January 2012


Please provide details of all archives/records/documents that have gone missing from the Archives Office in Kew over the past five years. Please include details of the items, what is believed to have happened to them, and specify whether they were recovered.




Between 5 January 2007 and 10 January 2012 a total of 1,274 records were reported missing at some stage. Of this total, 575 have been subsequently located and 699 remain missing.

The National Archives currently holds approximately 11 million records in its collection. The 1,274 records listed as 'reported missing' make up 0.01% of the collection.

Records listed as missing have generally been misfiled and are quickly located and accounted for. The National Archives has an ongoing program dedicated to locating such documents, so this number fluctuates slightly although the level remains fairly consistent. A small number of incorrectly located documents at any one time is an inevitable consequence of being one of the most open and accessible archives in the world.

The National Archives produces over 600,000 documents for readers annually, with a document ordered on average once every ten seconds on busy days. Occasionally, records are found not to be in their correct location within the 185 km of shelving, generally as a result of human error. This can either be because a reader has accidentally replaced a document in the wrong file or occasionally because a member of staff replaces a file in the wrong shelf location.

The National Archives proactively monitors all missing documents on a weekly basis and employs a robust 11 stage search process. This includes tracking the document's movements on its ordering system, searching reading rooms and inspecting documents viewed by the same user. Documents in use at the same time, those in the same series, those with similar reference numbers, and documents filed in the same area are also searched. Documents which are not located after an initial search are listed as 'missing' on The National Archives' publicly available online catalogue.

We have complied a spreadsheet detailing the 1,274 missing files. The National Archives document reference number (column B), title (columns C-F), the date recorded missing (column A) and whether the item has been recovered (column L).

The full catalogue entry for each document can be viewed by entering the reference number on The National Archives online catalogue.

Our catalogue provides the date the file was listed as missing and the public body which transferred the document.  If a document is known to be missing it is indicated on the catalogue.

You may also be interested to see where we have answered previous FOI requests on this issue


Spreadsheet of missing files at The National Archives (XLS, 0.43Mb)

This page contains XLS files. See plug-ins and file formats for help in accessing these file types.