View Full Version : To TNA - or not to TNA, that is the question

22nd June 2010, 13:51
Dear Each/All,
I recently contacted TNA to ask for a quote to do some work for me.
I needed to know what the Charge was when one of our WW2 Commissioned Met Men was Court Martialled and, having been found Guilty, was Dismissed The Service.
I did not need paper copies, DVDs, photos of the page, etc, etc, - just the information.
TNA wanted to charge me 60 GBP to do this. Extortionate, but – if your aim is to reduce the use of a service and subsequently to say that it is no longer used, therefore the Govt employees can be got rid of – fair enough.
I then went to a recommended Private Researcher – as recommended by someone on this Forum. His estimate was 50 GBP for 2 hours work!! Now, having never been to TNA and, currently, not likely to be able to do so – therefore I do not know the problems – but my estimate of the time required was/is in the order of 20 minutes. Am I far out?
My conclusion is that TNA are trying to reduce Govt employees staff time on doing what TNA was set up to do. And Private Researchers are cashing-in on this arrangement by pitching their fees at just below the TNA “going rate”. I have no argument with this system – the Bean Counters will correct me if I am wrong!!. But if Museums are free then why not TNA, which is – after all – one of the best museums. I do not wish to take the Private Researcher’s crust from their lips, but something is not quite right here! DORIS (at RAFM) and AHB don’t charge for their services. I say again – something is not quite right here.
I need a logically argued, and reasoned, debate. Or will it be negated by this afternoons UK Emergency Budget which will require every user of every UK Govt facility to pay the going rate for the time of the Civil Servants involved (+ whatever rate of VAT is announced this afternoon) regardless of the fact that UK taxpayers already pay for that?
I say again – something is not quite right here.
Peter Davies

22nd June 2010, 14:13
Sorry Peter but it can take between 15 and 30 mins for a document to reach the reading room from time of order.

Most files are held off site and brought over by conveyor system..

How long does it take for your bags to appear in baggage reclaim after the flight has landed..same system..same delays.

The external researchers charge to cover waiting time as they cannot rely on having several commissions that dove tail into document time slots.

The scale of the document stack, enquiry scope at TNA far exceeds the document resource of AHB and DoRIS so that comparison is meaningless for comparison of response.

Even with a clear task to find a crash entry in a paper ORB (the easiest document to access) I would be hard pushed to order, receive, photograph/note and return within the hour.


22nd June 2010, 15:13
I've managed paper ORBs within 40 minutes, but the target time for delivery of documents has been raised from 30 minutes to 40 since I have been visiting TNA.

Last time I went I also had the added problem of two wrong documents being delivered to me, someone mis-read the last number on the documents in the store as it was printed correctly on the slip. That added time on to my day which I wasn't entirely happy with.

But, Peter, you live in the Reading area, there is a train every 20 minutes from there to Richmond (South West Trains service to Waterloo) and it is one stop on the District / Overground service to Kew Gardens. I've checked and the average cost of a return is 17, some for later in the day cost 13.50. Just think of the savings on paying for research. It'll be less if you've got a railcard of some description.

Mikkel Plannthin
22nd June 2010, 15:32
As a foreigner with a relatively short archive experience (in fact my experience with NA goes further back than that of Danish Archives) I shall hesitate to comment on the broader public sector debate, but only give a perspective on the prices.

I have been very satisfied with the copying service of the NA and have found prices relatively fair as my alternative is a trip from Denmark. This does not include the research service, which I have never used. My only complaint the past months has been the confusion about new prices in estimates etc. (and of course that the cost of my hobby is far to high - but that another story).

For comparison I can inform you that the starting price for research service at the Danish State Archives is 575 DKK (roughly 64) per hour. For copying services the price for the first 10 copies is about 1,50 and then about 1 a copy.

This does of course not explain recent developments at the NA, but may put it into perspective. I am not aware, if there is a market for private researchers in Denmark.


Mikkel Plannthin

22nd June 2010, 17:35
I have used this professional researcher to help find crew relatives & other RAF airforce matters .I've no idea what she charges now or if she is still working but a few years ago it was 40 for 2 hours. She was efficient & kept in regular contact but she is not based at TNA or part of their private research teams



22nd June 2010, 19:13

my own experience is rather biased.

For years I used the TNA online document ordering system to order paper or microfilm copies of files whole or in part. I found their service then (2003-2008) to be excellent and the straight copying expense was reasonable. I have also used the digitalising service (2008-2009) and found this to be excellent, provided one knows in advance exactly what is required.

