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Remembered Today:

Territorial Service Gazette


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I don't know how widely known the TSG is but I spent a happy few hours yesterday at the British Museum newspaper depository at Colindale ploughing through it. Absolutely amazing for someone wanting real details about the fate of TF men. I went through the July to December 1916 copies on microfilm and photocopied about 20% of it: lists of casualties (inc. coy and platoon), reports about them from other men, reports from PoWs, pages of photographs of the missing, 'heroes of the battlefield' biogs, etc., etc. The resulting photographs are photocopies off microfilm but perfectly acceptable for my Gommecourt website and I anticipate adding 100+ photos of casualties to the site over the next few weeks and a lot of info to the new version of the book about the 56th.

If anyone is considering visiting the British Museum newspaper depository at Colindale a few hints:

1. Very little parking, but station nearby. If disabled they will reserve a parking space.

2. You have to register to get a reader's ticket. For details about visiting go here

3. Order up to four documents in advance using the BM web site (via email BookDelivery-Colindale@bl.uk). Ordering on site can be VERY slow (I once sat next to someone who turned up on the day and waited over 2 hours for a document). The place is understaffed and under-equipped and (to my mind) morale amongst a few of the staff is low and service can be surly. I stress 'a few of the staff' as others are excellent and very helpful.

4. To order go to the newspaper part of the catalogue. (See note below)

5. You will need the title, date and shelfmark. To find a shelfmark identify the newspaper you want and click on it to display the FULL RECORD. Scroll down the list of 'Serial holdings' and click on 'Year ****'. For the 1916 TSG you will see:

Year Collection Sub-coll. Shelfmark Format Holdings note

1916 Newspaper Library LON M39639 Microform

1916 Newspaper Library LON 18 [1916]

You MUST select a microform version if one is available. So you want to order the TSG shelfmark LON M39639.

6. If a document is listed as 'unfit' you cannot see it and there are quite a few which are in a condition where you can only read but not take copies.

7. Advance orders at least 48 hours in advance.

8. Pencils only but you can take laptops. NO DIGITAL CAMERAS.

9. Self-copying from microfilm is cheap and reasonable and there are 4 machines dedicated to this. A4 copies 20p, A3 60p. Even a mathematical dunce like me worked out copying a large page over two A4s is cheaper than one A3 copy (doh!).

10. Copies or scans from originals or getting the staff to copy from microfilm is expensive and means a delay of at least 5 working days though the place is littered with warnings about delays caused by equipment breakdowns. Prices also exclude postage.

11. No cafeteria (a machine I was warned against by the staff) but an eccentric (Cypriot?) greasy spoon by the station with a wide range of food. Large portions and cheap (and the only greasy spoon with a licence and a bar I have ever seen!).

If I think of any other tips I'll add them or if there are any questions please feel free to ask.

For information, apart from the TSG yesterday I have looked at a large number of North Midlands and London newspapers. The North Midlands papers were great resource with lots of information, photos, stories, casualty sections, etc. The London newspapers were, in the main, hugely disappointing. The Standard and Evening News come across as national newspapers with no London detail. The local newspapers had the odd snippet with only the Kensington Express (with a reasonably 'local' unit in the 1/13th Londons) printing details of local casualties but still few extra details. I got one good story from a Hackney paper. The surreal 'West London Press, Westminster and Chelsea News' behaved as if there was no war on at all. Flower shows, ladies clothes, Rotary Club news and not a whiff of a story about anything unpleasant happening on the other side of the Channel. Very strange.

From what I have seen, though, the TSG and local newspapers outside London are a wonderful and mainly untapped resource waiting for the likes of us nerds to go and make use of them.


Note on the on-line catalogue

If you go through the main British Museum portal to access the catalogue you follow these links:

Catalogues (top of page | Integrated Catalogues | Search the Integrated Catalogue | Catalogue subset search (third choice on pale blue bar) | Newspapers

That gets you to the 'Basic Search of Newspapers' page and you search from there.

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Hi and thanks for the information.

