many volumes of history and many command papers. The Statistical Digest of the War has therefore been prepared by the Central Statistical Office in collaboration with the Statistics Divisions of Government Departments in order to bring together the salient facts of the British war effort so far as they are capable of statistical measurement.


3. Area covered. Except where otherwise stated all statistics relate to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

4. Period covered. In general the figures given in the Digest cover the period from September 1939 to August 1945. In some table, however, figures for a pre-war year or years have been given where the comparison particularly valuable

5. Time series. The Digest has no standard time series. Where possible annual totals are given throughout, but in many cases these are supplemented by quarterly totals, monthly averages and weekly averages according to the type of series dealt with. Except where it is stated to the contrary all statistics are for calendar years ended 31 December.

6. Change of basis. A line drawn across a column between two consecutive figures normally indicates that the figures above and below the line have been compiled on different bases and are not strictly comparable. In each case a footnote is added indicating the nature of the difference.

7. Consumption and stocks. Statistics of consumption and stocks should be used with particular caution. Figures given under the heading of "consumption" or "total demands" are usually derived from statistics of releases from stocks by controls or manufacturers.

Figures of stocks may be affected to some degree by seasonal influences. Moreover, these figures often relate to only part of the total stocks in the country.

8. Definitions. In order to make this Digest as self-contined as possible a Definitions Sections is included at pages 209 to 237.The purpose of the notes and definitions given in this Section is to supplement the various footnotes given in the tables and to make it possible to interpret the figures fully without reference back to the basic sources of the statistics. It is important that each table should be read in conjunction not only with the footnotes appended to it but also with the appropriate paragraphs in the Definitions Section.

9. Rounding of figures. Where necessary, each figure has been rounded off to the nearest final digit. For this reason there may be in some tables an appearent slight discrepancy between the sum of the constituent items and the total as shown.

10. Symbols employed. The following symbols have been used throughout the Digest:

… = not available
— = nil or negligible (less than half the final digit shown)
* = five week period

Central Statistical Office,
Great George Street, London, S.W.1.

October, 1950.


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