War Diary: Place - Date - Hour - Summary

Discussion in 'General' started by SteveDee, Oct 2, 2019.

  1. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    Can anyone tell me whether the Date & Hour columns in a War Diary relate to the date/time of the event mentioned in the summary, or is this the date/time that the summary was written in the diary?
  2. dryan67

    dryan67 Senior Member

    I believe that it was the date and time of the actual event. After going through hundreds of Canadian war diaries, this seems to be the case. That does not mean that they were written at that time and date, but the date-time stamp reflects the actual date and time of the event.
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  3. BFBSM

    BFBSM Very Senior Member

    dryan67 is quite correct, the date and time relates to the event, and does not mean they were written at the time. A number of War Diaries from the AIF in Malaya/Singapore were written after the capture of the troops, but dates indicated are for when they happened. (2/15th Field Regiment in particular, copies not available on line, and this is a note from the Unit History)
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  4. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Not adding much here but obviously each war diary compilation written up later by the Adjutant/IO - or whoever - has different styles/approaches depending on time/place/battalion custom.

    Clearly the contemporaneous notes taken have greater/lesser details for different events to allow the write up - sometimes there are timed "minute by minute" descriptives, some are in overview, others based on report/patrol debriefs and the time stated in the war diary are for the next morning..etc etc.

    Other things:
    - Some timings/dates of death, for example, can differ from the CWGC dates of deaths..I tend to "trust" the war diaries rather than the CWGC.
    - Comparing two different diary versions of the same event - eg Brigade HQ or another battalion in the same brigade - can either help/hinder an understanding of some of the finer details including timings...but can usually provide a greater breadth.

    So, in short, read, learn and use your common sense.

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  5. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I've been generally very impressed with how 'joined up' the unit - brigade - division diaries are in terms of information.

    News seems to have percolated up or flowed down relatively quickly and--at least from what survives--most people were getting and reading copies of everything that might impinge on their operations.

    Of course, most of this is Indian Army material, and I have read that the major formations (4th, 5th, 17th Divisions) were pretty hot on staff work and paper trails.

    It's hard to draw accurate generalisations because there is so much variety in writing and writers, but, for me, one of the biggest difference between diaries comes from the stage of the war. The early-war 'home' diaries often record everything that could sensibly be recorded--frequently events that have nothing at all to do with the units themselves: international news events, personal anecdotes, social visits etc. The move overseas to exotic surroundings is often (certainly not always) rather poetically recorded with a lot of 'sketches' featuring.

    As soon as a fighting unit has its first taste of action, however, the blinkers seem to come down and diarists often keep the writing much more taut and local.

    (Caveat: I've never properly looked at any B.E.F. diaries)

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