Origins The origins of the British General Staff lie in the Crimean War, when the British Army found itself fighting in an area about which it knew little and of which it possessed very few maps. In order to prevent the recurrence of such a situation, a Topographical Branch was established in the War Office in 1855. True to its name, the branch concentrated almost entirely on the topography of foreign countries, 'the nature and strength of their armies were treated as minor matters [and] relegated to the background'.1