WWI diaries now available to search for free could add colour to your research

Blogger: GemSen Hand in hand with the impending World War I centenary is a blossoming interest in the history of the conflict and the people involved. Anybody researching their family history and the Great War then should be pleased to hear then that the National Archives have responded by releasing a set of war diaries from WWI British soldiers, which detail life on the frontline, free to view and read online.

The project is called 'Operation War Diary' and is a joint venture between The National Archives, the Imperial War Museum and online research website Zooniverse. There are currently around 1.5 million diary pages held by the National Archives and a fifth have been put online. Written nearly one hundred years ago the war diaries describe the conditions in which soldiers were living in, where they were, what they were doing and even who and what they missed. Imagine discovering a war diary from one of your ancestors — that would be like finding family treasure. Whether you are related to the author or not, war diaries however make for interesting reading and could introduce you to the similar experiences and events your military ancestors may have witnessed. If you’ve read any of the diaries we have on the Forces War records website then you will know that reading first hand accounts of war can really bring some colour to the black and white hard facts. Each unit during World War One was required to record their day-to-day activities and they were kept to provide an accurate record of operations. The accounts go beyond this though, offering real insight into life on the front line and apparently, they also talk of rugby matches, tug of war, and farewell dinners to mark the end of fighting. The first batch of 1,944 digitised diaries detail the experiences of three cavalry and seven infantry divisions in the initial wave of British army troops deployed in 1914. Some of the accounts from soldiers in the First Battalion South Wales Borderers describe the opening days of war in the battles of Marne and the Aisne, reported the BBC. "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," says one diary kept by one of the First Battalion's soldiers, Captain James Paterson, which has been put online for you to read. "Everywhere the same hard, grim, pitiless sign of battle and war. I have had a belly full of it." Source: BBC Operation War Diary & National Archives There could be a war hero in your family just waiting to be discovered, and remembered… Do you know enough about your ancestors who fought in the First World War? Why not log on to Forces War Records and find out more  - delve into our ‘historic documents’ library and read some of the interesting War diaries that we get sent – there’s nothing quite like reading a personal account of war, as history unfolds itself through the eyes of somebody who was actually there. Discover interesting facts about your ancestors, become more knowledgeable about history, and reveal some of the fantastic characters involved in war…What are you waiting for? If you have a war diary in your family then please send your contact details and a few lines about your ancestor and their diary to Diaries@forces-war-records.co.uk.
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