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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

WW1 Medal Index Cards to be destroyed


Neil_York

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Simon,

I trust that we will all be informed of developments (for good or ill) as soon as is practicable. I must confess to a tendency to share your rather jaundiced view but have weighed up things and genuinely think that the "softly-softly" approach is our best way forward - but I remain a worried man !

Ian

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i would like to say i cant belive that someone can even think of thowing away a piece of history but its easy to belive will we ever learn prob not the copies are good it makes them easy to view but no way should the originals be destroyed even if there was no futher info on any of them there are a piece of our nations history and as such belong to us all

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Whilst I put complete trust in Ian and am willing to wait and see how things pan out, I feel we should be planning the next step if things go against us. I feel we need to organise a plan of action with the right people putting forward our case. I also believe that the WFA needs to get involved.

With an election looming there could not be a better time to get the ear of an MP. I am quite sure that the Labour Government wouldn't want The Sun or the Daily Mail getting hold of this and pulling on the emotional strings of voters.

I live in Alan Milburn's area and he wants no bad press at the moment. Two miles north of me is Tony Blair's patch and two miles south is William Hague. If we as an organisation could send a letter of protest to all MP's then this would surely be better than what seems at present to be a piecemeal protest.

Is there anyone out there who can organise this if the worst happens?

Unfortunately my profession prevents me from taking on this mantle but I'm willing to help in any way I can.

SEAN

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Whilst I understand the thrust of your argument that you have found a good deal of information on the back of the MiCs, what is the basis for saying that 10-20% (as opposed to, say, 5-10% or 3-5%) of the MICs have information on the back?

I was lucky enough to see a selection of some 200 Medal Index Cards (MICs) and started to record the information on the back before they were whisked away. I was told in no uncertain terms that they MOD did not want the general public to know that there was home address information the back of the cards.

Of the 200 cards , some 40-50 had information of the type previously posted, I obviously have not seen all 6,000,000 cards but the point remains that any information is of value and the cards should not be destroyed under any circumstances.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, members of the public are entitled to see any document that they wish. I would ask that Forum members write to the MOD via their website and request to see the backs of selected index cards.

While we are on the subject, does anybody know why the Medal Index Cards of the Indian troops who fought on the Western Front and in Mesopotamia were not micro-filmed, or even if they still exist?

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Neil,

Tried to email you, but it failed.

Have put this in full on Ships and navies, under Royal Naval Reserve (Trawler Section)

I have just seen this on NA site. Ref:BT 377

Appraisal/destruction information

The originals will be disposed of after completion of filming. All surviving record of service cards have been microfiched.

Kath.

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The Freedom of Information Act does not give the public the right to see any document they wish I'm afraid. There are "qualified exemptions" and "exceptions." However, where a public body refuses a request for information, it must give a reason for its decision.

I guess the answer is to test the system; make a request in writing to see specific cards and see what the official attitude is.

Terry Reeves

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Guest Simon Bull
The Freedom of Information Act does not give the public the right to see any document they wish I'm afraid. There are "qualified exemptions" and "exceptions." However, where a public body refuses a request for information, it must give a reason for its decision.

I guess the answer is to test the system; make a request in writing to see specific cards and see what the official attitude is.

Terry Reeves

I think you will probably find that the other disadvantage of this approach is that there is an entitlement to levy fairly substantial charges for Freedom of Information Act information access.

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I think you will probably find that the other disadvantage of this approach is that there is an entitlement to levy fairly substantial charges for Freedom of Information Act information access.

Actually Simon, this isn't quite true. These links show the MoD charging policy as it relates to the FoIA.

http://www.mod.uk/linked_files/publication.../foifeeproc.pdf

http://www.foi.mod.uk/charginfo.asp

Andy

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Re. national archives BT377/7

The originals will be disposed of after completion of filming. All surviving record of service cards have been microfiched.

Are ALL records going to "disposed of" ????? after copying, even when as with these

The original cards contained many different coloured inks, as well as pencil written words, also the fact that these were working documents until the 1950s caused many of the cards to become badly soiled. Consequently, some of the information on the microfiche may not be legible on some of the images.

Kath.

