War diaries: annotations, corrections & things that make you go hmm

Discussion in 'Unit History' started by dbf, Sep 18, 2018.

  1. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    I thought a separate thread might be interesting / useful after reading comments following on from Sword - Queen White OR Queen Red

    I've also wondered about annotations in war diaries. Some you can tell are genuine corrections to typos or to spellings etc, but other things can look a bit 'off'...

    One diary I saw had the Time changed, very casually in pencil, by one hour, throughout the entries on a particular day. (Who did it? No initials, no note of explanation.)

    To me the actual diary entry didn't read like it was written on that date or even perhaps the next. Had the feel of something which had been dictated on a later date with a lot more detail than was the norm - perhaps because of the significance of the date/action. IIRC there also was a reference to an officer who was injured - with comment that he DOW later.

    I understand the circumstances under which many BEF diaries were recreated but this was for September 1944. (2ArmdIG)
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  2. PackRat

    PackRat Well-Known Member

    This page from the diary of 1st Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers for January 1945 has been pretty heavily edited. At the time 1 RSF were across the Irrawaddy and pushing south to Twinnge with 29 Brigade (36 Div, NCAC).

    I think in this case it's the CO doing the editing - I'm assuming that it was the CO who read through and initialled every entry in a war diary before it was sent off to the War Office to show that he agreed with it, and here the ink looks to be the same as the initials on the right. Other pages of this diary have barely any corrections or additions, but here he's altered great chunks of it.

    The entry for the 15th is particularly of note. He's corrected the IO's language about the repeated requests for airstrikes by US air support on Japanese bunker positions not being delivered, changing "proved futile" to a more moderate "failed to materialise" - a touch of the school-master about that!

  3. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Good idea. We rely a great deal on War Diaries without considering who wrote them, when or how. Well done Ianto for posing the question and Diane for seeing the potential.

    In a battalion or similar I had assumed that:
    The diary was produced and submitted monthly.
    The adjutant was responsible for producing the diary, presumably being given some guidance by the CO.
    The information came from the Intelligence Section who collected and collated material. There would not be a formal signals log.
    The battalion clerk would type the document, although many existing diaries are hand written.
    The CO would check, approve and sign the diary, though not usually individual entries.

    I further imagined that Diane would know all about such things. May be pure fantasy but I see her as the eminence gris from the Adjutant Generals Department.

    I have not a scrap of evidence for any of this.

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  4. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    :blush: Mike, Now you've made me blush.

    Just a small extract from a WD cover on how things should be done, which can be found via link
    WW2 Commonwealth Army War Diaries
    Screen Shot 2018-09-18 at 14.24.07.png

    and not least Major Joe's explanation from an IO's perspective
    WW2 Commonwealth Army War Diaries
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  5. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    An important phrase:
    'As much important information as possible should be conveyed in appendices.'

    I love the appendices. That is where all the interesting information is. Unfortunately they have far too often been weeded out.

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  6. Precisely! It is a defining feature of éminences grises to operate in the shadows and not leave any track of their nefarious activities filter out. So, in this case, lack of evidence is itself evidence enough (as would any conspiracy theorist worth its salt say :D).

    Last edited: Sep 18, 2018
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  7. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    I agree, I once came across an archive, not a military one, here in Finland in which all board minutes for a period of several years were in type of "Accepted as proposed, see the Appendix X" and all appendices were weeded out. The archive was very neat but in practice useless.
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  8. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    This is an example of a war diary page that has been marked up for an extract to be copied out - I'm guessing by an official historian for the typing pool - I've then seen collections of such extracts in "narrators' notebooks".


    This is one page of the 1 Corps Op Order of My 44 for D day in WO171/258.


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