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National Archives - Kew Tips?

Discussion in 'Research Material' started by von Poop, Oct 2, 2008.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Cheers all,

    Back to the drawing board then-I'm not trying to sort all that out on a first visit. I'd much prefer something simple to do on the first trip.

    A
     
  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Me again-I'm sure I'm doing something wrong when searching.

    Lets say I want the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards War Diaries from 1939 to 1940.

    Is this the correct place and way to search?

    The National Archives Search Results

    All the search results don't show anything of use that I can see.

    What am I doing wrong? I'm slowly loosing the will to live with this after wasting god knows how many hours searching.

    Cheers
    Andy
     
  3. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    Not seen that before, looks like the site search.

    For records, you need The Catalogue (aka PROCAT).

    Check the relevant Army research guide to get the WO number for BEF War diaries, search in that series for Welsh to start with. PROCAT doesn't handle phrases well...

    Must dash, bit tight for time...
     
    Drew5233 likes this.
  4. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  5. DannyM

    DannyM Member

    Hi,
    Link to Army Research Guide with War Diary information as suggested by Idler.


    http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/rdleaflet.asp?sLeafletID=161




    The search in PROCAT throws up these two results.


    WO 167/696 1 Welsh Guards
    WO 167/697 2 Welsh Guards


    Sometimes I have have found it easier to put in the number of the unit in the search box rather than the name when it comes to some of the units and then sift through the results to find the unit I am looking for.


    Regards


    Danny
     
  6. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

    Andy

    I'll pm you my home phone and if you ring me tonight, I'll talk you through what you need to know as it's becoming quite painful to watch your progress.;)

    Rob.
     
  7. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I think I've got it....Just home from work and I'll have another go in a bit.

    I'll search for, Errmmmmm, 1st Bn South Lancs 1939-1940.


    BRB :D
     
  8. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  9. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    My money says you never get past the bookshop in the foyer...
     
  10. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    My money says you never get past the bookshop in the foyer...

    :lol: I've already been warned about that tonight in a email !
     
  11. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    Hi

    Popping my NA cherry tomorrow and was wondering if anyone in forumland was going to be there at the same time. I would welcome any advice which may make my brief stay as painless and fruitful as possible.

    I have 13 War Diaries that I want to review and photograph, covering Dad's entire service history from 39 through to 46 and about 6 hrs to do it in. However, that includes the additional time getting my readers ticket and waiting for the first batch to arrive. 9 of these files only cover small periods of 6 months or less.

    Dad worked primarily in RAOC/REME workshops and from what I've seen so far, their war diaries are fairly uncomplicated (and very brief) documents.

    Does this sound achievable within my tight schedule?

    Regards

    Gus
     
  12. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Good luck and let us know how you get on :)
     
  13. gaspirator

    gaspirator Member

    Hi

    Popping my NA cherry tomorrow and was wondering if anyone in forumland was going to be there at the same time. I would welcome any advice which may make my brief stay as painless and fruitful as possible.

    I have 13 War Diaries that I want to review and photograph, covering Dad's entire service history from 39 through to 46 and about 6 hrs to do it in. However, that includes the additional time getting my readers ticket and waiting for the first batch to arrive. 9 of these files only cover small periods of 6 months or less.

    Dad worked primarily in RAOC/REME workshops and from what I've seen so far, their war diaries are fairly uncomplicated (and very brief) documents.

    Does this sound achievable within my tight schedule?

    Regards

    Gus


    I would be prepared to write off 60-90 mins for the getting ticket part. You may have to queue for the photo ID machine (I lost 30 mins just renewing my ticket last year), depending on how busy they are. You then get a 20-30 min tour of the reading rooms where you're shown what's what and all about handling docs, security etc., but you may have to wait for the next scheduled tour, so you may be kicking your heels for a bit.

    The wait for your first docs should be 40 mins and it can be less, again, depending on demand. If it's lunchtime, then's there's fewer staff to work the system. Once your first batch arrives, order the next lot before you do anything else so you always have something in the pipeline.

    As for your 13 diaries, it totally depends how much detail is in each; some files I've seen cover several months on one sheet, some record daily events in detail, some include appendices (Part 1/Part 2 orders, reports, maps) and others don't. As you're photographing, you can spend more time doing that than actually reading as you go, but you'll come to recognise what's important to you and just photo that rather than just try and get everything and end up with stuff that's of little use.

    What you achieve is up to you, but be prepared to not get as much done as you find your way on your first visit. My philosophy has always been never to set a target for a visit, as you can get disappointed if a day's work doesn't turn up something good, or something you felt certain you were going to see fails to materialize (and I've had a few stinkers). I simply go with the intention of knowing more at the end of the day than I did at the start.

