Series WO95 - War Office: First World War and Army of Occupation War Diaries

Identity area

Reference code

GB GB66 WO95

Title

War Office: First World War and Army of Occupation War Diaries

Date(s)

  • 1914-1923 (Creation)

Level of description

Series

Extent and medium

Paper, partly digitised (digitization ongoing)

Context area

Name of creator

British Army

Biographical history

Archival history

From 1907 units in active service were required to keep a daily record of events by the Field Service Regulations Part II. These records are called War Diaries or, occasionally, Intelligence Summaries.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

5500 boxes and files

This series consists of war diaries for British and colonial units serving in theatres of operations between 1914 and 1922, including Russia, at home, and in the colonies, and British military missions, and Armies of Occupation between 1919 and 1922. No diaries for the campaign in South West Africa in 1914-1915 are included in this series because no British units participated; operations were conducted under the auspices of the South African armed forces.

For researchers and family historians, the war diaries contain a wealth of information of far greater interest than the army could ever have predicted. They provide unrivalled insight into daily events on the front line, and are full of fascinating detail about the decisions that were made and the activities that resulted from them. War diaries are still kept by the armed services to this day, and historical war diaries such as these are still referred to.

The war diaries include details of the unit’s activities, often on a daily basis. While not personal diaries, they do often refer to individuals and in some cases offer personal insights into life (and inevitably death) on the front line.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

The NA have digitised around 1.5 million pages of war diaries so far, and will be releasing them throughout 2014 as part of First World War 100, the centenary programme. Digitising the most popular segment of one of most popular record series will allow researchers around the world to access the diaries, and has given us the opportunity to embark on a hugely exciting crowdsourcing project, Operation War Diary.

Accruals

System of arrangement

The war diaries are arranged by operational theatre (front) first, then by GHQ, then Army, then Corps, then division, then by the units within each division. They cover the entire period of the unit’s involvement in the war, from their arrival on the front to their departure at the end of the war.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

The NA have published the unit war diaries for the cavalry divisions and a number of infantry divisions online (catalogue references WO 95/1096 to WO 95/1226, and WO 95/1227 to WO 95/3154 inclusive). They cover the entire period of the units’ involvement in the war, from their arrival on the front to their departure at the end of the war.

More diaries of teh WO95 series is being digitised, conserved, sorted and itemised.

Available in digital format unless otherwise stated

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • англійська

Script of material

  • Латинський

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

A contents list and Index to Battalions etc, and a list of the Brigades and Divisions to which Battalions were attached are in the reading rooms at The National Archives, Kew.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

For intelligence summaries of information and reports on military, economic and political matters, see WO 157
As many maps included in these diaries and certain war diaries containing particularly confidential material were extracted it is thought that these reasons account for the absence of some appendices referred to on the covers of many diaries.
Maps extracted from these diaries are now in WO 153
Extracted war diaries with especially confidential material were put into WO 154

Related descriptions

Publication note

A set of divisional orders of battle for Belgium, France and Germany, in six parts, is held at the Reference Desk; entitled History of the Great War. Order of Battle of Divisions, (HMSO, 1935-1945). This is arranged by division, not by unit. It includes a brief history of Armies, Corps and Divisions serving on the Western Front.

Notes area

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Sources

Archivist's note

Aleksandra Pawliczek, FUB

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