Discussion in 'Service Records' started by Tullybrone, Dec 17, 2021.

  1. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member

    Copy and paste from a post on Great War Forum today -

    “I recently put in two requests for post 1921 service records.

    The first one which I sent in was for a man who served in WW1 and then continued his service till the 1930s. That appears to have gone through as have had an acknowledgement that this is being dealt with and that they will get back to me with his service record.

    The other was for a WW2 serviceman and have had my cheque plus form sent back to me saying -

    ‘As part of the Defence Records Management Project, a percentage of archived army service files have been transferred to the National Archives to allow them to start work on these records being digitised and being made available to the public. As the file you have requested has been transferred as part of the project , we are returning your application and payment to you.'

    The rest of the letter (which is obviously a standard one) refers me to Kew suggesting I visit there to do my own research.

    Not worried about that as am a regular visitor there (or used to be pre-COVID) however was wondering if the MOD has retained any info at all on the files they have transferred since this chap's service record is probably the only document(s) that will identify what unit he was with in WW2 (family don't know and usual sources on FMP/newspapers etc etc cannot help). Therefore referring me to Kew is no help for the moment to do any research.

    Presumably when these records are released at Kew any restrictions can be relieved by authorisation by a relative as they have been up to now.”

    Deacs, AB64 and papiermache like this.
  2. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    Extract from Kew News item on 21st August 2021:

    "We are aware that many people are keen to access them as soon as possible e.g., military historians and those researching their family tree. However, there is necessarily a lot of work that takes place before these newly acquired records can make it to our reading rooms."

    See here: MOD Records Project - The National Archives

    The National Archives Board minutes for July 2021 included this item:

    " Transfer of Ministry of Defence (MoD) Service Personnel Records

    The Board received a paper providing an update on the transfer of MoD military service personnel records to The National Archives and the key project work-streams.

    AF shared pictures of the records transferred to illustrate their condition and the need to re-box them for preservation and preparation for cataloguing and digitising. He also spoke about work to design the public access regime and invited the NEBMs to engage with this work-stream.

    The Board:

    1. (i) Noted progress on the project, key work-streams and plans for future deliveries from MoD;

    2. (ii) Welcomed engagement from MR, RP and RS on more detailed conversations about access arrangements; and

      (iii) Suggested including Service Personnel Records as part of the discussion relating to storage/location at the September Strategy meeting.

      Action by: LF/AF/SW "

    J Kubra and Deacs like this.
  3. RAFCommands

    RAFCommands Senior Member

    There have been a few releases post 1921 to AIR79 - the last batch in 2014 that was for RAF Halton Boy Apprentice induction of 1928.

    This accorded with the MoD publication assumption of alive until 116 years after birth so all subject personal details will not be redacted - but 3rd party such as NoK will.

    Looking ahead it does mean that there will be a few years of limbo when the TNA is processing them they will not be available from any source. All we can do is wait to see how long it take the first batch from 2021 to be released then use this as a guide.

    As we get below the 115 years since birth I cannot see the TNA revising redaction on a yearly basis so expect either some blanket redaction or outright closure until 115 years

    What we can consider is roughly when each age group records will no longer be available from Disclosures. 116 years ago is DoB 1905. so 6 tranches covering 1905 to 1939.

    DoB range
    1905 - 1910 release to TNA 2021
    1911 - 1916 release to TNA 2022
    1917 - 1922 release to TNA 2023
    1923 - 1928 release to TNA 2024
    1929 - 1934 release to TNA 2025
    1935 - 1939 release to TNA 2026

    So by my rough calculation we will loose access to the early war induction/conscription group of DoB 1920 to 1924 through Disclosures between 2023 and 2024 for an undetermined time.

    Get your research applications in next year peeps.

    papiermache, CL1 and 4jonboy like this.
  4. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    There are three Kew bodies which have minuted "progress" on the MOD transfer of records during this plague year and none of them have given that very useful advice from Ross.

    If you want a service record do it soonest. Write a cheque. Don't wait for some digital partner of Kew to get involved.

    The Kew bodies are Kew Directors or Executives, Kew Board members or Non-executive, and the Advisory Council.

    The Advisory Council is the grandfather since it is chaired by the Master of the Rolls.

    In May the Advisory Council minuted:

    " 3.6. Members raised concerns on the long term storage capacity for TNA in light of current projects, particularly the acquisition of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) Service Personnel Records. JJ noted work had been ongoing at Kew and at Deep Store where a further 10 linear kilometres had been found at each. This would ensure there was sufficient capacity in the short term. Longer term, TNA was exploring future storage options."

