[Cross posted at Birmingham “On War”]

I have spent the past week in the archives for the first time in 6 months, which has been a relief as I think I was getting withdrawal symptoms. However, in the course of trawling through the files I came across the following entry in one of the files. I found it in the War Diary for V Brigade RAF for August 1918. I was looking in this file as it was the higher formation for No. 8 Squadron, which was commanded by the subject of my thesis, Trafford Leigh-Mallory. It is a notice relating that this file, and several others, had been stolen by a reader at what was then know as the Public Records Office (now The National Archives), which they had managed to reclaim. They also make clear that the person involved was charged for criminal damages. In itself this is a historical document that relates to the organisational history and culture of the key depository for the UK’s national memory. It also shows that you should not mess with the National Archives as they will come after you!


6 thoughts on “What not to do at the archives…Or don’t mess with the National Archives…

  1. Bloody right as well. The felon should be flogged and then drawn and quartered. The NA and its records are there for us all and anyone who attempts to take that away should receive the greatest kick up the arse as is possible.

  2. I remember reading that some WWI combat reports had been stolen, I think of famous fighter aces, but did not know that the culprit had been caught.
    There was also a case of somebody smuggling in forgeries to support a conspiracy theory about Hess, Churchill, peace negotiations and the death of Himmler. When his book was published, other historians went to the NA in order to check his sources and soon noticed that something was wrong. In one case, a senior British diplomat had got his own job title wrong in a communication to the Foreign Office. Type faces were wrong and documents were filed in strange places. Only the author had looked at all the documents involved before the book came out. He escaped prosecution on the grounds of ill health.

  3. Yes, I believe it had something to do with someone called Tim Graves who took a load of combat reports related to noted aces. I have heard they are still trying to sort the mess out. It is interesting what people get up to in the archives.

  4. Alex,

    Don’t get me wrong, I agree that was a criminal act. I simply meant that is interesting what people think they can get up to. That it is criminal in an outgrowth of that.

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