WW2 Commonwealth Army War Diaries, Info Thread

Discussion in 'Unit History' started by dbf, Sep 27, 2014.

  1. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

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    I asked the question because I have managed to track down two months of War Diaries, of circa 9 months previously missing for nearly 70 years, that were neither originally in Regimental Archives/Museums nor at The National Archive (and still aren't). They are not marked 'Triplicate', indeed they are not marked 'Original' or 'Duplicate'. It may be that they are either the 'Original' or 'Duplicate' and ended up where they ostensibly shouldn't be. Or maybe there was a 'Triplicate'.

    It could be that my stumbling on these War Diaries was a complete fluke, but maybe there is more to it... like a Triplicate.

    It would be interesting to know what Joe Brown's thoughts are. If he doesn't pop by this thread in the interim, I will send him a PM this evening!

    Sorry to be reticent about revealing what War Diary and where found, etc., but I have my reasons at present.

    Best,

    Steve.
     
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  2. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Steve.

    Very interested in what you report. I am not sure whether we sent two or three copies of the War Diary; after 70 years since these events my memory is vague on this particular point. I would produced the copies, hand-written in the field, and pass them to the Adjutant and no doubt he would read them through to agree with what I had written before passing them to be signed by the Battalion Commander. Only once I was asked to delete something I had written; with hindsight it was an irrelevancy and should not have been recorded but I thought it 'interesting' but that was not the criteria to be applied in completing the War Diary.

    Once they were signed by the Bn CO they were forwarded to Division HQ. What happened after that I don't know; presumable passed to GHQ Second Echelon. That copies covering nine months were mislaid may possibly have been due to a particular operational contingency but more likely misfiling. The place where the copies were ultimately discovered may possibly provide an answer why they were there!

    Regards,

    Joe Brown.,
     
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  3. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

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    Thanks for that, Joe.

    What would have been the repercussions had the Adjutant, Bn CO, Division HQ et al not received the War Diary. For example, if the IO didn't forward it to the Adjutant, the Adjutant didn't forward it to the Bn CO, or the Bn CO to Division HQ, etc. Would some or all be clamouring for them and if so, when would the rumpus start, e.g. after a day, a week, a month, never?

    Best,

    Steve.
     
  4. klambie

    klambie Senior Member

    I have seen three copies of the (Canadian) Regina Rifles diary in Ottawa, Kew and the Saskatchewan Archives, I don't recall which was stamped Triplicate. At the time, I believe those were tabbed for Canadian Military HQ, unknown (a British HQ or the PRO?) and back to the unit. Have never had a good idea of where British units sent their third copy.

    Note these aren't three complete copies of the diary. Ottawa holds the true, complete originals. The second and third copies seem to be just the Summary of Events and (I think) the message logs, with no other Appendices or extras. Would expect the same for British units with the complete original at Kew only.
     
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  5. gaspirator

    gaspirator Member

    Interesting! I see many triplicate Canadian files in WO 179 at Kew, but most I've seen there are the duplicate. Just had a quick look at some of my photos and grabbed a couple of examples of the appendix lists.

    In one instance, the triplicate contains Part II Orders that are not in the other two copies, and in the other the original omits a key document (for me) in the form of an Operation Instruction, so I'm glad the Kew copy had it!

    I'm not certain, but from memory I think the triplicates I've seen tend to be of the support units such as Provost, Ordnance etc.

    The Canadians were good at indexing their appendices like this - it's a godsend to me as I can then identify extra documents that should be in Ottawa.

    I *think* I've only ever seen original files of British war diaries at Kew.

    duplicate.jpg triplicate.jpg

    - Pete
     
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  6. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

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    klambie, Pete - wonderful stuff; keep it coming guys. This is exactly what I am looking for.

    Pete - where did you obtain your triplicates and therefore, where would the originals and duplicates therefore have been found?

    Best,

    Steve.
     
  7. gaspirator

    gaspirator Member

    You're welcome Steve!

    I've only ever been to Kew; as klambie says, Canadian originals will be in Ottawa.

    As for the duplicate/triplicate at Kew, it seems to be pot luck as to which you get! As the original went to Ottawa, I can only assume that the duplicate was theoretically intended to go to the next most important institution, ie the British War Office (and ultimately to Kew).

    Certainly the Canadians were better at lodging copies of diaries of lesser-known units as mentioned above; WO 166 (UK Home Forces) doesn't contain nearly so many diaries of mobile bath units, salvage units etc, so maybe this underpins my theory that these units have the triplicate at Kew. Just a guess though...

    - Pete
     
  8. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

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    Hello Pete,

    So, what I discern fom what klambie and you say is that, essentially the Canadians had three copies because one went to Ottawa, one went to the Regiment/Regimental Museum and one to The National Archive in the UK. However, lesser known units may have had an extra copy - in Canada this may have been a fourth copy but in the UK this would have been the Triplicate.

    Where would the lesser unit 'Triplicates' be found in the UK, if not at The National Archive or the Regiment/Regimental Museum. Any ideas?

