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War Diaries


sandyford
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Does anyone know the procedure?

The War Diary I am researching is typed and is on microfilm. I have seen a hand written version of 1 page including a sketched diagram and also handwritten individually named casualty lists.

Would the diaries be hand written as soon as possible and then possibly sent to H.Q. monthly or day by day?

Would they be typed up then or do you think the typing was done much later, perhaps even years later?

They differ significantly in their format not only from Battalion to Battalion but also as different people have written them. Was there a proscribed form or content?

Kate

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Hi Kate,

Unfortunately, I can't give you chapter and verse on how these were meant to be produced. However, I have some observations you might find helpful:

After the war, some were typed up, and I have seen parts of a war diary that have been added to in 1930, typed.

Others purport to have been typed fairly soon after a unit came out of the line, whilst others remain in their original state: pencil written with front covers doodled on and embellished like a school exercise book.

Copies of each war diary were sent to a number of places throughout the war, and these are listed each time this was done - varying HQ's throughout the army structure.

I’ve found a very long thread that I think covers your question plus any additional ones you may have – someone has posted regulations on war diaries. I’m currently working my way through it.

The link is here

Here’s one I posted some time ago along similar lines , but unfortunately didn’t get any answers :(

My post

Hope this is of help

rgds

doogal

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Doogal

Thank you very much to the link with the earlier thread. Someone on this forum has quoted an old soldier as saying that one of the sounds apart from the obvious, which stayed with him after the war, was the sound of the typewriter.

We have also seen those dugouts which had typewriters as well as communications equipment. Probably there was not a clear pattern at all but I am working from small clues.

As you say, the whereabouts of the war diary and any copies are listed in all moving of equipment which makes me think that some of them were typed up sooner rather than later

The recommendations as to the format in the earlier thread was wonderful and just what we would all want from a War Diary.

Thank you. Hope someone can give you info. about the condolence letters.

Kate

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A typescript diary for the bty. I'm researching exists at PRO and the quality of information recorded is highly suspect in many cases; sometimes it follows 'original' m.s. or else deviates entirely. I don't reject it on those grounds, I have to take it as a different type of evidence, telling me something different from a different point of view.

I think it was perhaps written up to cover 'administrative gaps' whilst the bty. (a D howitzer bty) was moving between brigades - it was in one bde. for a few months only and I suspect it was typed up after the event.

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Yes. There seems to be a great difference in the content, coverage etc.

At first I was mainly interested in the Battles and casualty lists and that is why I began to wonder about the timing of the writing up. For example in the Casualty lists there are people who first appear in a list of wounded and then are listed again Died of Wounds with a few days between the events. So the first list must have been compiled before word had come back from Casualty Clearing stations.

In, I think, May, or possibly June 1918, the Battalion having suffered heavily in April, the diary says that it is regretted that it was not possible to complete a diary for April but it may be included with the May diary.

The detailed plans, lists and timings for moving and ordinary procedures are also very interesting. The War Diary is usually top of the list in things to be transported.

It is very interesting that you have been able to compare the handwritten and the typed versions.

Kate

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  • 1 year later...

I'm curious to know if there is any difference between a unit history and a war diary -- or are they the same thing?

bc

Hi Kate,

Unfortunately, I can't give you chapter and verse on how these were meant to be produced. However, I have some observations you might find helpful:

After the war, some were typed up, and I have seen parts of a war diary that have been added to in 1930, typed.

Others purport to have been typed fairly soon after a unit came out of the line, whilst others remain in their original state: pencil written with front covers doodled on and embellished like a school exercise book.

Copies of each war diary were sent to a number of places throughout the war, and these are listed each time this was done - varying HQ's throughout the army structure.

I’ve found a very long thread that I think covers your question plus any additional ones you may have – someone has posted regulations on war diaries. I’m currently working my way through it.

The link is here

Here’s one I posted some time ago along similar lines , but unfortunately didn’t get any answers  :(

My post

Hope this is of help

rgds

doogal

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Hi Kate

I too have seen a war diary with a similar remark about the April 1918 war diary, that it would be included later but doesn't appear to have been. From memory it was 6 DLI, IIRC most of the officers were killed when a shell hit their billet immediately prior to the German attack on 9th April. Same one?

bc

Unit History and War Diary are not the same, although the history of a battalion in the Great War may be based almost entirely on their war diary with a few remembrances from various officers thrown in. The War Diary is a description of the movements and actions of a battalion (or other unit such as a battery) while it is on active service. A Unit History can cover any period, and though often based upon war diaries, can and do include information from a wide variety of sources.

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In my experience, War diaries don't always give the whole picture, I've come across cases where a Battalion's history was more comprehensive (in the more relevant facts) than the War Diary.

I've found that a look to the Brigade Diary (that is, when extant) to which a Battalion belonged gives sometimes a more clear description of an action (the Battalion's is often more down to earth and evidently more limited in scope, but this is only logical). Other units diaries, particularly those of units in contact (i.e.: neighbouring battalions, Field Ambulances, Artillery units, etc...) are also interesting to check.

Other than that,you can also to compare casualties, as they appear in the War Diary, with other sources (SDGW, rolls of honour, etc). Sometimes the circumstances didn't allow the officer in Charge to be too thorough.

Gloria

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A Unit History can cover any period, and though often based upon war diaries, can and do include information from a wide variety of sources.

As Gloria points out a History can often give a much better account of, say, a major action as it may well include details from neighbouring units. It also benefits from the exact science of hindsight.

John

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Greenwoodman

Here is the reference to the missing month in the 6th Batt. N.F. War Diary. As you say it was for April 1918 and it is the only month which has no diary throughout the War.

Obviously from the date on the bottom the diaries were submitted 3 days after the end of April.

50th Division.

Herewith the War Diaries of 149th Infantry Brigade for Month of April 1918, less 6th N.F.

The War Diary of the 6th Bn. N.F. will be forwarded as soon as possible. The following has been received from the O.C. that battn.

'Owing to the exceptional nature of the heavy casualties suffered by this Bn. lately - which include the C.O., Adjutant and Intelligence officer, great difficulty is being experienced in obtaining authentic data for the continuous history of the operations in which this unit has taken part during the period covered by the War Diary in question.

Major J. G. leathart - at present at Le TOUQUET is the only surviving officer who can supply certain necessary facts.

As he will not be returning to the Battn. until the end of the present week, I fear that it will not be possible to submit the War Diary for April at the stipulated time. It will be forwarded at the earliest possible moment.'

H. W. Jackson Capt. B.M. for

Brig-Gen. Commdg 149th Inf. Brig.

3rd May 1918

The missing diary is not among the filmed diaries and I wonder if it was ever produced.

In April 1918 there were about 170 deaths in 6th Batt. recorded on CWGC. In March there had been 60 deaths and in May there were 65. This doesn't take into account - missing who didn't die, and wounded.

Kate

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It seems that there was no end of trouble getting the units to submit diaries on time and with the expected information. An example of a reminder memo is here . This is included with the last months diary of the 73rd canadian Battalion, which was apparently notorious in this regard. Note that entries were to be made daily and submitted monthly.

I, too, have noticed that for major operations, later histories often give more information than the War Diary. In many cases this is understandable. For example, if a battalion had bad luck, most of the officers may well have been casualties, and it would have been difficult to assemble an extended narrative immediately afterwards.

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Yes, it was 6NF, as I found the extract this am. I copied mine at the museum at Alnwick Castle and they don't have the diary for April, so it seems likely that it was never produced.

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