Kew Visit

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by Ken P, Jul 16, 2016.

  1. Ken P

    Ken P Active Member

    I am planning a visit to Kew when I receive my granddads's service records but have gathered that it is a daunting prospect.

    I do have plenty of research experience (up until recently I was a fraud investigator for almost 30 years!) so that side of it doesn't hold any fears. However - any tips or hints members (I suspect it'll be Drew going by previous posts!) can give me would be hugely appreciated!

    I will be in the area for a couple of days as I also want to check the records held by the Surrey Historical Society, but need to plan it properly to get the best out of it!
  2. hutt

    hutt Member

    Hi and welcome
    There is certainly no need to be daunted by Kew.
    Here are my thoughts.
    Getting there is easy, it's a short 10 minute walk from Kew underground or if you drive and can face the traffic in that area particularly on the south circular then there is a free car park. There is a small shopping centre nearby with an M&S which is quite convenient as well.
    If it's your first visit make sure you have all the indentification required to get your readers ticket. I think it's the usual, passport and utility bill sort of thing. The first registration process takes a little while so a good reason to get there sharp on your first day.
    When you arrive, all bags must be put in the lockers and anything you take up to the reading rooms must be in the clear plastic bags that they supply. Check the list of what you can and cannot have carefully or you'll get sent back downstairs. It's recently changed and for instance, camera cases are now not allowed. The big one is pencils only and no rubbers. Most if not all the diaries you are likely to want to see can be photographed. Just make sure you turn off the audible click on the shutter. You can also take in battery chargers and the desks have power points.
    Once you have your readers ticket you will need to head for the first floor research room. There is a help desk as you get to the top of the stairs but essentially you find a vacant desk and computer. Unless you have already used their website to find the references to order you will need to log into their system and search the Discovery pages to find the catalog references and then order them. More on that later.
    Once you have placed the order you might as well go downstairs to the cafe as it will typically be 30 minutes plus before your first documents are ready. Alternatively stay at the terminal and use it to access some of the various pages that you can reach for free at Kew but have to subscribe to outside. Secret tip.. you can then photograph them on the terminal screen. There is also an excellent bookshop that is good at emptying my wallet and oh, they supply regulation pencils if you've forgotten one as well as AA batteries!
    Back to ordering. As part of the process you will need to specify where you want to sit. There are 3 zones from within which you then need to select a seat. If you plan to photograph anything then make sure you go for one of the window groups that not only have better light but adjustable camera stands. Make a note of the seat you book as that is used to deliver your documents. Not to the seat itself unfortunately but to a series of correspondingly coded cubbyholes from which you take the document. Your first order will be for a maximum of 3 items and once these are delivered to the cubbyhole you can start to order more. There are rules as to how many documents can be taken to the reading desks. 3 'files' or 1 box. Most war diaries I have been given are in the former category, some Air Force documents were actually in bound book form.
    It goes without saying that any documents you have out should be treated with the utmost respect but with your background you will understand that. You must not attempt to unwind anything but if some of the treasury tags are a problem ask at the help desk and they will ease the major ones that perhaps prevent the covers opening. There are wedges and weights to help lay the documents flatter to help with photographing.
    There are staff circulating who will ask you to desist with anything that breaks the rules particularly if you have too many documents or don't like the way you appear tom be forcing them. If something can't be seen at all like a map then ask at the help desk and they will probably unclip it and let you look at it in isolation. I recently had to have this done for a destroyer log that was completely folded on itself.
    Once you have finished with a file take it to the returns desk. Make sure you re tie the ribbon that goes around most files and return it with the little yellow slip just poking out. If in going through the file you do disturb the alignment of the papers then do take a few minutes to try and get them all back neatly, if they are really bad you may get pulled at the returns desk and of course it makes the diary more difficult for any future reader!
    If you need to order some more documents while in the reading room then there are a series of terminals for this as you go in. There is also a swipe point by the cubbyholes that you can use to see how any documents you have on order are progressing.
    A quick note on the security. As you enter and leave the reading room you will need to swipe your card. As a matter of routine the staff will also rummage through your clear plastic bag and if you have taken in a note book, most likely will thumb through it.
    The most daunting thing is probably the Discovery search engine itself but it is quite remarkable. ideally you will have used it before you go and have a list of catalog references you can just order as you arrive.
    I am sure that if you were to post your grandfathers record here a number of members would have the catalog references for you in no time. Most can be found quite easily but in my particular area you often need to uses different ways to tease out the data, typically anti aircraft unit diaries can be using bothe AA and 'anti' so I always try both, similarly I use both light and LAA and heavy and HAA.
    I am sure others can add more suggestions.
    One of the remarkable things I found was how far beyond the initial unit diaries you can get. They will often have references to higher or lower formations or others that were operating near by or in unison. What starts as a simple project to find perhaps a half dozen diaries could rapidly expand!!