Are all years of the TSG now on microfilm? Some were unavailable for quite a while. Also, would you agree that the TSG has more of a London/South bias? I made the assumption that the greater part of its circulation was in the London region, certainly the many (excellent and quite poignant when matched with later casualty lists) photographs were in the most part of London lads. Also many of the heart-rending appeals for information were for those from southern regiments. Would you agree, it's a while since I've been.



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Thanks for that. I've been trying to work out how to access the newspaper part of the BL catalogue for ages, and I work in a library!

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The 1915 TSG is on microfilm but in negative format for some reason. 1916 microfilm and 1914, 1917 and 1918 are the originals. As to the southern bias I suspect Steve is right but I will do a more comprehensive check on the 100+ pages I have copies of (but I have concentrated on the London side anyway). The TSG does state that copies were made available to all military hospitals which should have given nationwide coverage in one respect at least. As to access for families I couldn't say.

What is noticeable is how the personality of the TSG changes in August 1916. Gone are the articles about military law and details of which regiment wants recruits and where (and even the odd short story). From then onwards it is almost entirely devoted to casualty lists, list of the missing, requests for help and information and reports about PoWs. And, of course, pages of photographs of the missing. It is a melancholy magazine but full of invaluable detail.

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  • 2 months later...

Thanks for posting this info. Bill. I will be at Colindale on Saturday and was going to pose the question about tips and pitfalls. Thought it might be a good idea to search 'Colindale' in case it had already been answered.

Sounds like the staff and service suffer from the same problems that I encountered at the India Office Collection at St. Pancras a couple years ago. I encountered some severe apathy/incompetence there, interspersed with one or two incredibly helpful individuals.

I'll definitely be ordering my items in advance since time is precious.

Thanks again,


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Ordering in advance is a bit odd at Colindale. Though you are advised to do so you will still have to fill in a form for each item when you get there. Also, the key indicator on the index is the shelfmark. There is also a system number on the index which even the staff do not understand!


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Thanks Bill,

Rather than send an email, I telephoned Colindale earlier today to place my advance order since I had a couple "rookie" questions. After getting bounced around the phone system for a couple minutes, I finally spoke to a human who was very helpful. Armed with the shelfmarks I had retrieved from the online Catalogue, we determined what I needed and in theory 3 volumes will be awaiting me on Saturday. I then went belt and braces and followed up the phone conversation with an email just to be sure.

My challenge was that one of the newspapers I was interested in had three distinct shelfmarks covering the year 1915, but it wasn't crystal clear which months fell within which shelf mark. Further, I only needed the May 1915 issues, and didn't want to take up 3 of my 4 allowed preorders with the irrelevant months. One could assume Jan-Apr in the first shelf mark, May-Aug in the second, and so on, but with only a couple hours and the 3800 mile trip, I figured better safe than sorry. The staff member said they will determine which shelfmark is correct from the three and just provide that one. My other two requests were for 1900 to do some Boer War research.

If I need to fill out a piece of paper when I get there, so be it, so long as the papers are right there and I don't have to wait two hours for them to be retrieved.


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  • 3 years later...

The TSG is superb. The ones in Colindale when I looked at them in the 1990s were getting dog eared in many cases. Presumably that is why they are now on microfilm.

However there is complete run of the Volunteer Service Gazette and then (from 1908) the Territorial Service Gazette (i.e covering c. 1860 - 1930s in total) in the Liverpool City Library. They are in excellent condition and appear to have had little use. I did look at the volumes post armistice and they did have a lot of photos and had gone back to the value of the 1914/15 editions. There is a lot of good stuff in the 1906-1913 period on the setting up of the TF and recruitment, as well as info on the sale and completion of drill halls.

The TSG would be top of my list for digitisation.

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I'm interested in the period 1908-1913. Was there much on the Irish militia in the copies you looked at?

I wouldn't have noticed unfortunately as I was only looking for London Regt stuff. However, I think it is unlikely as the paper was for Volunteers/Territorials and not militia so I doubt that Special Reserve battalions would have appeared.

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  • 4 months later...

I knew nothing about the VSG or TSG, they sound like a potential research goldmine. Does anyone know if there is much on the Essex area in them?


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