A national crisis
Volume 43, Number 4, April 2005
It has come to our attention that within the next few months, if not weeks, that the six million remaining original Medal Index Cards from the WWI period are to be destroyed. What the Luftwaffe started in the last war with the partial destruction of soldiers papers our own Ministry of Defence is going to finish sixty years on. Details are somewhat sketchy as all the information has come through collectors and dealers who themselves seem to have picked it up from someone on the “inside” as it were, we have done our own research and it seems that the private facility at Hayes currently storing the cards wants to relocate and is to charge the Ministry of Defence to move them. The MOD is insisting that as the information from the front of the cards has been retained elsewhere (they have all been microfiched and scanned) the cards themselves are redundant and, because they don’t have the space (it is estimated that there are between 140 and 175 filing cabinets full to be housed) and don’t want to pay for them to be moved privately, the cards have to be destroyed. True the information on the cards is available elsewhere – either at the National Archives in Microfiche form or on-line (a pdf scan can be downloaded from the National Archives website) but that does not mean that the “hardcopies” are now redundant – far from it. It is actually estimated that when the cards were copied up to 10 % were missed out entirely, a further 10% were so badly copied as to be useless and, as only the fronts of the cards have been scanned it is estimated that on a further 10% information can also be found on the rear of the card – usually information about who applied for the medals and to where they were sent – just the sort of information medal collectors and family researchers want! If the cards are destroyed this information will be lost forever and we at MEDAL NEWS, medal dealers, collectors and family research magazines don’t think that that should be allowed to happen. In other words there are an estimated 600,000 cards that hold information on First World War Soldiers and their families, information not recorded elsewhere, that are about to disappear forever. Not only that but a potential 1.2miillion further cards were either not copied at all or were copied very badly. Original documents are hard enough to come by as it is, World War I papers have been disappearing at a rate of knots for years and for such important items as these to be purposely destroyed by the very people who should be their guardians is, quite frankly, appalling. This is the only complete and untouched record of World War One Soldiers left and surely somebody must be able to step in – the National Archives says no as they already have the information on file, the MOD says it can’t afford to so what can be done? Sadly not a lot, but we feel we must do something, we cannot stand idly by whilst this vital part of our nation’s heritage is destroyed, cannot simply do nothing whilst records such as these are incinerated and lost forever – so we urge all of our readers who feel as passionately as we do to do something, anything they can, to try to stop this fiasco from actually taking place. Write to your MP, write to the Rt Hon Geoff Hoon, Secretary of State for Defence at the MOD itself at Whitehall, write to Sarah Tyacke, Chief Executive of the National Archives (at The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU) and ask her if there really is nothing they can do; write to your local paper, write to the National papers – somehow, if we can we must stop this, if we can’t at least we will have tried – sometimes that is all you can do.
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