War Diaries and winning the war

Discussion in 'Unit History' started by Gerry Chester, Sep 17, 2013.

  1. Gerry Chester

    Gerry Chester WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Came accross this gem during the ongoing transcribing for the Churchill tank project:

    (FSR., VOL. 1. 174)

    1.The objects of a war diary are two fold;
    (a) To provide information from theatres of war in sufficient detail and in such as to provide data upon which to base future improvements in Army training, equipment, organisation and administration.
    The views and of constructive of recommendations of commander’s are welcome for this purpose.
    (b) To furnish an historical record ot the war.

    2. A section of the War Office has been established to scrutinise war diaries as soon as they arrive in the United Kingdom in order to extract all possible information of value under 1 (a) above. It is therefore of the utmost importance thiat completed diaries should be submitted promptly in accordance with the terms of para II below.

    3. A war diary will be kept in duplicate by:
    (a) Each branch of the staff at the headquarters of a formation subordinate command, and area or sub-area on the L of C.
    (b) Unit commander,
    (c) Commander of a headquarters or unit on detachment
    (d) Base, military and advanced depot commanders
    (e) Heads of Services and their representatives.
    Note: In the case of head quarters, sections of the various branches may keep separate war diaries or one
    combined war diary as is found convenient.
    4. Both original and duplicate copies will consist of:
    (a) Cover
    (b) Index as printed on cover,
    (c) Narrative
    (d) Appendices

    5. All details of the unit and formation (if a detachment, is concerned, the name of the parent unit), period covered and folio numbers of appendices will he shown on the cover.


    6. The war diary will be signed once, as a report, by the commander of a unit, head of a branch, or senior staff officer. It is a secret document. The extraction and retention of appendices, maps, etc., from a war diary is an offence under the Official Secrets Acts.

    7. In order to ensure accuracy and completeness and to save work, as much important information as possible will be conveyed in appendices consisting, with one except ion, of copies of documents issued and received in normal routine. The narrative is intended to supply information not given in the appendices.

    NARRATIVE (AF C 2118)

    8. The narrative should be written up daily. It should supplement and connect the appendices, but need not give a precis of any of them. It should contain
    (c) Nature and Account of operations with notes of topographical and climatic factors affecting them.
    (b) Notes of how orders were carried out
    (d ) Nature and description of field engineering works constructed.
    (d) Note of any administrative difficulties encountered arid action taken so overcome them.
    (a) Note of how time not accounted for above was spent. The type of training etc., should be specified.
    (f) Brief notes of the time of receipt and issue of orders and important messages and a reference to the Appendix letter and folio number; and, only if necessary, a very brief note of the contents.
    (g) Intermediate movements of unuts or formation.
    (Ii) Notes of any important visits paid and received by commanders and senior staff officers. It is equally important to make a note of the reason for the cuts and decisions taken.
    The exact hour of occurrences should be noted.

    9 General
    Assignment of copies of the war diary.
    When an operation order, appreciation, letter laying down policy or other important document is prepared, two copies will he made at the time specifically for the war diary/
    It is essential copies of all important documents should be placed in the war diary, including commander’’ “personal” and semi-official messages which contain instructions of operational importance.
    Grouping of the Appendices. The appendices will be assembled in the GROUPS shown on the cover, NOT simple chronological order. This is intended to make assembly and reference easy.
    Where there are no documents to be included in the appendices the word “NIL” should be entered in the appropriate space in the index.
    Its cases where additional appendices appear suitable for the branches of certain headquarters or for certain units the relevant papers should be inserted by groups and lettered accordingly, beginning with “K.”

    10. Notes.
    Appendix ‘A.’ The forms which constitute this appendix are intended for use by operational units and headquarters of divisions and below. The form will be completed whether the unit or formation is engaged in active operations or not.

    * Formations and units belonging to the Canadian Army will prepare war diaries to triplicate.

    Two forms are available: Army Form Aunt Form C2118A for units and detachments’ Army Form C2118B for formation headquarters. When printed forms are not available, proformas will be used: the correct headings are shown on page 4 of this cover.

    The forms are designed to elicit essential information which is readily available in the normal course of events but which is frequently omitted from war diaries A reply to each question is required daily. Headquarters formations however which regularly publish orders of battle, location statements, AFV and other returns, and intelligence summaries and include them among the appendices, need not fill up the columns “Changes in Command,“ Strengths” and “Intelligence Notes,” provided that full and regular information Is given In the appropriate appendices.

