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charlie962

War Diary thefts in the 1990s

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charlie962

I came across this in the War Diary of the Fourth Army Anti Aircraft Group. What penalty did the offender incur ?

1521249239_GWFNatArchivesMissingPapers.JPG.843cb62b3063e29ff0c25ea58a0054cb.JPG

 

Charlie

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IPT

The offender was Timothy Graves, a military researcher. He was sentenced in March 1991 for the theft of 15,000 military records. I understand that he served a prison sentence but can't confirm that.

 

Interesting that your document is signed by O'Dell.

 

http://www.theaerodrome.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-59419.html

 

EDIT - another thread says that TBA Graves received an 18 month suspended sentence, and was fined £5,000 - http://www.theaerodrome.com/forum/showthread.php?t=10869

 

 

Edited by IPT

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David_Underdown

Given the MGT 39.1 internal reference on the memo I'd imagine this (closed) file would have more information https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C16983661 and (given the date) possibly also this one (also closed) https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C16983646 

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charlie962

Thank you both for those links. Tragic to read that unique documents were stolen and flogged off for their autographs. There must be quite a number never recovered by PRO and sitting in private collections.Perhaps those closed files give the stats. 

 

I suppose the buyers did not want to ask awkward questions. Glad to see theaerodrome lads were on the ball.  We all still need to keep an eye out no doubt.

 

15,000 records- unbelievable damage done to the archive. The memo above is dated 1991 but the sale of original Combat Reports was still going on in 2001, 10 years later. I don't think it took many Ace's signatures to pay off the 5,000pound  fine and as for the suspended sentence........

 

.At least with digitisation of archives it is not quite so serious if the original is 'lost'. Or is it ?

 

Was it the British Library who used to study the obits for Bishops and promptly write to the executors? But in their case it was just 'forgetfullness brought on by old age'.

 

Charlie

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voltaire60
15 hours ago, charlie962 said:

At least with digitisation of archives it is not quite so serious if the original is 'lost'. Or is it ?

 

     Not so- If the original is not there to digitise, we are still b*ggered.

 

(It cannot be the British Library that scoured for episcopal obits.-it is reference only.  The London Library, a private but very large  library of goodies loses stuff all the time- one of it's librarians is an old friend and comes round every bookfair with his folder of "missing in action".  Their books can be borrowed but the library has had a policy since 1840-something of always having an orange or green label to the front cover- As the library has a printed catalogue, it tries to recover either the original copy or another copy of the exact same edition of the book to preserve the integrity of the catalogue. Members snuffing it is a hazard-  The longest I know of a library reclaiming a book is one that went walkies in 1904-  Royal College of Surgeons.

    You are right on one thing-old time booksellers believed clerics to be habitual tea leaves-they could always absolve themselves.:wub:

 

        It would be interesting to see what the files mentioned by David Underdown actually say-though,of course, chummy who did the thieving is protected by GDPR. It might perhaps be useful if there was some sort of listing  of missing docs- perhaps similar to the Art Loss Index. Stuff that is taken for monetary gain does slowly but surely turn up..The more recent case of WW2 records, inc. Dambusters, where Mr. Spencer went on the police raid is still depressing in what has not been recovered.

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David_Underdown

It is not necessarily the perpetrator of the thefts who is protected by the closure on data protection grounds, it could be witnesses or others involved in the case.

 

For the most part digitisation is done as a surrogate, not to replace the original (there's a small number of record series where we take only the digitised version). For most research purposes that's fine, but some researchers may have questions about the materiality of the records too (more likely to be with medieval and early modern records than the type of stuff we're discussing here) where details of the construction of bound volumes and materials used also tell us something about record keeping practices. Digitised versions don't typically enable that type of research. Where we are creating a digitised record there's a far greater level of QA of the images, and also recording of condition to demonstrate that information hasn't been lost through a corner of a page being left folded etc. With surrogates it's anticipated that the original record will still be there subsequently if there are questions about completeness of capture and so on.

 

See https://nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/information-management/digitisation-at-the-national-archives.pdf for more details of digitisation processes and standards.

Edited by David_Underdown

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hmsk212
20 hours ago, charlie962 said:

 

15,000 records- unbelievable damage done to the archive. The memo above is dated 1991 but the sale of original Combat Reports was still going on in 2001, 10 years later. I don't think it took many Ace's signatures to pay off the 5,000pound  fine and as for the suspended sentence........

 

Charlie

 

Hi

 

An awful crime and something that has certainly impacted on my own research over the years but that said not every Combat Report out there is stolen, I certainly have a couple that came with other original paperwork belonging to the pilots involved. These were official copies made at the time but unfortunately they do not carry any markings on them that will help you tell them apart from those that were filed with the Squadron Paperwork. It was quite common for pilots or observers to have their own combat reports framed.

 

Steve

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voltaire60
23 hours ago, David_Underdown said:

It is not necessarily the perpetrator of the thefts who is protected by the closure on data protection grounds, it could be witnesses or others involved in the case.