    So, if you know of an old salt mine...


    "4.9. In spite of this, some departments had been able to transfer records and TNA had accessioned roughly 41,000 records and departments were ensuring they maintained lawful compliance for their retained documents. Additionally the initial transfer of MoD Service Personnel Records had been successful."

    Define "successful". Are the " initial transfer of MoD ServiceService Personnel Records" open to view at Kew? Normally the Kew reference is assigned prior to transfer, but the said "initial transfer" has not been defined in the minutes.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2021
    Thistle746 likes this.
  5. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    Very fast publication of recent Board Minutes from Kew compared with previous long delays in publication, often over nine months' delay.

    Extract from

    "Full Minutes of The National Archives’ Board

    Held on 18 January 2022 at 10:00 via Video Conference (VC)"

    Codes used

    GMR = Gemma Maclagan Ram Commercial Director

    LF = Lucy Fletcher Director for Public Records Access and Government Services

    RS = Ros Scott (RS) Non-executive Board Member

    NEBMs = Non-executive Board Members

    "9.0 MoD Service Personnel Records Transfer – Quarterly Project Update

    9.1 The Board received a major project update on the transfer of circa 10 million Ministry of Defence (MoD) service personnel records to The National Archives for strategic oversight and assurance.

    9.2 LF introduced the report and thanked the NEBMs for their participation in the Working Group and the opportunity to set out to them the size and complexity of the project. GMR provided an update on the procurement of a project partner, including estimated timescales.

    9.3 RS asked where the NEBMs can specifically add value and contribute to the project. In response, LF noted that support with developing and testing access arrangements for the records would be particularly welcomed.

    9.4 Assurances were provided on the funding for the project, including support from HM Treasury for multi-year budgeting and on our relationship with MoD, which is set out in a memorandum of understanding. Commercial opportunities and information rights issues were also noted.

    9.5 The Board:
    (i) Received and noted the progress update;

    (ii) Agreed that the records should be released in tranches; and

    (iii) Endorsed the next steps set out in the report, relating to Board engagement and oversight"

    Extract from the Executive Board meeting minutes, which probably relates to the above.

    "Date of Meeting: 08 February 2022 at 13.00
    Location: Swan Room & Video Conference (VC)

    Title: Executive Team Meeting

    "6. Potential Partnership Project (verbal update)
    6.1. There was a discussion on internal arrangements to support the delivery
    of a potential partnership project."
  6. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    MOD Service Records, Digitisation and Licensing - Expressions of Interest Stage - Contracts Finder

    Tender expiry date was in December 2021.

    " Background on the MOD Service Records, collations 11005, 11009, 11010 and 11011.

    Over the next decade, The National Archives will accession approximately 9.6 million service personnel records in 74 collations.

    The records that make up this collection cover service in the British Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and foreign regiments, where the individual has a discharge date prior to 31 December 1963; however, predominantly the records cover the period from 1921 to the end of the Second World War.

    This tender is for the initial four collations only:
     11005: (Army) Other Ranks Service Records, 1921-1939 

     11009: (Army) Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Other Ranks Service 

     11010: (Army) P59 & Over Age Other Ranks Service Records 

     11011: (Army) Bournemouth Over Age Other Ranks Service Records 

    the above collations amount to approximately 31% of the entire MOD Service Records.

    The remaining 70 collations (approx. 61%) will be subject to further National Archives tenders over the coming decade and beyond.

Although not formally arranged as such, each service record comprises at least one, or a combination of, the following: 

     Attestation papers, Statements of Service and other forms relating to enlistment and service.

    o Digitising at least one of these forms is mandatory

     Forms not directly relating to enlistment and service, excluding medical or conduct forms (see below); these include miscellaneous paperwork such as reports, personal letters, special leave applications and handwritten notes. 
o Digitisationoptional 

     Medical or conduct forms and other potentially sensitive paperwork. 
o Digitisation prohibited 

    1. Closure status

      For the purposes of this digitisation and publication tender:
      •  Attestation papers, Statements of Service and other forms relating to service and enlistment may be published after 100 years has elapsed from the date of birth of the data subject;

      •  Forms and miscellaneous paperwork not directly related to enlistment and service, excluding medical or conduct forms (see below), may be published after 100 years has elapsed from the date of birth of the data subject;

      •  Digitisation and publication of medical or conduct forms and other potentially sensitive paperwork is prohibited.
    Further conditions will apply on redaction of data which may breach the Data Protection Act 2018 and UKGDPR."
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2022
  7. CL1