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Guest Simon Bull
I think you will probably find that the other disadvantage of this approach is that there is an entitlement to levy fairly substantial charges for Freedom of Information Act information access.

Actually Simon, this isn't quite true. These links show the MoD charging policy as it relates to the FoIA.

http://www.mod.uk/linked_files/publication.../foifeeproc.pdf

http://www.foi.mod.uk/charginfo.asp

Andy

I am very pleased to see this, as there was considerable speculation when the Freedom of Information Act was brought into force that government would use the cost of obtaining information as a way of effectively killing it off. I suspect that in more politically controversial areas this may well be so.

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Copied this with permission of the poster

Start of quote:

As we go to press, it has come to my attention that in April the MOD

intends to destroy some 6 million records of medals issued to WW1

personnel. I think you will agree that we cannot let them do so.

Our military expert Paul Reed has been looking into the matter and it

appears that the private facility used by the MOD to hold the records at

Hayes wants to relocate and charge the MOD for moving the cards. The

MOD's response is to get rid of the 140 filing cabinets that contain the

4-6 cards. The National Archives doesn't want to take on the cards

because it has already microfiched them and the microfiche has been

digitally scanned (see www.documentsonline.nationalarchives.gov.uk).

This isn't good enough. This is the only complete and untouched record

of First World War soldiers left. Other service records were burned

during WW2. Only the fronts of the cards have been scanned and we

believe that written on the back of many of these cards is the address

that the medals were sent to. Often, it isn't possible to determine

whether the record of the medals issued relates to your ancestor or

another person without checking this address.

First, the cards need to be preserved. They then need to be scanned

properly, front and back, and re-indexed. If the National Archives

won't step in, perhaps someone else will. The Imperial War Museum? The

Veteran's Association?

The MOD claims its holds copyright on the cards and that it can do what

it wishes with them. I'd argue that these cards are part of the

nation's heritage. They are public records, and I'd remind the MOD that

the descendants of WW1 soldiers pay their taxes. The cards remind us of

the enormous sacrifice and loss incurred by men and women in this

country during WW1, and of their bravery in adversity. They enable the

children and grandchildren of those who died, and those who survived, to

find out some of

the lost details of their forebears.

To save the cards we must take action. We're instituting a campaign to

urge the Minister of Defence, Geoff Hoon, and the Director of the

National Archives, Sarah Tyacke, to prevent the destruction of these

records straight away. Address your letter to us and we'll pass it on

to these authorities:

Rt Hon Geoff Hoon & Sarah Tyacke

Save the Medal Index Cards

c/o Your Family Tree

30 Monmouth Street

Bath BA1 2BW

Alternatively, send an email headed 'Save the Medal Index Cards' to us

at <yfted@futurenet.co.uk>. Do it now - the records are due to be

destroyed in April.

Garrick Webster,

Editor, Your Family Tree"

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Guest Simon Bull
Although we all feel passionate about this, I would urge all interested parties to exercise restraint whilst negotiations continue. I have it on impeccable authority that people well known to us who can offer officialdom a credible solution to this "problem" are doing their utmost to rescue the cards - apparently with a good deal of success.

I for one am offering them my quiet support at the moment - still concerned about the fate of this archive treasure of course - but placing my trust in people I know will move heaven and earth in this cause. Good luck to them.

Hi Ian

Bearing in mind destruction appears to be scheduled for April, any further news yet?

Thanks for your help.

Simon Bull

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Simon,

I am trying to find out the current state of play at the moment. Obviously, I have no direct knowledge of what is going on behind the scenes. Rest assured I will pass on any gen soonest - be it good or bad.

Hoping for the best.

Ian

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I have just had word back from someone close to the negotiations. They continue and our man is pretty positive about things. Unfortunately, I can't say that any sort of formal announcement is imminent. I remain concerned but backing the negotiators.

Yours with fingers crossed .

Ian

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The following was posted to the soc.genealogy.britain newsgroup (original via Google here), purportedly a response from the MoD to someone who enquired about the desruction of the MICs:

Dear XXXX

Thank you for your email and for your concern.

