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Research Guides

Near Neighbours: Records on Australia's Relations with Indonesia

Cable formats - Explanatory notes

Image 7

Image 7: Cable formats - Explanatory notes


Explanatory notes

  1. Communications Centre operator's initials. Sometimes two sets of initials are found; the first initial is that of the cipher operator (ie the person deciphering the cablegram if it was sent in code or cipher), and the second belongs to the operator typing the cable in plain language onto the stencil ready for printing. These initials were used as a management tool within the Communications Centre.
  2. The Communications Centre's inward registration number is identified by the letter 'I' preceding a number (eg 'I.12345'). This number was used by the Communications Centre to keep track of the hundreds of cables it received daily from overseas posts. The Communications Centre could not rely on the originator's post serial number (seenote 5) because posts routinely forgot to apply their own serial numbers or used numbers out of sequence. Posts also used different series of numbers for each destination and these numbers were sometimes incorrectly applied. Some posts used special serial numbers to identify cablegrams dealing with special events, such as ministerial visits. The Communications Centre used its own inward registration number to overcome these anomalies. The Communications Centre applied an outward registration number preceded by the letter 'O' to outward cables, eg 'O.12345'.
  3. The date and (local) time the cable was authorised for transmission.
  4. The date and (local) time the Communications Centre in Canberra received the cablegram. This does not appear in outward cables.
  5. A cablegram was referred to by a cable post serial number, usually in the form of 'Reference my 271' or 'Your 296'. All posts and the Central Office in Canberra used post serial numbers, which are important because individual documents are usually cited by these numbers. The post serial number later became known as the post sequence number.Serial numbers started at '1' at the beginning of the year and were used by recipients to monitor whether all cables coming from a particular location had been received. For example, if the Jakarta post had sent cables 1–295 to Canberra and Canberra had not yet received number 280, this would generate an inquiry from Canberra into the missing cable. When sent to more than one location, a cable would bear separate serial numbers for each destination. For example, a cable sent from Jakarta to Canberra and also copied to Singapore would bear something like '275.77 to Singapore', which indicated that it was the 275th cable to Canberra and the 77thto Singapore for that year.
  6. The security classification of the cable. This was often left out for unclassified cables. In many cases the cable was typed on pre-printed paper bearing the security classification.
  7. The transmission precedence of the cable. For routine cables this was often left out.
  8. The subject title of the cable. This is a useful research aid to identify files relevant to the subject. For example, by typing the keywords 'Indonesia* & trade & union' onto the RecordSearch search screen, the results will include:
  • Asian visits fund, visits to Australia, Indonesian trade union officials, 1957–59: 574/4/33 part 1
  • Visits to Australia, Indonesia, trade union officials, 1959–60: 574/4/33 part 2
  1. These files are in the department's main correspondence series (A1838) for this subject. Note the use of the wild card '*' in the search parameters to find both 'Indonesia' and 'Indonesian' in the file titles. Although these two items are parts 1 and 2 of the same file, they have differently worded titles, a common occurrence in file management across all departments. It is therefore useful to start with wider research parameters and then refine the initial search results (see also note 11).
  2. This is a reference to Canberra's serial number '295', ie the 295th cable sent from Canberra to Jakarta for 1959. A copy of cable no. 295 should be on the relevant file, ie A1838, 574/4/33.
  3. The list of the action addressees for the cable. These were separated from the information addressees (13) by the date on which the cable was prepared in the Communications Centre (12). It is sometimes worth noting these action addressees because if the department's file has been destroyed or lost, a similar file may have been maintained by one of the addressees.
  4. The file reference (in this case External Affairs) for this subject. Sometimes the file reference will refer to other departments, eg Immigration or Defence. Unfortunately, few cables bear a file reference number.
  5. The date on which the cable was prepared by the Communications Centre.
  6. Information addressees.