View Full Version : The National Archives. General information.

Scott McIntosh
12th September 2011, 17:34
Hi guys,

Please use this post to give advice about the National archive as a whole or for individual issues you may have come across. My hope is that anything posted here with benefit everyone and help raise awareness of any issues that may exist.

My own recent experiance was the whopping estimate I was given back.

I wanted all the pages of a station ORB copied. I gave the reference number as given on the catalogue and gave instruction as all pages relating to XXXXXXXXXXXX Airfield. The estimate came back at 889. Not what I was expecting. I had 3 other estimate which came back as the same kind of price. 2 relating to the same station again to copy all pages in the section. Another was for another station again around 899.

The last one was for 2 reports in a section. It was AVIA5 with whatever section it was and I managed to give them the exact reports I wanted copied which could be as many as 10 page each at a maximum. This came back as cannot be ordered because research is required.

Now is it just me or do I remember somewhere recently that ORB's were going to be 20 for a section? I do remember seeing it but maybe I am misquoting someone. Please correct me if I am wrong and help me in this matter.

Also the last item about the cannot be ordered. I was under the impression if you had the file reference and you know the exact report that it could be ordered. It seems like someone could not be bothered to look. A collegue of mine recently ordered and received a report no problem which would presumably had to have been copied the same way.

I am confused and a little fed up with the system now. I live so far away from London and can only hope I can visit one day. Hence why I have to try and order through the internet. I hope that one day all items can be accessed through the internet via a secure online service and what little staff that remain will be able to get back to doing the job they need to be doing which is maintaining the archives and helping visitors.

Does anybody have any comments? In particular to my problems that I have had.

One thing I must say was that they were fast in getting back to me. It only took 3 working days.

So on that point well done people.


12th September 2011, 20:10

The National Archives have not acted outside what the say they will do.

It's a matter of reading the small print..or any of their print for that matter.

The chapter and verse is a statutory act of parliament:

Digital copies of records at research quality
7. For copies transferred via internet email or via CD-ROM:
(i) Monochrome A4 Per image 7.60 7.60
(ii) Monochrome A3 Per image 7.60 7.60
(iii) Monochrome A2 Per image 9.70 9.70
(iv) Monochrome A1 Per image 10.40 10.40
(v) Monochrome AO Per image 13.40 13.40
(vi) Colour A4 Per image 10.00 10.00
(vii) Colour A3 Per image 10.00 10.00
(viii) Colour A2 Per image 12.10 12.10
(ix) Colour A1 Per image 14.10 14.10
(x) Colour AO Per image 18.60 18.60
Plus for the following media:
(xi) Per CD-ROM 10.00 10.00
(xii) Per DVD 29.50 29.50
Plus for scanning at high resolution:
(xiii) A4 1.40 1.40
(xiv) A3 2.10 2.10
(xv) A2 2.80 2.80
(xvi) A1 3.10 3.10

8.5 Where no colour negative exists, for a photographic service:
Per negative 24.00 21.80

8.6 For 35mm colour slides:
Per slide 13.70 12.40

8.7 Handling, packaging, postage and insurance for all postal orders at
10% of the cost of photographic work.

Miscellaneous reprographic charges

9.1 Reprographic work requiring special attention or any reprographic
service not mentioned in this schedule and which the Public
Record Office is able to undertake:

Per hour of staff time 30.00 27.00

9.2 Postage and insurance to be charged at cost

9.3 For an estimate of the cost of copying work to be carried out,
refundable on the placement of an order to at least the value of
this charge:

Per estimate 10.00

This has been distilled on the web site to the following

Searches of the records
We no longer offer free searches of the records to identify items to be copied.

We are unable to search:

•within any document for an individual, unless the Catalogue description indicates that the file is for that particular person only
•for any details within a date range within any document
•within the WO 97 series
If a search is required to identify the items to be copied, you can either pay us to do the search, hire an independent researcher or carry out the research yourself. Find out more about search options.

This decision was taken because although we have been providing an increasing number of estimates, the number of actual copy orders from these estimates is declining. As a result, the service no longer covers its costs.

Introduction of average page count per document series
The copy quotation service will provide a cost for copies based on the average page count of the series you are requesting. Your actual copy order may contain more pages, or fewer pages, based upon the average count.

So when you asked for anything specific rather than a copy of the whole document they quoted for a paid search service as required.

Note that the TNA recommends using a cheaper external search service.

So I beleive the TNA has been more than fair in setting out their stall for costs on the web site and in the estimates they have given you.

You may like to look at the section of this board that covers fixed price ORBs/files or the sticky message at the top of the page on the same subject.

As always other suppliers are available..


Mikkel Plannthin
12th September 2011, 20:53
ORBs within AIR 27, i.e. squadron ORBs that are already digitised comes as far as I have experienced lately at 20 per reference.

I have paid as much as 80 for a ORB earlier (the good old days).


Scott McIntosh
12th September 2011, 21:41
Thanks Ross and Mikkel

Dont get me wrong I have no fight with them but I do remember a quotation I had previously which was about 60 at the time and to now want 899 to copy the same piece of paper which we the tax payers own anyway is a bit rich.

I would love a job doing what they do. Maybe this is how I become employed again. I move myself to London and become a paid researcher or paid copy service.


What is the fixed price ORB's anyhow. Are you offering a service to copy things while you are at the NA or is it for the files you yourself have and have listed.