    Oh one final tip. Start and end any series of photographs with an image that includes your yellow slip. That has the diary details and the date and helps enormously when you get back home!

    Good luck
    dbf, Owen, CL1 and 2 others like this.
  3. Ken P

    Ken P Active Member

    Thanks.....are you sure you haven't missed anything? ;)
  4. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

  5. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Well done IAZ

    thank you

  6. hutt

    hutt Member

    Umm let me think...ah! they are in the process of refurbishing the cafe!
    What might get a glimpse of a heron in the lake outside, also great place to see the planes streaming into Heathrow!
    Ken P likes this.
  7. PsyWar.Org

    PsyWar.Org Archive monkey

    Cafe refurb has been completed and now resembles Salon Kitty.
    Ken P likes this.
  8. Buteman

    Buteman 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA

    The Heron at Kew. Quite bold and not at all spooked by Human activity.

  9. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Ref the Surrey Historical Society speak to Nick Fenton on here. I paid him to do some research there for me there around 18 months ago, he is very familiar with the place as he lives round the corner IRRC.
    Ken P likes this.
  10. Ken P

    Ken P Active Member

    I'm going there next Friday. As I know what they have from emails and it isn't dependant on stuff I glean from service records, I should have a pretty satisfying day.
  11. hutt

    hutt Member

    Thanks for placing a copy in the main Kew thread.

    Great shot of the Heron, I have a similar one. Unfortunately the Canadian Geese are less attractive especially when you need to negotiate their left overs!

    As for Salon Kitty, I don't know what to expect but I hope they've been able to keep and expose that fantastic concrete waffle slab ceiling in the refurb. So 1970s!
  12. hutt

    hutt Member

    Two final thoughts.

    You can take laptops and tablets into the reading room to aid research and downstairs in the cafe is an ATM that I think is FOC.

  13. Bluebell Minor

    Bluebell Minor Junior Member

    Don't forget the swan family who have made a home on the ornamental lake by the pedestrian approach to the main building for a number of years. Cob, Pen and four cygnets were on the upper pond by the entrance to the main building when I visted 10 days ago, Heron was very visible on the banks of the the lower lake
  14. hutt

    hutt Member

    Just sitting in Salon Kitty! I see what you mean about the refurbishment. The waffle slab and zig zag lights look great though. Can't work out if the seating is substantially reduced. May get a bit crowded at busy times.
  15. PsyWar.Org

    PsyWar.Org Archive monkey

    Agree about the waffle stab which is presumably part of the original 70's construction. Seating definitely reduced and the dining tables next to the toilets are not particularly appetizing either.
  16. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Salon Kitty? It looks more like somewhere you'd get a lap I'm told.
  17. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I was thinking of a Japanese cafe with waitresses dressed as cats.

    And that was before I read this thread...
  18. PsyWar.Org

    PsyWar.Org Archive monkey

    Andy, Salon Kitty was a brothel in Berlin ran by the SS during the 1930's. The rooms were bugged to listen into the indiscreet conversations of the clientele consisting of businessmen and diplomats.

    Or did you think I was referring to a hairdressers?
  19. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    If its not 1940 Dunkirk......
    Ken P likes this.

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