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Peter J

Destroyed Service Records

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Peter J

Just out of interest, does anybody know what method was used to store the Army service records at the War Office building at Arnside Street in London, which was destroyed in 1940? By this I mean were they stored alphabetically by surname, by regiment, by service number, by enlistment date, etc., etc?

The reason I ask is; if for example the records were stored alphabetically, and a record for a man by the name of say, Bloggs, was destroyed, would it be reasonable to assume that many of the records of men by the same name would also have perished, by dint of the fact that they would have been stored close together?

If stored by service number, could we equally assume that if the records for say, G/11111 were destroyed, it would be likely that numbers G/11110, G/11112 etc., would also have been destroyed?

Just wondered if anybody knows.

With thanks,

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NigelS

Peter, the answer is apparently & unfortunately, NO!

A previous discussion took place in this thread Click But I'm certain that no one would object to a new discussion with further thoughts & theories on a matter that's been responsible for many a headache!

NigelS

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Peter J

NIgel,

Thanks for this - the thread seems to be fairly conclusive.

With thanks,

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Graham Stewart

Don't know how they were stored there at the time of the Blitz, but prior to that they were originally held at Regimental Depots and each indivdual had two sets. I believe they were sent to "centralised" Command Records Offices towards or just after the end of war. What happend after that I honestly couldn't say, but I believe if they had stuck by Kings Regulations regarding records, they would have all been destroyed after a period of time apart from those belonging to serving soldiers & pensioners.

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NigelS

I believe they were sent to "centralised" Command Records Offices towards or just after the end of war.

Believed to have been, at least at some stage, Percy House School, Isleworth Click

Which, unless reorganised substantially post receipt from the Regimental depots, means the records might have been kept organised on a regimental basis (ie as received from the Regimental depots) and stored this way once transferred to Arnside; nobody's come up with firm evidence to support this or any other filing system though - at least yet...

Thinking about it, wouldn't any enquiry that needed reference to these records have been more likely to have been treated on a regimental basis, so that storing them in this way, possibly in alphabetical name order within this, make sense for ease of retrieval?

NigelS

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Peter J

Thanks both.

Would the place have been staffed by civil servants, military personnel, or other, I wonder?

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Graham Stewart

No.1 Infantry Records Office was based in either Strensall or Catterick and it seems to have handled all of the Service Records for Northern Command prior to transfer. These Records Offices were responsible for formulating the Medal Roll Books/Silver War Badge Lists and to do that you would have had to have had access to Service Records.

Sets of Service Records were held by the Officer i/c Records at the Regimental/Corps Depot, but these were the "Original" sets. The "Duplicate" copies, were travelling documents and went with the soldier.

For a better understanding of Service Records, read Kings Regulations 1912 amended to 1914 and you'll be well suprised as to how extensive it was.

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David  B

I am surprised that there is not some ex civil servant still around who would have known how the records were stored in Arnside Street. My guess is that they were stored by alphabetical order by unit.

My rellies were either in the SLI/London Division/RIR/ASC and RGA. None of the first three survived but men in the ASC and RGA did. Luck of the draw perhaps ?

David

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Peter J

I am surprised that there is not some ex civil servant still around who would have known how the records were stored in Arnside Street.

Exactly so, David. :thumbsup: This is what I was getting at in #6. Surely there must be somebody still alive who had first-hand knowldge.

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Graham Stewart

From what I've heard from MGC researchers that most of those belonging to the MGC were destroyed post war in a fire at the Depot. I often wonder what happend pre-Blitz and wonder if some were being destroyed in compliance with KR's. I read in one NF War Diary of one particular battalion, spending days destroying documents post-armistice, but which doc's wasn't mentioned.

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Peter J

...spending days destroying documents...

The stuff of nightmares. :o

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bootneck

Just as an aside, I have just been looking at some of the post war East Surrey Regiment Enlistment Registers held at the Surrey History Centre and noticed that many of the men discharged prior to end of 1921 have Original Documents destroyed stamped in red ink in the right hand column.