If it is a service you are offering while you are visiting the NA yourself and are willing to copy ORB's and files for this price the please PM me and we will talk again.

I see you have listed the 132 OTU ORB I would be interested in getting that coppied from you.

Thanks for your comments so far.

Please continue to post other relevant details to help people like myself better understand the NA.

12th September 2011, 22:38
Think of the TNA as the reference section in a remote public library.

The book is free for for you to look at if you travel to visit but you cannot withdraw it for loan for more than a day.

This costs you nothing or the rest of the UK taxpayers as it is the basic service covered.

However if you want someone to take it to a photocopier on your behalf and copy all the pages then the rest of the UK taxpayers should not have to pay the wages of someone to to this or the cost of the photocopier paper/machine hire/maintenance.

The same goes if you want a specific chapter or all the pages that contain the word..xxxx. The time to search for this is greater than slapping it sequentially onto the image glass.

It is this extra burden on what has already been funded by the taxpayers that the TNA copy costs cover.

I work in two ways for file copy service for others.

1. A copy of an entire AIR document. This may cover one unit or a number of units but to be cost effective for my time and rate I do not search and copy specific sections just the whole document. For example AIR29 covering No.86 OTU comes with No.81, 82, 83, 84 and 85 OTUs. This is fine where a researcher has an interest covering several units but not where only an individual unit in the AIR29 is only wanted. Because of time constraints I do not provide estimates but have given typical costs.

Having said that the total cost for my AIR copy is usually well under the individual unit cost from the TNA.

I have gambled that an AIR document wanted by someone will be wanted by someone else and have priced the initial copy at approx 60% of what it costed me to copy (time, travel, reproduction costs etc). This is how I keep the costs down for this service and hence a rate of 0.10 per image.

2. If I have copied the entire AIR document then I can access a page count and can now split the document up into the individual unit sections.

These I can now offer at a fixed price and gamble that at least one other person will want a copy of each individual unit in the AIR document.

So if you have a pressing need within two months for a whole AIR document I can be tasked to copy it for you at a rate that is under the cost from the TNA however I cannot provide an estimate.

If the Unit is in the fixed price list then I can provide a copy of that section of the AIR document for -number of images listed times 0.10 which for No.132 (C)OTU comes to 49.10 all in. This is the case for No.132 (C)OTU and it also covers the unit before it became No.132 (C)OTU.

Another option is to wait and see if a unit you want is requested by someone else then comes up in the fixed price list in the near future, I know of one person who is doing that at the moment.

I've tried to initally target OTU ORBs where there is no printed loss list based on the typical needs of the forum. I have also started to include Station and Group ORBs so that I can give a feel for the typical size of these AIR documents.

Drop me an email with a return email address and I'll sent over a couple of sample images of a document for you to consider.


15th September 2011, 11:00
I had an ORB arrive today, and rushed to open it expecting it to be an order i put in some time back for 149sqdn 37 to 40, and 161sqdn, but to my surprise it was 61sqdn Appendices, which i ordered two weeeks after. So i rang the N/A (which was a task in itself, as i suffer from phone phobia) to ask if there was a problem with the order, and he replied that because of the size of the files in question,there was a completion date of 21st October put on it, which i find strange, as i've had whole ORB's within days, in the past.
Never mind, with the info in the 61 ORB appendices, combat reports, aircraft loss files, w/op logs, maps etc etc, i have something to occupy my time.

29th September 2011, 01:01
After reading about the problems and concerns some of you have had with the TNA File Copying Service I must admit to being a little hesitant to use it.

Whilst ordering a CD from Ross he advised I should try the Nation Archives Copying Service for the ones he did not have. Though I have visited the TNA to copy some Record Books with a digital camera in the past I had never before ordered files on a CD/DVD from them.

Following Ross's suggestion I searched the on-line Index and found two No.53 Sqn ORBs that covered the period that interested me. I placed an on-line order inquiry on the Sunday and received a quote for the price the next day. Their target for completing my order was stated to be 14 days. On the Monday evening I placed the order and received comfirmation and a receipt by e-mail the following day.

The disk containing the two files I had ordered arrived in the post just eight days after placing my order. AIR27/505 had 335 pages and cost 20, AIR27/506 had 379 pages and cost 23, the total including first class postage came to 45.24.

I did not ask them to search for anything and simply ordered the complete ORBs and cannot fault the service I received.

Hope you will find this helpful, Tony

29th September 2011, 04:28
Hi Tony,
The problem about my completion date was apparently down to the large number of files within the two ORB's i ordered, having said that, very surprisingly, after telling me this, two days later they dropped through my letter box, so someone up there had their wires crossed. There's nothing wrong with the new system of "set price" ORB's, i love it, as you can get some full ORB's for the 20 charge, as i have on several occasions.
It's always been well known that by ordering full ORB's, you can avoid the search fees charged by the N/A, but it's not that long ago, that these search fees did not exist, and i was always ordering "part" ORB's, you just had to wait a little longer, that's all. The other problem listed previously, is the pricing of files from units such as OTU's, HCU's ITW's etc, which are still in their original books and not on film, that's when the search fees kick in and it gets very expensive, plus the fact that if you want the whole book, each page has to be physically scanned by hand as such. That's when Ross's copying service comes in very handy