On Saturday 5th of October I caught the 07:55 train from Manchester to London along with my wife and son for a long weekend. We arrived at London Euston at 10:00 and took the underground to Earls Court and dropped off our cases at our hotel. Then back on the underground to Kew station where we split up, my wife and son heading for Kew Gardens while I took the short walk to the National Archives building arriving at around 11:30.
After leaving my belongings in a locker on the ground floor keeping just my camera and notepad in the clear bag provided, I went to the second floor to register and acquire a reader’s card. This consisted of filling in an online form of the usual personal information and details of the 2 forms of identification I had brought with me. This was followed by a short video showing the correct way to handle documents. I then handed over my identification documents to the registration desk where they were checked, I signed a declaration to abide by their terms and conditions, my photograph was taken and my readers card issued. This took about 10 minutes as there was no queue.
I then went to the first floor and asked at the desk how to order my document, I was pointed in the direction of another set of computers where I swiped my new readers card through the card reader and selected order documents on the screen. First you answer a set of questions such as do you want a quiet desk, do you require a seat by a window etc. you are then allocated a seat number and advised to write it down. The computer then asks for the document number, in my case WO 95/4827, it finds the document and shows the details and asks if you require any more documents, in my case I didn’t, it showed the status of my document order and I completed the order process by clicking exit.
It takes around 45 minutes for documents to made available, so I went down to the cafeteria for a coffee at about 11:50. At 12:00 the Café started serving food so I bought a sandwich while I waited. There is a card reader and computer screen in the café where you can check the status of you document order and at 12:20 mine was ready so I made my way back up to the reading room.
Once through security (they check the contents of your clear plastic bag) I went to the document pick up area where there are a set of lockers with desk numbers on, mine contained a document box which I took over to the desk I had been allocated. It turned out to be near the windows but there were desks by the windows free so I went to one of those instead.
The box contained folders for the XIV Corps units that were not part of the divisions, e.g Cyclists, Signal Company, Sanitation etc. and there in the middle was a brown folder for the 801 Co ASC MT. It contained nearly 200 loose pages held together with a treasury tag. I started photographing the pages at 12:55 and was finished by 13:55. I packed away the documents and took the box back to the returns desk and headed off for Kew gardens to find my family.
Overall my experience was a positive one; I found the computer systems intuitive and easy to use, the staff were friendly and helpful, and the facilities were excellent. The only complaint I have is that one of the computer screens in the cafeteria was not working, some sort of network error, and the other one was behind a table and seats in the coffee shop so not easily accessible if someone was sitting there, but it’s a small niggle in another wise flawless day.
I know have 193 document images to work through, they are hand written and full of the usual jargon and abbreviations, happy days.