WWI: Operation War Diary – Your Help Wanted

Operation War Diary - Joint project between TNA, IWM and Zooniverse to index WWI Diaries
Operation War Diary – Joint project between TNA, IWM and Zooniverse to index WWI Diaries

WWI: Operation War Diary – Your help wanted

Operation War Diary is a new joint project between The National Archive (providing the documents), the Imperial War Museum (providing the historical expertise) and Zooniverse (providing the technology community software) is recruiting citizen historians to index these war diaries. The project is online at www.operationwardiary.org.

During WWI each unit kept a war diary. There are over 1.5 million pages within these diaries telling the stories of what was happening on any given day during the war. This is where you have the opportunity to put your soldier into context. The diaries originated as a result of Field Regulations Part II issued in 1909 and reprinted in 1913, stipulating the purpose of the war diary and how the diary was to be completed. However, every diary is different. The goal of this new project is to “classify each page of every diary”.  Indexing the war diaries will reveal questions about: military activity; people; weather; army life; and casualties.

The website provides a Field Guide to the diaries with examples of the different pages – cover, diary, orders, signal pads, reports and other documents (e.g. maps) and lists what is hoped will be tagged and indexed on each of these pages. There is a 10 minute tutorial on how to tag and index, which is very good. You will need to register first and then you can start tagging. Currently 31 diaries are online in various levels of completion. The site states that eventually everything from Operation War Diary will be available to everyone free of charge.

The stated purpose is to “classify each page of every diary”, however on the About Us page is states that The National Archives has digitized the war diaries of the units under the command of the British and Indian cavalry and infantry divisions on the Western Front. This makes me wonder if other Fronts such as Gallipoli or Mesopotamia will be included later. Personally I hope so as I have a soldier dying at El Kut in Mesopotamia and I would like to read that war diary.

There is also a discussion section where images can be posted of problem pages, help requests, or exciting finds. This is a very active section, for example 12 images with questions posted within the last hour.

I have read some war diaries in the past, but logging in and starting to tag the data really helps you appreciate the depth of details that are here about the lives of our soldier ancestors. The process was simple, fun and educational. If you have WWI ancestors, come join us in this worthwhile project.

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