    Your subsequent visits will be better; with your ticket you can order 6 docs online to be ready for you and still be able to order up to the max 21 in a day.

    I find 7hrs is about as much as I can take in a day, as I spend most of the time snapping away and end up zombiefied by the time I get home. Don't forget to take regular breaks. I buy a pack of sarnies before I go to TNA - their prices are little steep. I've never had hot food there, so can't comment on it.

    In the meantime, get to know your camera; make sure you can turn the flash/bleeping off and maybe have a practice photographing some text/newsprint so you can get an idea of your pic quality and memory. Also, check your marcro zoom setting and find out what works. I personally set pic quality at 2m as this is enough to record text and I only need one 4gb card to last the day. I shoot in b/w too for plain text; as I print a lot of reports, I don't want to waste colour ink or spend time batch converting images to b/w. I only use colour for maps or other colour content (and boost the pic quality to max for detail) and to photo the yellow doc slip so that I can see where each file starts when I'm organising them into folders at home. I know switching between colour and b/w sounds like a faff (and it is!) but if you're looking at 1,000+ photos (and some on this forum get 2,500+ in a day) in Windows Explorer, the colour ones stand out much better. Again, this is purely my personal preference to meet my own particular needs - other people will have different ways and means.

    You'll be far better off using one of the photo stands to start with; I know a lot of people swear by them, but my personal preference now is to shoot freehand. Playback your first few images when you start out and make sure your settings are working; you don't want to find out the focus was out when you get home. Have the camera manual with you on the day just in case. Once you've got good results, make a note of the camera settings. Also, charge your batteries and have some spares; my last visit nearly went badly wrong as my camera has non-standard batteries. I ran down the first one and plugged it into the charger (the desks have plug sockets), only to find that the spare battery was already flat - it takes them 2 hrs to charge, but my phone camera came to the rescue.

    I'm not at TNA tomorrow, but possibly sometime next week (Tues or Thurs, late opening), I'm usually on table 23.

    Enjoy!

    - Pete
     
  14. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    Thanks Pete for your most comprehensive guide.

    As I have just one battery for my new camera I may well just bring the old one as well, just in case, as I have plenty standard batteries for that one. Will have a practise this afternoon.

    I must admit, I wasn't expecting to write off such a lot of time to get started. I set off on a 0630 train and have to be back at Liverpool St Stn for the return train at 1630. And I won't be able to come back until August at the earliest.

    I ordered some war diaries of a REME Workshop in North Africa from the NAs digital copying service some time ago and found that there was only one A3 page for each month. I also found there were pages and pages of irrelevent weekly officers/soldiers totals which never ever changed (as you would expect with a vehicle minor servicing unit). As it turns out, Dads service record arrived a couple of months later and he wasnt actually with that unit at the time. But I did learn a little from them and I now know exactly what I'm looking for. Expensive mistake though! Hence my trip to NA.

    Thanks once again

    Gus
     
  15. gaspirator

    gaspirator Member

    Thanks Pete for your most comprehensive guide.

    As I have just one battery for my new camera I may well just bring the old one as well, just in case, as I have plenty standard batteries for that one. Will have a practise this afternoon.

    I must admit, I wasn't expecting to write off such a lot of time to get started. I set off on a 0630 train and have to be back at Liverpool St Stn for the return train at 1630. And I won't be able to come back until August at the earliest.

    I ordered some war diaries of a REME Workshop in North Africa from the NAs digital copying service some time ago and found that there was only one A3 page for each month. I also found there were pages and pages of irrelevent weekly officers/soldiers totals which never ever changed (as you would expect with a vehicle minor servicing unit). As it turns out, Dads service record arrived a couple of months later and he wasnt actually with that unit at the time. But I did learn a little from them and I now know exactly what I'm looking for. Expensive mistake though! Hence my trip to NA.

    Thanks once again

    Gus

    No worries Gus!

    You may get through the ticket/signing up much quicker - it relies completely on demand and you may arrive at the right moment. Whatever, once you get the first visit out of the way, your subsequent visits will go much smoother and will be more productive.

    It sounds as though you have quite a slog on the trains; it takes me 2 hours and 3 trains each way from Sussex. I wait until 10.00 to get cheaper travel and I can still get 7hrs at TNA on a 7.00 closing day.

    You're not the only person to have shelled out a lot on the photocopying service, which is why a couple of productive visits can actually save money.

    Have a good day!

    - Pete
     
  16. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    Hi Pete.

