Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Searches I Get: Operation War Diary [WWI]

TL:DR – You are looking for the World War I Zooniverse/National Archive (UK) project Operation War Diary. You’re welcome. 

Now that significant  numbers of people are using this site, I’m starting to see popular search terms. Your privacy is assured (with me, anyway) because my stats package only tells me WHAT is being searched for and not WHO is searching. In these days of mass surveillance I cannot categorically say that the NSA is NOT getting your search history, but I am not.

When I see a topic in this site’s search terms that is both popular and interesting to me personally, I’ll blog about it.

For the past four days or so, one of the searches that has led people here is some variant of “Operation War Diary.” Doing some of my own searching I think what you are looking for is Operation War Diary, a new citizen science project on the Zooniverse platform for the UK National Archive and the Imperial War Museum.

The project is enlisting volunteers to look though large numbers of war diaries of British soldiers who fought in World War I. As described in the project’s tutorial, the diaries have an incredible wealth of detail waiting to be classified and tagged. Here’s a more general description of the diaries from the project’s about page:

THE UNIT WAR DIARIES

War diaries were kept for two reasons: to provide an accurate record of operations for preparing the official history of the war, and to collect information that would help make improvements in preparing the army for war.

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.

The National Archives has digitised the war diaries of the units under the command of the British and Indian cavalry and infantry divisions on the Western Front. The war diaries are made up of a variety of different types of pages, including cover pages, title pages, orders, signals, maps, narrative reports and the main diary pages themselves. They are catalogued by theatre of operations, unit and the date range covered, but we don’t know much more about the content of the diaries beyond this.

It seems like these diaries would be a godsend to writer of stories of World War I or a science fiction writer wanting to set a general tone of army life. 

While this project is focused on getting people to classify and tag individual diary pages, according to the Operation War Diary site, “Whole war diaries are available from Discovery, The National Archives’ catalogue, where they can be searched free of charge and downloaded for a small fee.”

Hope this helps anyone searching for Operation War Diary.

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