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

    Crikey with most of these civil servants still working from home and continuing for the near future most of us will be pushing up daisies by the time anything gets finished
    Every time you calll a CS department you get every excuse under the sun as to why the info you are after is not available thats if you can even get hold of them in the first place
    Dinosaurs the lot of them
    papiermache likes this.
  8. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Wouldn't it make more sense to only do them after 100 years and avoid all the aggravation of partial digitisation? Not much point applying for the three blank sheets they've decided you can have before then.
    Or is the role of the civil service to make the simplest tasks as difficult as possible?
    CL1 likes this.
  9. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    There used to be a User Forum where you could ask sensible questions of the staff at Kew but they got rid of that. However, you could practice your charleston dancing and go and attend this event in May, if you buy a ticket.

    "Fri, 20 May 2022, 19:30 BST
    Get your gladrags on as we recreate one of 1920s London's hottest nightclubs for one night only.
    About this event
    Something exciting is happening at The National Archives…
    After dark, 1920s London transformed. It was a place effervescent with outrageous parties and scandalous nightclubs – none more so than the 43 Club on Gerrard Street, owned by the notorious ‘Nightclub Queen’ of Soho, Kate Meyrick (find out more about her here).
    Get ready for an exclusive trip back to the glitz and glamour of London’s hottest 1920s underground spot as we recreate Kate’s club here at The National Archives, in collaboration with The Candlelight Club.
    With live cabaret, jazz music and DJ sets, exclusive glimpses into our exhibition, and curated cocktails and food from Maids of Honour – the night is set to be abuzz with 20s frivolity. Catch a Charleston performance and chat to Kate and her staff to discover more about her misadventures with the celebrities, royalty, gangsters, and bright young things she partied with.
    Be sure to bring your friends – 1920s gladrags are highly encouraged!
    Featuring an array of entertainment throughout the evening, including live music, dancers, magician, performers and a vintage DJ until late."
    CL1 and JohnH like this.
  10. Dave76

    Dave76 Member

    This is all somewhat depressing reading. Residing outside of the UK I was for too many years been under the naive assumption that the MoD would soon bring their archaic application process into the 21st century and fully embrace the modern world and give up on snail mail applications and international money orders (extinct in my location). Therefore it was good news to hear that the National Archives were taking over the records having obtained several records from them using online applications.

    The National Archives website states "We strive to be an open and transparent organisation. In addition to responding to government’s requests for particular information to be published, we aim to proactively share as much information as possible and make it available on our website." Well as far as the transfer of Army Service Records project goes, it is a clear as mud to me.

    My understanding is 9 million service records containing multiple pages to be scanned are being transferred over 6 years. The NA has tendered for a commercial partner to assist with the process, results of the tender currently unknown. For the 2021 Census they partnered with FindMyPast, a project that took 4 years and resulted in 18 million scanned pages. It seems to me that the Army Service project is going to take a very long time before people with be able to access the records, noting the storage and indexing issues to be resolved before scanning even commences.

    Questions that would be nice to have an answer are:
    What are the target dates for when the records hoped to be released;
    Will they be released in DOB yearly batches in or some other way;
    Will information less that 115 or 100 years be redacted;
    Will information be redacted if the service person is deceased;
    Will the information be redacted if the applicant is next of kin or a direct descendant;
    If a commercial partner is involved will all applications have to be made with that commercial company on their terms;

    The record I am interested in is being transferred this year, the one small positive is that it should be available one year earlier than it should be as like many others, he lied about his age.
    papiermache and J Kubra like this.
  11. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    The User Forum last met in February 2019. The last forum left for users is the User Advisory Group who raised issues last September. See minutes here:

    "6. Delegate submitted questions: 6.1 MoD records access (SK).

    Q. TNA's news release regarding the transfer of MOD service records was received with some interest on Twitter.

    One area of concern has been raised about access in light of the transfer and would benefit from some clarification.

    The MOD's current policy currently restricts full public access to a record until 25 years after the death of a given serviceman/woman, but this rule is waived if the applicant is the next of kin of the deceased.

    Will TNA be retaining this approach (or some form thereof) when it takes control of the records?

    Although the current statement (included below) mentions the 115 year closure period, next-of-kin access doesn't seem to be a given.

    Some users are concerned that records they can currently access from the MOD will be closed to them once transferred to TNA, and are asking whether they need to pre-emptively order from the MoD now to avoid losing access.

    The relevant TNA public statement states "As these are personnel records, they naturally contain a range of personal data including medical information.