    The same form may be used for several consecutive days, a Clear division being shown; bat a fresh, one should be taken Into use at the beginning of each month

    Appendices ”B” and – “C” The signal log and messages kept by units or formation headquarters will be placed in these appendices.

    Appendices “E” and “H”. Originators of documents are responsible for preserving copies for assignment to war diaries,. Nevertheless It may be convenient to include in the war diary copies of important orders and Instructions received if these are no longer required or reference. If duplicates of these are not available for inclusion a note of the face should be made on the covers of originals and duplicates. It Is emphasised that, whether copies of orders and instructions are included in the war diary or not, a note of the receipt of such orders, giving sufficient details to enable them to be identified., should be made in the narrative.

    Appendix “1.” Any statistical or other returns, i.e., location, statements, strength states (e,g, AF W 300$ and W 3009), distribution of transport, ammunition returns, etc., should be included.

    Appendix “Z” Documents concerned with future planning for operations which will or may take place after the original copy of the normal war diary is due for despatch, or with special equipment, etc., will form a supplementary war diary. Documents normally handled by units or formations, even when graded “Top Secret — Officer Only” will never fall into this category. Commanders’ personal - messages may be included in Appendix ”Z.”
    Appendix ”Z” will be prepared and disposed of as shown in paras. 12-14 below.


    11. War diaries will be disposed of as follows:—
    (i) British—To GHQ 2nd Echelon, 21 Army Group.
    (ii) Canadian—To Canadian Section, GHQ 2nd Echelon, 21 Army Group.
    Note: If the duplicate copies of diaries of these formations are required at an intermediate address for record purposes, separate instructions will be issued.
    (1) British—To GHQ 2nd Echelon, 21 Army Group.
    (ii) Canadian—To Canadian Section, GHQ 2nd Echelon, 21 Army Group.
    The original copy will be forwarded to 2nd Echelon as soon as possible after the end of the month to which it refers. It will be accompanied by the duplicate copy (complete with all appendices) for the previous month.
    Units and formations of the Canadian Anny will forward a duplicate copy of the war diary at the same time as the original and forward the triplicate a month later.
    The duplicate, and in the case of Canadian units and formations, triplicate, copies of the war diary will be carefully checked before despatch of the original to ensure that they are identical in every respect
    Canadian units and formations will continue in maintain war diaries iii accordance with instructions contained in Canadian Routine Orders. AP C21 19A may be used where Canadian forms are unobtainable

    12. The documents referred to in the note on Appendix “Z,” together with a list of them made out on AF C 2118 will be placed in a separate war diary cover. All details of unit and formation, date, etc., will be filled in and the cover will he clearly marked in red: APPENDIX “Z “—“OFFICER ONLY.”
    If several distinct subjects fall into this category, ft may be found convenient to sub-divide the papers by sub-divide, lettering them In similar fashion to appendices of normal war diaries. In such cases the standard grouping of appendices should be adhered to as far as possible. .

    13. Supplementary war diaries will be forwarded through the normal channels for correspondence in the TOP SECRET category to HQ 21 Army Group from where they will eventually be forwarded to the War Office (C7). l
    They will be placed in two envelopes the inner envelope hung wax sealed and plainly marked: —
    War Diary of …………. (formation or unit).
    Period From …………. .to................ 194
    If possible an indication should be given on the inner envelope of the date on which the contents can be ‘ downgraded to SECRET.
    The duplicate of TOP SECRET supplementary diaries may he despatched as soon as receipt of the originals has been acknowledged.

    14. Where supplementary diaries of the type referred to above are compiled by Canadian formations or units by the most direct and secure means available to Chief of Staff, Canadian Military Headquarters, London
  2. Superb find Gerry!

    This confirms that much of the interesting details lay in the Appendices. Appendices "B" and "C" Signal log and messages are rarely to be found, yet they would provide much details on an operation. It's a pity that so many Appendices seem to have been lost, or maybe they were not submitted in the first place.

    Another interesting point is the fact that the duplicate was to be kept by the unit for one month before being forwarded with the next month's original. I wonder why this was?

    Many thanks for sharing this!

  3. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive


    I harp on about appendices all of the time when it comes to war diaries. Very few diaries DON'T have them it just seems that way because hardly anyone ever bothers to copy them ;)
  4. Brian Smith

    Brian Smith Junior Member

    Very interesting find, I just wonder what those completing these diaries would make of all the interest in them today 70 years on.

  5. Uncle Jack

    Uncle Jack Member

    agree always like to have background like this when using sources...

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