I trust this explains the situation regarding the WW1 medal cards:

In 1985, the Public Record Office, now The National Archives, began

microfilming the alphabetical card index to the First World War Army medal

rolls. The front of the cards was microfilmed, with the originals

remaining in Ministry of Defence (MOD) custody. The National Archives now

makes that index available to the public in microfiche here at Kew and

also via our website online

http://www.documentsonline.nationalarchives.gov.uk/

The MOD now has no further administrative use for the cards, and so they

and we have offered the original cards to a number of institutions,

museums etc. So far, none of the institutions approached has wished to

take the cards, largely on account of the huge transfer and storage costs

(and set of course against the fact that almost all the information they

contain is available online). The cards are contained in 143 cabinets,

each 5' 10" tall / 14" wide / 2' deep, each weighing around 175 kg.

The reverse side of the index cards has not been copied as the vast

majority of them are blank. A very small percentage has something written

on the reverse, and in some, but not in all cases, this was the address to

which the medals were sent. Sampling has found soldiers' addresses on less

than two cards in three hundred and the resources required to identify and

extract that small percentage of cards from within the total collection

(5-6 million cards) cannot be justified. Notwithstanding the

incompleteness of the First World War soldiers' records due to World War 2

bombing, in many cases that same home address will be found within the

man's service or pension documents preserved at The National Archives, or

indeed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's website

http://www.cwgc.org

The MOD will therefore shortly destroy the cards, this being the only

realistic option.

I am sorry that this is probably not the reply you will have hoped to

receive, but I hope that this explanation will at least help you to

understand the reasons behind the decision.

Yours sincerely

Paul Sturm

Public Services Development Unit

- - - -

Hmm.... "less than two cards in three hundred"? Does that mean they checked two hundred cards and only found one with something on the back - i.e. 0.3%? And yet if that's the case, how can they authoratatively state that the same addresses appear elsewhere in record series that we know to be vastly imcomplete (CWGC aside, that is)?

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This is just a tiny point, in a big sea of importance, but several years ago I printed out at Kew, all my relevant family cards. Looking them up again online, I find some of which I have hard copies of, are not actually available on line........missing! They cannot provide an answer, save a standard reply that all are available that survived. That clearly is not the case. For me in particular, it seems I will hold the only surviving copies.......Appropriate emails have been sent!

Chris.p.

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We have digital images of Magna Carta. Why not toss that on the bonfire and save the inconvenience of storage and security.

How arrogant to assume that our current high tech enables us to dispense with origanal documents. In a few years another method will displace current technology, and then another, and then what..?

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Chris is quite correct. There are many Medal Index Cards that cannot be traced online. One officer was searched for by 3 individuals online and on a subsequent check of the fiche at NTA the card was available. NTA were contacted regarding this particular omission. After a day or so they replied saying that a member of their staff had had no problem finding this man online first go!! A fellow researcher checked six online and found three. All six are available on Fiche at NTA!!

Lawrence

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INDIAN ARMY MEDAL INDEX CARDS NOT TO BE PRESERVED!!

There are also Medal Index Cards for the Indian Army during the Great War. Whether or not it is all issues to the Indian Army I dont know but I have been told they exist by a member of NTA who has been to the Army Medal Office at Droitwich. THESE APPARANTLY WILL NOT BE MICROFICHED DUE TO THE COST INVOLVED. I assume that this means they are also due for destruction. Hopefully they have not already been destroyed.

Lawrence

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I noted that the story was reported in the Daily Mail yesterday, complete with a quote from Paul Reed.

However it just appeared as a "filler", rather than the usual "Why Oh Why" Daily Mail story.

Still, I suppose everything helps.

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I've just received a letter from my Labour MP Mr Eric Illsley.

Dear Mr York

Thank you for your recent e-mail of the 24th February 2005 the contents of which I have noted.

I apologise for the delay in replying to your e-mail which is due to an oversight on my part.

I am writing to the Ministry of Defence on the issues you raised with me and will write to you further in due course.

Yours sincerely

Eric Illsley MP

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I am given to understand that some good news may be forthcoming in the not too distant future. So I am still on tenterhooks with fingers crossed but hoping that the good guys will triumph !

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I was at the monthly meeting of the Surrey WFA last night and this topic was raised by the Chairman. I have the impression that the WFA is now getting involved in the issue. The main problem seems to be finding somewhere with sufficient space to store the cards.

Charles M

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