    Best,

    Steve.
     
  9. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    As far as I'm aware, the original copy did not go to the 'National Archive' (or even the 'Public Records Office' as it was then known) as these were secret documents and most definitely not public. They were originally destined for the records dept. at the War Office.

    How were the hand-written diaries copied ? Were they written out in duplicate ? If so, then there could easily be errors in the duplicate.
     
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  10. gaspirator

    gaspirator Member

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    Not quite - apologies if I wasn't clear! As far as I'm aware - only ever orig - dup - trip copies created.

    In the case of the Canadians, original went to Ottawa, then one copy ended up at Kew - this was *either* dup or trip. Whichever copy was not sent to the War Office presumably went to the regimental base, but perhaps klambie can confirm this?

    Attached is a cover of a Canadian duplicate file at Kew (WO 179/1701). I rarely photograph these covers; this one I did because the appendix list was on it. Note that it's stamped DUPLICATE and the other stamp that shows that it was received by Canadian Military HQ - maybe that was where the dup/trip being sent to the War Office was decided? This duplicate file was just the diary pages - no appendices were included.

    - Pete

    diary1.jpg
     
  11. PsyWar.Org

    PsyWar.Org Archive monkey

    I seem to recall reading some admin paperwork that mentioned war diaries spending some time with the Cabinet Office historical branch after the war.

    The diaries didn't reach the Public Record Office until the early 1970's, although the original intention was that they'd be closed for 100 years.

    For quite awhile after they reached Kew, you couldn't look at a war diary until you had signed a special form declaring that you wouldn't reveal/publish anything of a personal nature.
    Certainly that process was still in place in the mid-1980's.
     
  12. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

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    Exactly, Rich... Andy's conspiracy theory has legs...

    Reminds me of what I think is a funny story, Rich. I recall that when I worked up in Newcastle, which ceased 30 years ago, the 'Big' Boss approached his secretary at an office gathering - wine, canapes, etc. (no Newcastle Brown Ale or Stotty Cake in sight) and said, "Susan, your spelling is atrocious." And Susan replied "Yes Boss, well I am a copy typist." Susan was not as 'blond' as she looked.

    Best,

    Steve.
     
  13. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    A good few of the Field returns I've seen were handwritten, but 3IG's '44 WD have terrible copies - carbon copies as they appear to me.

    3IG Field Return.JPG
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2017
  14. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Carbon paper was extensively used in those days. For example, messages received by morse or radio telephony were all written down on pads interleaved with carbon sheets according to the number of copies required for distribution to the various addressees.

    Joe Brown.
     
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  15. andy007

    andy007 Senior Member

    Hi Geoff,
    Unfortunately the NZ diaries aren't digitised but are free to access here in Wellington. I believe Archives NZ will copy them for a fee.
     
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  16. ClankyPencil

    ClankyPencil Senior Member

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  17. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Thanks to Drew who sent me a couple of examples of the buff folder Army Form C2119A in which (later) war diaries were filed.

    On the inside, that is the second images in the following links, at the bottom of the page ...
    ‚Äč
    http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/54959-ww2-commonwealth-army-war-diaries/?p=642581
    On the third page of instructions....
    http://ww2talk.com/forums/topic/54959-ww2-commonwealth-army-war-diaries/?p=642582
     
  18. klambie

    klambie Senior Member

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    It's my best guess that the third copy went back to the unit, it's my understanding that the RRR diary came from the regiment into the hands of the local Provincial Archive. This implies that the survival of those documents is dependent on the unit to preserve them or pass them on to an appropriate repository. It is not hard to imagine that many were tossed away by less far-seeing 'owners'. I think I have heard of other Canadian units that have access to another copy of their diaries (the Royal Winnipegs come to mind) but I can't say with certainty.

    I can't rule out the possibility that the third copy came to the RRR via another route. The postwar regimental historian of the unit was very keen, so it may be that he was able to source the documents via other channels, but I cannot come up with a good guess as to what that might have been.

    As others have pointed out, the first two copies I described at Ottawa and Kew have come there via the government departments that were originally responsible for them. As in the UK, I think Canadian WDs were closed until the 1970s, though I don't have easy access to my source that would confirm.
     
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  19. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    From WO 162/205, Appendix O
    History of Casualty Branch (Liverpool) (Cas L) | The National Archives

    11th MAY, 1942

    Serial No. 4
    Forwarding of Duplicate War Diaries by Formations and Units.


    In order to avoid formations and units keeping duplicate copies of War Diaries for a longer period than is necessary, General Officers Commanding may authorise this to be forwarded to Officers i/c G.H.Q. 2nd Echelon at such an interval after the original is forwarded as may suit the Theatre of War concerned.

    Officers i/c G.H.Q. 2nd Echelon wil ensure that there is an interval of at least three months between the despatch of the original and duplicate copies.

    (19/Gen/91)
     
  20. dryan67

    dryan67 Senior Member

    These are directions issued by the National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa in November 1939 as a guideline for Canadian War Diaries.
    WarDiaries.jpg
     
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