Operation War Diary: First World War Unit Diaries go online to mark centenary

14 January 2014 | Kate Clements

Today, The National Archives is making the first batch of digitised First World War unit war diaries from France and Flanders available online via its First World War 100 portal .

Once complete, it will comprise more than 1.5 million pages, opening them up to a global audience for the first time.

Also launching today is Operation War Diary, an innovative online crowdsourcing partnership project between The National Archives, Imperial War Museums (IWM) and Zooniverse, which aims to unearth the details from within the diaries.

The First World War unit war diaries are the most popular records from The National Archives’ First World War collection (file series WO 95) and the first in a series of First World War records to be digitised as part of The National Archives’ centenary programme.

With some surprising revelations and astonishing stories, this first batch of unit war diaries reveals the real-time account of the first three cavalry and the first seven infantry divisions who were part of the first wave of British army troops deployed in France and Flanders. 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.

Further batches of the unit war diaries will be released throughout the course of The National Archives’ centenary programme.

Get involved

As part of the digitisation of the Unit War Diaries and to engage people in the centenary, The National Archives is teaming up with Imperial War Museums (IWM) and Zooniverse to launch Operation War Diary. This innovative crowdsourcing history project will enable the public to capture information from The National Archives’ unit war diaries.

Volunteers who sign up to Operation War Diary will be assigned a segment of a unit war diary and asked to tag key details from the pages, such as names, places and events. The data inputted by volunteers will be collected and used to enrich The National Archives’ catalogue descriptions for the unit war diaries, enabling family historians around the world to trace their army ancestors and providing academics and researchers with a better understanding of how the war was fought.

Information gained through Operation War Diary will also be incorporated into IWM’s Lives of the First World War project, an innovative, interactive platform that will inspire people across the world to discover, remember and share the life stories of those who served in uniform and worked on the home front.

If you would like to take part in Operation War Diary, you can join the project here: http://www.operationwardiary.org/.

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