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Observer1940 4th December 2012 13:47

"Annual Filming" of Service Records in WW2
I noticed several postings on an RAF Forum recently asking what the term "Annual Filming" meant.

I too and I expect many others have seen the reference to "Annual Filming" with a date on Form 543 sent out, when paying for the RAF Airman's Service record.

When I asked the lady at Innsworth where the rest of the file was, she stated that the two sides of a pink Card was all the paperwork that they held there.

I have raised this point with the MoD and ICO because:-

1) Online in Parliamentary Hansard 20 Oct 2004: Column 264WH recording a House of Commons Debate in 2004 referring to the closure of the "Military Records Office" at Hayes and its transfer to TNT Archives Swadlincote it was claimed during Parliament that "The records office holds the personal and personnel files of every British sailor, soldier, airman and" ...

Scroll down and you will find that there was also a reference in 2004 to the removal of the aircraft board of inquiry reports from the main file.

In protracted correspondence and at a FOI Appeal the ICO and Joinder Party to the Appeal stated that this statement made in the House was not the case, implying that the MPs and the MP for Hayes had been ill-advised by the staff who actually worked at the Hayes Records Office.

2) However, the MOD Advisory Panel on Departmental Records report released at 30 years old found in the TNA in December 2010, stated that:-

some personnel areas had made considerable progress in committing their current personal records to a Machine Readable (computer, microfilm, micro-fiche) form, often at a local level on an 'administrative use' basis.

all Service personnel records consigned to archives would be held for a period of 85 years from the date of entry and consideration of further records selected for permanent preservation would not be due until 1999.

The records would have been filmed as a back-up at the time of the date stamp. Another country NZ who hold military records of their nationals, openly state that they were filmed a long time ago and that they will endeavour to print off the very best copies when supplying copies.

However, the claim here is that the films are no longer held by the MoD and would require special storage due to combustion. Although films were held at Hayes according to an Article written by a former Record Manager of PRO staff who recalled his time at Hayes.

I have heard that the sheer volume of records held by various Departments is massive, with one Department expressing difficulty in managing their Archive due to the volume of records held. It is known that various records are withheld by Departments or those acting as Storage for them. I do not think according to what is written and recorded in some cases, that the TNA want them, or can handle the volume of records.

Can you imagine simply indexing the files, then finding and copying a whole file with many pages, or printing off many pages from a film and the costs to the Department involved?

My personal feeling is that it seems it would be impossible to either find records, or would simply cost too much to release them to requesters.

One point of the Advisory Panel just over 30 years ago, seemed to be that until some method of dealing with files could be found, then we shall leave it until the next review.

I am not sticking up for the MoD as to whether the files really survive or not. However, could you imagine first Reviewing every file to remove any piece that you wanted to withhold putting that on a separate file, then scanning every single file of every Sailor, Soldier and Airman?

I think that government departments feel it best to be rather vague on what is held, simply due to cost. With the cost of staff wages and staff overheads, office costs, pensions, holidays and sickness, it is not many hours searching before you are up to the 600 FOI limit.

If they have placed documents with a Storage facility outside the control of their direct supervisory staff, then in effect they no longer hold the document being requested anyway, or in a storage facility where there is no database, then the item cannot be found and would not appear on any search anyway.

Regarding the old films, they do not feel they would hold them due to the fire risk. Quite what happened to the old films mentioned in an article written around the time of the closure of Hayes, the films which had to be specially stored at Hayes is not now known.


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