War Diary Disinformation?

Discussion in 'Unit History' started by Don Juan, Oct 13, 2015.

  1. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    I've just been reading 8th Hussars war diary for 1945, and their advance through Germany.

    I've noticed that large cities tend not to be named, but rather obscure suburbs instead e.g. Sudweyhe rather than Bremen, or mis-spelt e.g. Harburg rather than Hamburg.

    Is this deliberate? When they mention advancing through Sudweyhe, are they really meaning that they are advancing through Bremen?
  2. hutt

    hutt Member


    Mis spelling of place names is not uncommon, particularly in Italian diaries.

    Re your 3rd line, I would read the diary as it is written unless you have very good reason to suspect that the geographic locations don't work with the the dates, ie they suddenly move a disproportionate distance in, say 24hrs.

    One of the remarkable things about many of our diaries is just this, that they so often record places down to this level of detail.

    Rich Payne and Don Juan like this.
  3. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    I don't understand the problem with the naming suburbs...other people (myself included) complain about locations being too vague for their units of interest. The units, after all, knew where they were heading, at the time the diary was written.

    I agree about the incorrect spelling of place names, this is common enough, but be careful ...
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  4. idler

    idler GeneralList

    It's also a function of the maps which introduced typographical and topographical errors.

    8H operated near 'Grainville crossroads' in Normandy. You won't find it on a modern map as the nearest village is actually Crauville.
    Don Juan likes this.
  5. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    OK thanks everyone for your informative replies. It looks like I should take the war diary at face value then.
  6. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    My first overseas unit was the 49th LAA Rgt. RA and the entries are still crystal clear to me 71 years after the period concerned (1943)

    On 27 Aug the regt moved to the north coastal area and deployed as follows: 84 Bty to the gun area of 74 and 124 Fd Regts of 50 Div, A and B Tps 90 Bty to Milazzo port and C Tp to the airfield, A/280 Tp 132 and 138 Fd Regts, B.280 Tp 57 Fd regt and C/280 Tp 17 Fd regt of 78 Div. Road space necessitated the deployment of the regt over 4 nights and the last tp was not in action until 1 Sep. The strength was 41 officers and 807 ORs. The 21C was Ma N McCallum, the Adjt Capt RE Weeks the QM Lt AT Cudmore and the BCs - 84 Bty Maj AR Mouland (20 Sep 42), 90 Bty Maj ER Bent (6 Sep 42) and 280 Bty Maj WH Bell (24 May 43). The regt was generally north and east of Messina and
    On 3 Sep supported the movement over the Straits of the Op BAYTOWN units, the invasion of Italy.
    On 6 Sep the regt reverted to under command 78 Div.
    On 8 Sep the regt, less 90 Bty, moved to a cone area at Fumari. 90 Bty remained in defence of Milazzo port and airfield.
    On 13 Sep 90 Bty joined the regt in the cone area. The regt was now under orders to move to Italy and
    On the 20th 84 Bty embarked on the Ferry service to Reggio. RHQ followed
    On the 22nd and between 23 and 25 Sep moved via Crotone and Taranto to Bari and was established in a house on the outskirts of Trani.
    On the 23rd 90 Bty embarked for Italy. 84 Bty arrived in the cone area with 11 Bde Gp on the 24th and on the 25th 280 Bty embarked for Italy.
    On the 27th RHQ moved to an olive grove SE of Barletta.
    On the 28th 90 Bty arrived in the cone area near Trani_and 280 Bty arrived on the 29th and concentrated 3 mile south of Barletta,
    On the 30th all three btys moved forward to protect the 78 Div route Barletta o S Ferdinand - S Severo - Sirracapriola.
    On 1 Oct RHQ moved to an olive grove west of San Severo and HQ 84 Bty moved to the San Severo area.
    On the 2nd RHQ moved to San Paolo. The next day 90 Bty guns moved towards Termoli on route protection and RHQ moved to north of Serracapriola and was joined there by HQ 280 Bty. 90 Bty had one man killed and one wounded by enemy aircraft machine-gunning.
    On the 4th RHQ moved again, to a farm south of Campomarino and was joined there by HQ 84 Bty. 84 Bty had one man killed by aircraft machine-gunning. HQ 94 Bty moved to near Termoli.
    On 6 Oct 327/99 LAA Bty came under command and deployed 18 guns on route defence Serracapriola - Termoli, but reverted to 5 Corps command on 13 Oct. Two tps 280 Bty deployed to protect the route Campo \ Marine - Termoli. On 16 Oct 115/26 LAA Bty came under command and BHQ was plocated west of Porto Cannone.
    On 20 Oct 115/26 LAA Bty reverted to command of RA 8 Indian Div. On 30 Oct B/90 Tp was deployed in defence of Termoli port and town and A.280 Tp was defending 5 Corps Petrol Dump. During the month guns of the regt engaged 23 separate raids, mostly by FW 190s of between 2 and 12 in number. Two aircraft were destroyed and there was one probable.
    On 3 Nov A and B Tps 84 Bty and A and B Tps 90 Bty supported the crossing of R Trigno by protecting the crossing points and by firing a fire plan which called for burst of between 12 and 18 rounds at intervals from 5 to 12 minutes until 1,812 rounds had been expended.
    On 5 Nov there was a raid in which a new type of approach was used, aircraft diving out of the sun with engines switched off. An officer and 3 ORs were killed and 5 injured. A tractor was destroyed.
    On 5 Nov RHQ moved to S Salvo Station. On 6 Nov RHQ moved to east of Vasto. Air attacks continued and, unfortunately, not only be the enemy for
    On 7 Nov there were two separate attacks carried out by Kittyhawk fighters.
    On 8 Nov RHQ moved to Castel Bordino. Orders came that day to collect 12 SP Bofors from 74 LAA Regt and on the 10th A/90 Tp went to Campomarino for training on the SPs. There were two attacks by "friendly" aircraft on 11 Nov in which a bomb was dropped. A later report states that attacks were made quite near the easily identifiable Punta della Penna which was well south of the "bombline".
  7. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter 1940 Obsessive