    To protect the information in these records, closure will apply until 115 years past the date of birth of the

    Whether or not the material can be open to all or closed fully or in part will be assessed on this basis or upon request under relevant data protection and freedom of information laws."



    TNA will not be operating access to these records in the same way as MOD currently do, because it is not permitted under law.

    When the records transfer to TNA they are governed by the law as it applies to TNA i.e. by the Public Record and the Freedom of Information (FOI) Acts.

    The FOI is ‘applicant blind’ and does not distinguish between applicants being next of kin or not.

    TNA will treat the access request as a request for the whole record rather than for specific categories of information, as MoD does currently.

    This means that more information should be available to those that request it (see MOD scheme here: personnel).

    The 115-year closure period is based on date of birth; for individuals born before 1907 the full record of service will be open immediately for all enquirers, including next of kin.

    It is an enormous collection which holds information of over 9 million individuals: including potentially living individuals.

    When making an access request, proof of death must be provided.

    If the person is still alive the record will remain closed.

    In the absence of proof of death, the guideline will be if the person is aged over 100 years old – this is current TNA practice in line with the FOI Act and any non- exempt information from the whole record can be released.

    The Data Protection Act ceases to apply to an individual from the date of death, but certain categories of information remain protected, in particular medical Information.

    Here other legislation means that this can remain closed for longer.
    However, this framework means that access to records will therefore be greater."
    J Kubra and Charley Fortnum like this.
  12. Reid

    Reid Historian & Architectural Photographer

    I'd be interested to know how they're going about this, as I currently work for the South Australian government, scanning a myriad of documentation, from old newspapers to photographs.

    We have several options for this process, a dedicated overhead scanner for newspapers and books (as well as posters etc), flatbed scanners (x6), document scanners (x2).

    The speed of scanning will obviously depend upon the type of documents, their size, condition and how they are collated. Single sheets are much faster than complete issues of newspapers (it takes me approximately a week to scan between 1500-2000 pages, as newspapers aren't always printed straight) but for individual sheets it is certainly much faster.

    If the attestation photocopies I received are actual size, these could very easily be scanned on a dedicated document scanner similar to what we use. I recently scanned a "sacrificial copy" of a book (96 pages+covers) and it took me about 10 minutes, from start to completion, which includes checking and renumbering if necessary.

    One can only hope whoever lands the tender, is knowledgeable and can get the process underway quickly; I'd love to throw my hat in the ring should positions be advertised to see this through.
    Charley Fortnum and davidbfpo like this.
  13. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

  14. AB64

    AB64 Senior Member

    As Canada, Australia and NZ did such a great job in making WW1 Service Records available I'm hoping they will also be good with WW2

    Australia is currently working through their WW2 Service Records digitising them - see Digitising World War II service records | for progress

    NZ - I just emailed and got the following reply “ Work is currently underway to scope the requirements and resourcing options for the digitisation of Second World War Military Personnel Files. As you will appreciate, this is a large scale and long-term project proposal which will require careful co-ordination and consultation with Archives New Zealand, iwi and other stakeholders. The project itself will take many years to achieve.

    Canada - They have already made Service Records for casualties available, so looks like its an area they have been considering, but nothing I can see online about them moving them from active documents to archive documents, I have emailed so will update when I get a reply.
  15. BoredPanda

    BoredPanda Member

    I have just had my first interactions with the national archives regarding service records. They're response to emails is extremely timely (considering I am in the US with a five-hour time difference) and we have had a back and forth over a couple of records. They informed me that a worker will review the information I submitted (name, DOB, and death certificate) and will respond within 20-days per UK freedom of information laws. They warned that medical or sensitive information could be redacted etc. One presumes that would mean enough information to figure out when he served and unit info etc. then I can do the rest to fill in the blanks? The other record they stated was in the process of being transferred and will not be accessible for another month or so, and to reach back out then. On the whole, seems a whole lot faster and efficient so far. Fingers crossed!
  16. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

  17. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    "The records are those in series WO 420 and relate to the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers regiment. They relate to service personnel with a date of birth greater than 115 years."

    Bearing in mind that REME wasn't formed until 1942, there will be fewer with dates of birth more than 115 years ago than most other units, although not all recruits were young of course...Very little pre-war and no Battle of France stuff.
  18. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member


    The papers may well include files for men who saw active service 1939/42 with other units and transferred into REME.

    Last edited: Apr 5, 2022
  19. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

  20. SteveLunt

    SteveLunt Active Member

    As someone in the USA has requetsed records, does these mean you wont have to go to Kew to view them or will they send them to you or a time limted amount to view on the web site

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