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Lightsteve

Why are the officers service papers not digitised yet?

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Lightsteve

Hi this might have been mentioned before but why haven't the officers service papers been digitised yet could someone please give some information

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seaJane

If the ones I've seen have been any guide ... because they're pages and pages and pages long.

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depaor01

...and I've heard from a researcher I contracted that duplication of info within them is epidemic.  Not a showstopper but a reason they might be hesitant to do it.

Dave

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David_Underdown

As seaJane says they're not attractive to the commercial operators as each record is typically tens of pages (over 100 in some cases).  They get the most bang for their buck if they can digitise 1 page with details of many people rather than vice-versa.

There are also still potential data protection issues and problems with medical records contained within the files: the files can name other family members, give very detailed information on medical conditions/treatments that would normally be seen as highly confidential, and can also contain correspondence from years after the war.

The risks of this in having the records open in paper form are seen as manageable, but once info is on the internet it's very hard to control.

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stiletto_33853

There are also some very delicate papers in there, some of the paperwork is literally falling apart.

 

Andy

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Terry_Reeves

I'm not entirely sure that data protection is an issue, after all soldiers records have been digitised containing information about next of kin,  medical reports and even details of suicide. 

 

TR

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Skipman
2 minutes ago, Terry_Reeves said:

I'm not entirely sure that data protection is an issue, after all soldiers records have been digitised containing information about next of kin,  medical reports and even details of suicide. 

 

TR

 

I was think same. Why should officer's medical records be any more confidential than other ranks?

 

Mike

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stiletto_33853
Posted (edited)

Re. size of some of these files, just had a look at some of them on my hard drive. I think the largest one I have photographed is over 300 pages. QM Lt. who served throughout the whole war, there were letters concerning every entitlement and very mind numbing it was, shortest one was 8 pages.

Agree with Terry & Mike about the medical records, although in officers cases there are in some of them considerable detail and volume.

 

Andy

Edited by stiletto_33853

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Terry_Reeves

The total number of files in the two main series is 217,747.  These are are broken down as follows:

 

WO339  =  139,914

 

WO374  =  77,833

 

The amount of paper in these files differs considerably as has been noted by stiletto above.  With regard to duplication mentioned post three, I have searched hundreds officers files and have not found any significant duplication. Correspondence however can take a fair bit of space in some files depending on the subject.

 

TR

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Keith_history_buff

I'd say there are two issues, the second one being in relation to sensitivity and fallout. There are still people alive today whose parents were in the Great War. My last trip to Kew saw me consult a number of officer records, and most of these men had risen from the ranks and were bachelors. In practically every case, they had dishonoured themselves by contracting gonorrea.

The bigger issue is the commercialisation of these records. TNA has a duty on the one hand, when it negotiates with these genealogy service providers, to try to get as many records scanned as possible. This limits further handling of these records, and facilitates their conservation. Having this objective is in the public good, and is a concession that the GSP makes during negotiations.

It would make more commercial sense to scan 300 individual service record sheets (i.e. 300 pages of ADM 188) than to scan 300 pages pertaining to one individual, and will result in more subscriptions by online genealogists/researchers.

Paradoxically, there is an expectation that everything should be free and online. At the same time, people bemoan paying for this, they disregard the fact that there is the cost of upkeep of the archives, and the lack of funding by the UK government to DCMS for record digitisation is in stark contrast with other countries. (The examples of centenary digitisation projects for Canada, Australia, New Zealand & France spring to mind.) The question periodically arises as to when the next batch of army service records will be released, but a lack of funding for this to happen does seem to be remedied any time soon. It would appear that backdoor privatisation is the aspired to solution, but would any GSPs have a risk appetite for such a large project?   

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Skipman

" There are still people alive today whose parents were in the Great War. "

 

Other ranks also contracted gonorrhoeae and were perhaps equally " dishonoured "

 

Mike

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rolt968
1 hour ago, stiletto_33853 said:

There are also some very delicate papers in there, some of the paperwork is literally falling apart.

 

Andy

In other cases, this has been seen as a very good reason for digitisation. Then the originals are rarely if ever handled again.

RM

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DavidOwen

Strange that a number of nurses records that have been digitised run to many more pages than some of the officer ones I have had copied. The officer files did have duplicated pages in them.

 

 

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Keith_history_buff

Mike, deviating slightly, one positive and human aspect of TNA is the signs on display at Kew stating that if a member of the public wishes to research a topic that they find sensitive, they can speak to a member of staff to further discuss in confidence. 