There is a typed letter, dated 19.12.1929, from Infantry Records, Hounslow, affixed to East Surrey Regiment 1921 Discharge Book that states:

CERTIFIED that the non-pensionable documents of the East Surrey Regiment for the year 1921 have been arranged in order of Army numbers and that alphabetical index in Army Book 72 has been prepared and checked with the documents.

There is also a list of the same date of non pension documents that are not available. It lists 5 men, 3 of whose documents had been sent to the Ministry of Pensions, 1 to the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, and the last that shows no trace of disposal.

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NigelS

That's interesting! can we dare assume that, as Isleworth & Hounslow are neighbours, that 'Infantry Records, Hounslow' is Percy House School?

The Aim25 - Archives in London and the M25 area record for the West Middlesex Hospital (Click) includes this:

The School was enlarged in 1901 and renamed Percy House Schools. From 1915 to 1918 it was used as a military hospital. By this time Percy House was no longer needed by the Guardians as a school since a change in policy meant children were now boarded out with foster parents or housed in scattered homes. The building was leased to HM Office of Works and was for many years used as a store for army records.

...By 1935 Middlesex County Council had regained possession of Percy House from HM Office of Works. Aged and ablebodied inmates were transferred to Percy House from Warkworth House, which then became part of West Middlesex hospital. On 1 April 1936 the hospital removed from the Poor Law and was appropriated for the reception and treatment of the sick under the Public Health Acts.

So there is pretty good evidence that this was the case.

CERTIFIED that the non-pensionable documents of the East Surrey Regiment for the year 1921 have been arranged in order of Army numbers and that alphabetical index in Army Book 72 has been prepared and checked with the documents.

There is also a list of the same date of non pension documents that are not available. It lists 5 men, 3 of whose documents had been sent to the Ministry of Pensions, 1 to the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, and the last that shows no trace of disposal.

This gives a strong indication of how the records might have been ordered at Percy House School (and subsequently at Arnside), but, unfortunately, still not nearly enough to come to a conclusion, as several questions arise, whether: i) 'Army Number' order was kept within a regimental block, or spread over a much wider range ii) the records were subsequently kept within discharge year iii) whether the records of men who had died in service were maintained seperately in a similar way, or included with those of the discharged men.

The men Discharged in 1921 would, I believe, have by then been renumbered, so having many regiments' records consolidated in 'Army number' order used in conjunction with the 'Alphabetical Index' (Army Book 72) would have worked. However, prior to that with a mix of numbering systems in use (and numbers often not unique), this type of system could, I would have thought, only worked if records were maintained within regimental blocks.

Would the three documents given to have been sent to the Ministry of Pensions, now form part of the 'unburnt' series (those that Ancestry call 'Pension' records) as this seem to fit the way these records are generally described as having come about, and can these particular records actually be found in those records?

The alphabetic Index (strictly Indexes - or should it be Indices? - I would guess), Army Book 72(s), would be interesting records to see; I can't help wondering whether there may have been more than one copy made to allow distribution to other Army Depts, Regiments, etc. to assist them with record retrieval...

NigelS

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bootneck

Nigel

I would have assumed that the Army Records Office at Hounslow would have been located or attached to the local Barracks. It is possible that more space was needed to cope with the larger volume of enquiries and storage needed during the war.

The early couple of Army Book 72 that I have looked (1921 & 22) at are not very useful. They only give 1920 Army Number, Name, Rank, and if necessary whether the record was passed to the Ministry of Pensions or the Royal Hospital, or not traced.

The important registers are the early enlistment registers, showing the allocation of Army Numbers in 1920. From other work I have done it appears that the East Surrey Regiment renumbered its ‘regulars’ in 1919. These books give former service from x number of days upwards, former regiment and number, as well as medal entitlements. Some of which goes back to the Boer War. There is also mentions of wounds, etc.

Duncan

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Graham Stewart

The men Discharged in 1921 would, I believe, have by then been renumbered, so having many regiments' records consolidated in 'Army number' order used in conjunction with the 'Alphabetical Index' (Army Book 72) would have worked. However, prior to that with a mix of numbering systems in use (and numbers often not unique), this type of system could, I would have thought, only worked if records were maintained within regimental blocks.

