Review of digital services from Naval & Military Press

I did not mention Sussex company Naval & Military Press in my recent review of online military research services. On reflection that was on omission. It is a company whose work I use almost every day, but one that somehow I do not think of as an online provider in quite the same way. Founded in 1991 it has grown from roots in book publishing to being a significant player in the field.

The online catalogue and shopping website is easy to navigate and secure. I find N&MP pricing to be generally very fair and reasonable, but also keep an eye open for their across-the board sales when almost all of their catalogue is reduced by a certain percentage. Delivery is not always the quickest, but never so long that it would make me think twice about returning.

Books

N&MP has and keeps building an extraordinary catalogue of military history books. For students of the Great War, the core of the catalogue is an array of official, regimental, unit and divisional histories produced as facsimile editions of 1920s/30s originals that are now hard to find and inevitably expensive on the used market. Most are produced in hard and paperback forms and provide a reasonably priced way of acquiring this information. Add to that the equally vast range of memoirs, battle histories and many other types of military history books and it is true to say that there will be something for everyone with any degree of interest in the subject.

CDROMs and DVDs

Although it is possible to acquire individual volumes of the British Official History of Military Operations, N&MP also makes them available in two DVDs: one covers France and Flanders, the other Gallipoli, Salonika, and the rest. They are not cheap but represent good value when compared to buying the range in book form. The volumes are produced as PDFs which are searchable and printable. Sadly, due to a rather intrusive security system (which includes temporarily halting the user’s ability to create a screen grab) sections cannot be copied and pasted. Many is the time I would have liked to incorporate a quoted sentence or paragraph into something that I am writing and this is just not possible: at least, not directly and without a lot of messing about!

The first CDROM that I can recall the company producing was their first move into what they now call military genealogy and was a database produced from the 1920s HMSO books known as “Soldiers Died in the Great War“. It remains available in this format but over the years the data appears to have been syndicated, so this product is no longer a unique source of it. This is not something that is recommended as a buy if all you are doing is researching a single soldier, but it suits those researching whole units, towns, war memorials, and so on.

Others followed: the catalogue now includes similarly searchable DVDs of the campaign medal rolls, roll of the Silver War Badge, London Gazette, and National Archives British trench map collection and more. A relatively recent addition is the National Archives WO95 collection war diaries of the battalions that fought in France and Flanders (more on this subject below). Again, these products are not cheap but can represent very good value depending on your research needs. In the case of the rolls, just as with “Soldiers Died”, the data presented is a transcript and the user does not see images of the original documents from which the data is derived.

These technologies are of course subject to potential problems in the long term, not so much from physical degradability but from technology moving on. I still have various CDs with Great War maps (and, I think, an early “Soldiers Died”) that simply became redundant and useless when Windows was upgraded and the base technology abandoned.

Online: nmarchive.com

N&MP has capitalised in their investment in creating the databases by making them available online through a subscription service. This can be found through the main N&MP website but is also at separate Naval and Military Archive. The fee for an annual subscription is very reasonable when compared to giants Ancestry and Findmypast but of course it does not have the same breadth and depth of information. A better side by side comparison simply in terms of fee is with Forces War Records – and this is one that N&MP wins at a canter. It is also possible to purchase access on a short term basis – a day (at time of writing) for £10 and in steps up to 90 days at £40. But a whole year is just £95 so if a user plans on researching several soldiers it makes sense to go for the annual membership. I have not had the need to test customer service so an unable to comment on speed and quality of support.

The databases that can be searched at present (for the Great War) are as shown in this image:

nmarchive.com Great War databases at 12 January 2020

In some cases the data presented is the transcript and not an image of original documentation. This inevitably introduces the chance of error but on the whole N&MP has done an excellent job with this – certainly in comparison with Ancestry, for example.

It is possible to carry out a search for a man’s name and to be presented with results from across all databases, or to restrict the search as needed. One oddity is that “Soldiers Died” cannot be searched by the men’s numbers – as I found when I searched for a great uncle whose surname I know to have been mis-transcribed.

Overall, the website is well designed and easy to use; the search and results are clear and well presented; and I’d say good value for money.

Bu nmarchive.com has a second part and it is a gem. The war diaries for France and Flanders are included: up to divisional level. It is possible to refine the search in a number of ways.

nmarchive.com search box for war diaries

Once the user has found the relevant diary, they will see that each day is presented with a transcription of date and location. The latter is also searchable, which is a considerable and most useful feature. But here is the best: on clicking on the day, the user sees an image of the original diary page. Clearly photographed, they can be saved and printed. Excellent. The same diaries are available via Ancestry and indexed in such a quaint way as to be almost impossible to locate at times. They are nowhere else at present except the National Archives own website, which is easy to search and from which whole bundles of a given diary can be purchased at very moderate fees. I’d say the annual subscription to the Naval and Military Archive is worth it for the war diaries alone.

Links

Review of online service providers

Naval & Military Press

nmarchive.com