Rather than the diaries of individual soldiers (as the original title of the video suggests), these are the formal day-to-day action records of battalions and regiments of the British army. A proportion of the diaries from the First World War have been digitized and are available on the internet:
Published on 15 Jan 2014
Diaries describing life during the First World War by British soldiers have been digitised and can be read online.
As part of the organisations centenary programme the National Archives is publishing the first batch of unit diaries from France and Flanders.
One soldier from the 4th Division, 1 Battalion Somerset Light Infantry in 1917 describes one occasion of gunfire: “The Germans quickly got their artillery into position, and a considerable amount of shelling was experienced. Our casualties in this engagement were slight.”
Another entry by Captain CJ Paterson, one of the First Battalion’s soldiers describes the horrendous reality of life in the trenches:
“As I say all should be nice and peaceful and pretty. What it actually is is beyond description.
“Trenches, bits of equipment, clothing (probably blood-stained), ammunition, tools, caps, etc., etc., everywhere.
“Poor fellows shot dead are lying in all directions. Some of ours.”
“Everywhere the same hard, grim, pitiless sign of battle and war. I have had a belly full of it.”
Maria Miller, Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, said: “The National Archives’ digitised First World War unit diaries will allow us to hear the voices of those that sacrificed their lives and is even more poignant now there are no living veterans who can speak directly about the events of the war. This new online vehicle gives a very public voice to some of these soldiers, through which we will be able to hear their thoughts and feelings.”
You can read the online war diaries on the National Archive website here: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/first-world-war
Records for the Canadian Corps (which fought as part of the British army) are in the process of being digitized, according to the Library and Archives Canada website.
War diaries are a day-to-day description of unit activities for army units in active service, and contain information about unit location and the military operations in which it may be involved. The diaries rarely mention individuals by name, with the exception of some references to officers.
War diaries for the Army in the First World War (RG 9 IIID3) are being digitized and can be viewed online by using the Advanced Archives Search. Records not yet digitized are available on microfilm.
- Select Finding Aid Number in the pull down menu, and enter: 9-52
- Enter a keyword, for example, the unit name or battalion number: “102nd” or “Royal Canadian Dragoons”