I have to agree with bootneck on this one, in the fact that 'no' renumbering would have taken place once a man was discharged. You have to realise that Officers i/c records would have been following Regulations, Orders and Instructions concerning the disposal/maintenance of records and that the only men renumbered would be those who were to continue in service, starting with the regulars, followed by those who wished to continue to serve and who would have changed their terms of service and then the Territorials on the re-formation of the Territorial Army in 1920, who took their numbers from the new regimental block system.

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NigelS

Grahame, I may not have worded my post too clearly: I was not suggesting that renumbering was carried out post discharge, but that men discharged in 1921 would possibly already have been renumbered (completed by 1920?) sometime prior to their discharge as part of the renumbering scheme. Bootneck's letter which gives:

CERTIFIED that the non-pensionable documents of the East Surrey Regiment for the year 1921 have been arranged in order of Army numbers and that alphabetical index in Army Book 72 has been prepared and checked with the documents.

Although it doesn't specifically say that the documents have been ordered outside of a regimental block, with renumbering having taken place(?), it could be a possibility, although I think it's probably unlikely, that the records of all regiments could have been combined into a larger numerically ordered system. I would have thought maintaining the regimental blocks would make more sense with records stored in numeric order post renumbering and possibly, with an apparent lack of a coherent numbering system, an alphabetic system prior to that. Assuming that the regimental blocks were maintained, would they then have been kept in yearly sections covering all regiments ie 1914: men died /discharged, regiments a-z (possibly divided into separate sections for died and discharged); 1915: men died /discharged, regiments a-z; 1916...etc. or, alternatively, in regimental sections covering all years, for example : E. Surrey men died/ discharged, 1914 (again possibly divided into separate section for died and discharged); E. Surrey men died/ discharged, 1915; etc... all kept together. Personally if I'd been organising the system I'd have gone for the latter, but I wasn't (fortunately :wacko: ) and there may have been sound administrative reasons for maintaining the records on a yearly basis.

All this is, of course, pure speculation and there must have been plenty of other ways that the records could have been organised. (feel free to make suggestions!)

NigelS

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Graham Stewart

See where you're coming from now, and suspect that all of these documents post-1921 are probably referring to 'regulars' in the main, who have survived the war continuing service/or awaiting discharge or are new enlistments post war. Arrangement has according to Regulations always been done by number and not by name and as reg's states the number takes precedence over everything.

The Hounslow Infantry Records Office handled the records of the following units;-

Royal West Surreys

East Surreys

Middlesex Regt

Buffs

Royal West Kents

Royal Sussex Regt

Royal Fusiliers

The London Infantry Records Office, 27 Pilgrim Street, London handled;-

London Regiment

Inns of Court O.T.C.

Honorable Artillery Corps(Infantry)

A full list of all the Records Offices are in KR's for 1923.

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tony paley

During the early 80s my father applied for his father's records. The address for these records was MOD Army Records Bourne Avenue,Hayes, Middx. My grandfather served in the RGA and was a regular. We were supplied with a typed copy accompanied by a letter that explained that the record had been damaged by water during the 1940 attack. I have since obtained a copy of this record from Kew together with his pension records. Although it is apparent that the records have some water damage they are readable. At the same time I obtained his pension records which contain more or less the same documentation, The latter document is undamged which suggest that some records for the same soldier may well have been stored in a different area, I am sure I have read somewhere, possibly on this forum, that pension records survived the 1940 bombing. Incidentally the above 'typed' copy excluded a lot of information, eg medical, leave, discipline.

Tony P

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Terry_Reeves

Tony

Pension records were held by the Ministry of Pensions and not by the War Office, so were stored differently. The record is not necessarily a complete one either. The MoP called for a soldiers records from the War Office when a claim was made. Only specific parts of the service record were required, that is those parts of his record that were pertinent to his injury , or any illness or other medical condition that may have caused by or worsened by his military service. The MoP copied the record and returned the original to the War Office within three days. These pension documents were also used to validate any claims for widows pensions.

TR

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bootneck

I can only suggest that further work needs to done on the early post war regimental and corps enlistment registers regarding men discharged in both 1920 and 1921, and who then saw no further service and then cross referenced to the service papers to give an idea of the percentage that then might survive.

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