My one experience with a researcher was not the best. There was nothing wrong with their communications and service, but the five digitally photographed pages from one file, put onto a CD and posted cost GBP60. All this for maybe 5-10 minutes work (how long they have to wait until a file is delivered is, quite frankly, their own problem, and can be negated if they have other work, especially with microfilms etc).

When in the UK in late 2008, I spent a week at TNA and photographed some 11,500 pages. Waiting for files was not a problem because I ORGANISED my time - thus, when waiting for files, I worked with microfilms, ordered new files etc. I did not bother reading the files I got, I simply photographed them.

I had a similar experience with a researcher in the US, who charged some US$600 for photograpjing around 100-150 pages. I put them onto photographing files instead of photocopying and I think I may have got stung some of the cost for their new digital camera!

It's a shame that TNA is not located well away from London, in an area where the cost of living isn't as high...



Stewart McLoughlin
22nd June 2010, 22:03
I've found it cheaper to go to the Stockholm Archives by air with an overnight stay, than go to TNA. It's just another rip off like the banks, fuel, telephones, vat. They've got you by the S. & C.'s. and they take their pound of flesh with fries. Pardon dear??? Just sounding off...... errrr logging off. Be down shortly.

22nd June 2010, 23:01

The file you need is AIR43/43, but the document is closed and cannot be viewed or re-produced as a digital or printed copy (this applies to all files in the AIR43 series). However, you can submit a FOI request to the NA to review the reasons why it is closed and if the file could be reviewed and opened for you. For more details go to http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/displaycataloguedetails.asp?CATLN=6&CATID=7917213&SearchInit=4&SearchType=6&CATREF=air43%2F43.

I appreciate that even if the file can be opened you still have to sort out a way of getting the data, but at least if it can't be opened it will save you the worry of wondering who you can bribe to do the work for you!


James Castle
23rd June 2010, 08:31
I have used a very good researcher in Freiburg. Axel Wittenberg is on the Bundesarchiv list of approved researchers. If anyone wants his details I can provide them. He speaks good English, which is handy as my German is limited to phrases like "where is the campsite?"
I found Axel easy to deal with, very reasonable in costs and with his knowledge of the system he was able to find documents I did not even know existed. He was certainly cheaper than flying out to Germany for a night or two.
Best wishes

23rd June 2010, 17:48
Further to my last (post 8) I thought you might like to know that the FOI route was tried - and immediately hit a brick wall. TNA's answer was something to the effect that an enquirer is required to pay 60 before TNA will look in a file to see if the FOI inquiry could be actioned. I suppose that's in line with other fees - except this means TNA is demanding the money even if one can visit the darned place.

Thought I'd heard everything.


23rd June 2010, 18:29

I checked TNA website last week, and it seems the car park fee which was to take place in the last days of April has not been put into service yet ? May someone who has recently visited confirm ?

Visiting from France by car on a day trip through the Channel tunnel, I wouldn't like to be rejected from the car park because of their new system being installed overnight, it's very difficult to park around, not counting the risks to have the car taken away by the police (especially foreign ones)

TIA for feedback


bruce dennis
23rd June 2010, 18:53
As of yesterday, the car park charging system does not have a start date. Depending on who you ask, it will have at least two and as much as five weeks notice before launch. Watch the TNA website, that is where the news will be posted.

And while we are on the subject, it has been re-confirmed (yet again) that there are no alternative plans being considered.


bruce dennis
23rd June 2010, 18:55
Further to my last (post 8) I thought you might like to know that the FOI route was tried ... an enquirer is required to pay 60 before TNA will look in a file to see if the FOI inquiry could be actioned. I suppose that's in line with other fees - except this means TNA is demanding the money even if one can visit the darned place.

Thought I'd heard everything.


Very good point. I will ask tomorrow what would happen if the request is made in person.


23rd June 2010, 19:49

Thanks Bruce. It was my intention to check TNA website, but advice from fellow forumites is always worth it, to my humble opinion.


bruce dennis
24th June 2010, 11:05
... something to the effect that an enquirer is required to pay 60 before TNA will look in a file to see if the FOI inquiry could be actioned.


Brian, ref your FOI request: Someone got their wires crossed. I have received categorical assurance that the 60 Research Fee does not apply to FOI requests. It is just possible that the fee would come into play if your FOI request was successful and then you needed TNA staff to find/copy a section from the file, but there are alternatives to that as well. (Not all of us Independent Researchers are as greedy as the examples given elsewhere in this thread). I picked up some other tips about the particular type of file you are interested in and will send them in a PM.

The process to initiate your FOI request is via the on-line TNA catalogue and there is no difference between making the request on-line from your home and on-line here at Kew.


6th August 2010, 19:34

The car park fee will start at the end of the month. I've been surveying this page of TNA website :


Make sure you have booked your parking in advance