 

For the most part digitisation is done as a surrogate, not to replace the original (there's a small number of record series where we take only the digitised version). For most research purposes that's fine, but some researchers may have questions about the materiality of the records too (more likely to be with medieval and early modern records than the type of stuff we're discussing here) where details of the construction of bound volumes and materials used also tell us something about record keeping practices. Digitised versions don't typically enable that type of research. Where we are creating a digitised record there's a far greater level of QA of the images, and also recording of condition to demonstrate that information hasn't been lost through a corner of a page being left folded etc. With surrogates it's anticipated that the original record will still be there subsequently if there are questions about completeness of capture and so on.

 

See https://nationalarchives.gov.uk/documents/information-management/digitisation-at-the-national-archives.pdf for more details of digitisation processes and standards.

 

    Thank you for what you say David- Of course, I had not realised that witnesses might be mentioned in the files- though if materials were used in court they would be "open" by virtue of already been in the public realm as,,subject to reporting restrictions,, anything in open court is out of Pandora's Box.

    What you say about surrogate is perfectly true but may I illustrate a couple of problems from my last couple of visits to  Chateau Kew....

1) War Diaries- quite a number of these-being largely written in pencil -are unintelligible on digitised versions. Yes, I am aware they can be fetched by deepest Cheshire salt mine  but they do become a hit and miss affair. I have given up on one battalion war diary-a combination of light pencil and too much lighting when digitised means I have simply junked the notion  of using it.

 

2)  "Burnt Docs". Now this is more interesting. The recent  "Long,Lost Family" on MoD ID processes for recovered Great War men showed a brand new archive stack, pristine mint files and every page the MoD researcher looked at was  similarly pristine white and 100% complete.

 

      As if!!!

To handle the original of "Burnt Documents", one would have to have a wholesale supplier of Marigolds, a face mask and still expect to come out of an archive looking like Dick van Dyke as Bert the Sweep in Mary Poppins.

    That said, I was intrigued by the answer given to the couple in front of me at the first-line enquiry desk last week(for Great War family member)- They were told that the Burnt Documents originals were not to be produced in any circumstances.

   Is this really so???

 

Pip,pip

Mike

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David_Underdown
1 hour ago, voltaire60 said:

Thank you for what you say David- Of course, I had not realised that witnesses might be mentioned in the files- though if materials were used in court they would be "open" by virtue of already been in the public realm as,,subject to reporting restrictions,, anything in open court is out of Pandora's Box.

You might think that, but it's not necessarily the case.  Firstly full witness statements and similar (eg interview recordings) may not have been presented in court.  Secondly, it's one thing for a witness to have relived something in the witness box once, another for records of that to then be completely accessible to everyone forever.

 

On the burnt docs I think we may only hold these in the form of the microfilm: see the series description https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C14567  It's a shame as modern multispectral imaging techniques (ie using infrared and ultraviolet as well as visible light) might be able to "see through" some of the burning and make the text more legible.

Digitised versions should be - by design/specification - at least as legible as the originals. So unless you know the originals are more readable because you've actually used them before you may well be no better off with a hard copy.  A digitised version has the advantage you can potentially play around with the contrast, or invert colours which can help a lot in bringing out the text.

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Terry_Reeves

TNA used to publish thefts on their site. Pilots log books from WW1 and WW2  were stolen and sold to collectors in Germany and the USA. Texas A&M University bought some, not that I am suggesting they knew they were stolen property. When TNA asked for them back the University refused as they said they thought they bought them not knowing they were stolen. The matter was left to rest there presumably because TNA would have been involved in an expensive court  case in the USA  which they might not have won.

 

TR

 

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keithmroberts
2 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

1) War Diaries- quite a number of these-being largely written in pencil -are unintelligible on digitised versions. Yes, I am aware they can be fetched by deepest Cheshire salt mine  but they do become a hit and miss affair. I have given up on one battalion war diary-a combination of light pencil and too much lighting when digitised means I have simply junked the notion  of using it.

Its a frustrating experience, but I did contact TNA after parting with the £3+ fee a couple of years ago to complain about the unreadable copy of a pencilled diary  and as well as a courteous response that particular diary was rephotographed and a revised copy emailed to me some months later.

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voltaire60
15 minutes ago, keithmroberts said:

Its a frustrating experience, but I did contact TNA after parting with the £3+ fee a couple of years ago to complain about the unreadable copy of a pencilled diary  and as well as a courteous response that particular diary was rephotographed and a revised copy emailed to me some months later.

 

     Thank you Keith.  A sensible suggestion,which I will act on. There are various hints on various genealogy sites about enhancing faded pencil images, most of which seem to revolve round using the colour yellow-either as a software option on digitised images-or simply putting a dark yellow backing to the image to heighten the contrast between the paper and  the pencil writing. It may be even simpler- a black and white image is more easily darkened with standard software. Alas, with me and the problem war diary, I have ended up being the opposite of Omar Khayam-  "The moving finger having (NOT) writ has moved on"

    The colour problem -or lack of it-most affects "Burnt Documents",where the image is in black and white-  I have often come across faded markings, some of which I suspect are in blue pencil or crayon in the real thing- (Like census checkers markings being unhelpful on a page of black and white digital census)- disproportionately on the service history page, if there, where  fading is a major problem.

 

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