    A regiment or battalion will often be quite spread-out. The location given in the margin of the diary will generally be where the battalion office was located. Anything else could just as easily be a map-reference.

    With units working next to each other, it wouldn't have helped future analysts much if they all stated the same location. The names of cities are fine for authors giving an overview but as dbf says, one of the joys of the diaries is often just the small details that they give. Forums such as this have helped those of us with an obsession for detail to discover far more than most published texts can be bothered to deal with.

    BEF diaries are often spectacularly wobbly on place names but were frequently written up afterwards from scribbled personal notes and in the case of Belgium, complicated by maps and populations using two different languages and a post-war revision of place-name spelling. What seemed important at the time such as a large farm will often now have been swallowed up by suburbs.

    As amateur historians, we shouldn't take any source at 'face-value' but I don't see any reason to be unreservedly suspicious of the bare bones of most war diaries...it's what they left out that would be more interesting !
    dbf likes this.
  8. JohnS

    JohnS Senior Member

    Most units never had the big picture, only their own small part of it so they probably didn't even know exactly where they were until they saw a sign. Also, a lot depended how busy the person was wrote the war diary was at the time and sometimes he would do a bunch of them at once to catch up. I've read some great ones that were done by a person who actually cared about what he was recording and I've read some awful ones done by someone who only did it because they had to. Spelling and grammar were also very hit and miss.
  9. BrianM59

    BrianM59 Senior Member

    Rich has it about right with regards to 1940 in my opinion - many war diaries are in fact rewrites of history as many units lost or destroyed all of their paperwork and records in the retreat to the coast. Where places and dates are concerned I've found them to be as accurate as diaries from other places and times. What interests me in the work I'm doing is exactly what Rich said - what they left out. In the case of the 10th Hussars, the war diary and subseqeuent history was written by a committee of officers after the war had ended.

    As to disinformation though? From:https://stancarey.wordpress.com/2008/08/12/misinformation-and-disinformation/

    Misinformation is an old word meaning incorrect or inaccurate information:
    "In the popular press there is much misinformation about the mechanics of gene expression."
    Disinformation is a newer word meaning information intended to deceive.
    "Persuading the population of the need for war would require both crude and sophisticated forms of disinformation."
    Misinformation arises from ignorance; disinformation is designed to mislead. Misinformation might therefore be considered the lesser of these two evils – if that’s not too strong a word – because unlike disinformation it does not imply deliberate duplicity. Both terms are associated with propaganda, disinformation especially so.

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