    The trip yesterday went really well. I got there at 9.30 and registration was very quick and I actually had my first docs at 1010. I managed to photo about 300 pages of war diary covering every aspect of my fathers expoloits in WW2. Most of the diaries were exactly as I expected, but I had a few surprises. 23rd Armoured Brigade Workshops had written a welcome pack for someone. Over 30 pages of really usefull stuff including photos. I also found my Dad mentioned twice which was a real surprise. Got back to Norwich at 1830, a bit weary, but very glad I went. The NA was a really nice place and I am aiming to go back in November while the wife watches Nadal at the O2 Arena. I have some unfinished business with my grandfather getting a MM in WW1 but that's another forum.

    Thanks again for all of your most useful tips.
    Gus
     
  17. gaspirator

    gaspirator Member

    Hi Pete.

    The trip yesterday went really well. I got there at 9.30 and registration was very quick and I actually had my first docs at 1010. I managed to photo about 300 pages of war diary covering every aspect of my fathers expoloits in WW2. Most of the diaries were exactly as I expected, but I had a few surprises. 23rd Armoured Brigade Workshops had written a welcome pack for someone. Over 30 pages of really usefull stuff including photos. I also found my Dad mentioned twice which was a real surprise. Got back to Norwich at 1830, a bit weary, but very glad I went. The NA was a really nice place and I am aiming to go back in November while the wife watches Nadal at the O2 Arena. I have some unfinished business with my grandfather getting a MM in WW1 but that's another forum.

    Thanks again for all of your most useful tips.
    Gus

    Hi Gus,

    glad it went so well - the registration system has obviously speeded up since I joined.

    It sounds like you had a very productive day - to see your dad actually mentioned must be something else! As you know, only officers tend to get mentioned, OR's usually only for conspicious behaviour (good or bad), so you really got a result there. (I'm assuming your dad wasn't an officer?)

    As for the 'welcome pack', that sounds like a real gem. The files do throw up these things from time to time and it makes you wonder just how much of this sort of document was created across the entire army, only for a miniscule fragment of it to have survived. I almost weep when I see reports listed as diary appendices, only to find that nobody bothered to archive copies of them.

    Did you use a photo stand?

    Your experience shows that a first visit can produce the goods!

    - Pete
     
  18. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    Hi Pete

    Dad was a driver in the RAOC/REME, hence my surprise when he popped up in the war diaries. It was an admin order for the 94th HAA Regt to move back towards the delta just after the Germans were defeated at Tunisia. The drivers detailed to moving each HAA battery were all named. I didn't use a stand and therefore spent some extra time checking that my photos were ok after photographing each document. I'll be looking to use one next time. I have only looked at 5 pages so far and I already know heaps more about where he joined up in Dundee on 1 Sep 39 and where he went in England after evacuating from Dunkirk. So I am hoping the other 295 are equally as fruitful.

    I still have some blanks to fill, he was hospitalised twice, but no idea why and I have no idea where he went for his basic/trade training. But as you said, not bad for a first visit.

    Gus
     
  19. gaspirator

    gaspirator Member

    Hi Pete

    Dad was a driver in the RAOC/REME, hence my surprise when he popped up in the war diaries. It was an admin order for the 94th HAA Regt to move back towards the delta just after the Germans were defeated at Tunisia. The drivers detailed to moving each HAA battery were all named. I didn't use a stand and therefore spent some extra time checking that my photos were ok after photographing each document. I'll be looking to use one next time. I have only looked at 5 pages so far and I already know heaps more about where he joined up in Dundee on 1 Sep 39 and where he went in England after evacuating from Dunkirk. So I am hoping the other 295 are equally as fruitful.

    I still have some blanks to fill, he was hospitalised twice, but no idea why and I have no idea where he went for his basic/trade training. But as you said, not bad for a first visit.

    Gus

    Glad you got some great stuff Gus!

    Interested to hear you didn't use a stand - you do risk camera shake, but you can always turn up the ISO setting to compensate (if your camera lets you) - I manage ok set to 200. I did use to manually set the white balance too, but have found that the 'auto' setting is good enough for text under the TNA lights.

    Does anyone else on the forum shoot 'freehand' as opposed to the stands? I don't tend to take much notice of the stand tables - I know there aren't that many and they seem busy, but do they ever get fully booked?

    - Pete
     
  20. gaspirator

    gaspirator Member

    Does anyone have any good tips for photographing documents that were created by a duplicating machine?

    These are the ones on opaque paper with blue/purple/pink/green ink that seemingly fades. I've tried things such as taking under-exposed shots and seeing if tweaking the contrast etc in Photoshop will bring out more detail (with some small success), but has anyone got any tried and tested methods?

    - Pete
     

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