Originally set up just after the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1854, under command of a retired Indian army Officer, Major Thomas Best Jervis, the Department rested within the War Office and was intended to provide at least the rudiments of a strategic collection capability for the army. It focussed on mapping and gathering data concerning areas of interest.
This Archive document shows the limited number of staff manning the Topographical and Statistics Department between 1855 and 1906.
During the Boer war the blame for failures in the field had been firmly fixed on the Intelligence Department who were lambasted in the free press. However, post war inquiries into the failures completely exonerated the Intelligence Branch who were praised for the quality of the work they had delivered despite the serious under-manning and under-funding they had operated under.