Quite what constitutes "dishonourable behaviour" is an existentialist question, and will vary from person to person, and dependent upon the "norms" of society at a given point in time. 

Personally, I find it more appealing to view the originals, but digitisation certainly helps to reduce wear and tear. I am aware of an Admiralty file pertaining to the War of 1812 which the University of Florida requested as a microfilm, and this was duly captured. The original has since been misplaced, but the document can be downloaded as a PDF file for a fee.

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JimE

I have looked at my grandfather's papers at Kew. As well as official records the file contains letters he wrote asking for employment in front line units. It also contains the confidential reports from his senior officers on his lack of suitability - he had been commissioned in a Volunteer battalion in 1884, resigning in 1892. He really was too old and too junior for front line service. I found the information fascinating but I am not sure that even now that the full details should be too widely available. Soldiers records available on-line do not show as much personal information in general.

Jim

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Skipman
23 minutes ago, Keith_history_buff said:

Mike, deviating slightly, one positive and human aspect of TNA is the signs on display at Kew stating that if a member of the public wishes to research a topic that they find sensitive, they can speak to a member of staff to further discuss in confidence. 

Quite what constitutes "dishonourable behaviour" is an existentialist question, and will vary from person to person, and dependent upon the "norms" of society at a given point in time. 

 

 

I agree with all that Keith, my point was that the other ranks records (the ones that have survived) have been published warts and all, so 'sauce for the goose' re officers.

 

Mike

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Lightsteve

Thank you all for your replies and input

steve

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voltaire60
6 hours ago, Keith_history_buff said:

TNA has a duty on the one hand, when it negotiates with these genealogy service providers, to try to get as many records scanned as possible.

 

......... subject to commercial sense.  As David Underdown has reported before, TNA has to work on a cost-recovery basis-which is itself concessionary these days when set against "income stream" above costs.  Officers files are a very hit and miss affair-and they are constructs from other sources as the original files were destroyed in toto in Arnside Street. The WO basically pulled bits and bobs from elsewhere-cheifly officers financial settlement-in the case of dead officers, Committee of Adjustment. Extensive and dead boring. The medical records are extensive as most medical boards have been retained. 

    I agree wholeheartedly with DU that these files, in toto, are not a good commercial risk.

    I would far rather have the balance of the war diaries online from Ancestry if there is digitising appetite and spare capacity left.

 

     And...... back to my recurrent paranoia...as we are getting to the years when 100 year closure ends, then there may well be some better goodies we want  digitised instead as they emerge.

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David_Underdown
7 hours ago, Terry_Reeves said:

I'm not entirely sure that data protection is an issue, after all soldiers records have been digitised containing information about next of kin,  medical reports and even details of suicide. 

 

TR

Quite true, but if we were starting now then different considerations would apply, the applicable data protection standards have changed over time.

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Terry_Reeves
1 hour ago, David_Underdown said:

Quite true, but if we were starting now then different considerations would apply, the applicable data protection standards have changed over time.

Thanks David. However, a precedent has been set and for the same historical time period. I seems to me that this would be out of kilter.

 

TR

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voltaire60
17 hours ago, Terry_Reeves said:

Thanks David. However, a precedent has been set and for the same historical time period. I seems to me that this would be out of kilter.

 

TR

 

    Alas, statute  overcomes precedent. The new GDPR of last year has complicated matters, esp. medical records. I note TNA is limbering up for more WW2 stuff, where the new GDPR will create some major problems.  

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Terry_Reeves
4 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

 

    Alas, statute  overcomes precedent. The new GDPR of last year has complicated matters, esp. medical records. I note TNA is limbering up for more WW2 stuff, where the new GDPR will create some major problems.  

Interesting. There are medical records of two female SOE agents available at TNA. These are not WW2 either but post-war, not that they reveal anything.

 

TR

 

 

 

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seaJane
1 hour ago, Terry_Reeves said:

not that they reveal anything

Perhaps that accounts for their availability.

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Terry_Reeves
Posted (edited)
12 minutes ago, seaJane said:

Perhaps that accounts for their availability.

But they are medical records sJ, documents which are mentioned in the original post. Most WW1 officers medical records do not reveal very much either in terms of causing distress to present day relatives for instance.

 

Whilst I see the need for data protection, it seems to go to far in this instance, assuming that it applies. After all, the documents are publicly available at TNA. It makes no sense.

 

TR

Edited by Terry_Reeves

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seaJane

Fair enough. I suppose if they'd already got into the public domain before the law changed it could be difficult to hide them again, esp if there was no paper-trail.

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