First World War Diaries Description
While on active service Army headquarters, formations and units are required to keep a unit war diary recording their daily activities. Archival series AWM4 comprises the diaries of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) created during the First World War.
The war diaries generally consist of war diary or intelligence summary sheets located at the beginning of each diary which record the date of each entry, the unit’s location, a summary of events and any remarks or references to appendices. The appendices, which make up the larger part of each diary, may include orders, despatches, instructions, reports, telegrams, and decisions taken; daily situation reports; staff duties; accounts of operations; changes in establishment or strength; and a summary of information received.
The overall quality of the diaries can be variable and usually reflects the attitude of the unit's commanding office, and the skill and conscientiousness of the individual charged with compiling it.
This series has a three part numbering system:
- the first number represents the broadest category, such as arm, service or corps a unit belonged to,
- the second number represents the particular unit, and
- the third number is a chronological identifier that represents the month and year for each diary.
In the late 1980s this series of war diaries was microfilmed in black and white for preservation purposes. While the microfilm remains available for access in the Memorial’s reading room, regular use has led to its deterioration and with advantages in digital technology the Memorial decided in 2006 to digitise this series in colour and make it available to a wider audience by presenting it on its website. The order in which the diaries are being digitised has been determined by examining previous public demand for the diaries, combined with the preservation requirements of the original records. The digitised images will be progressively added to the website as each diary is completed. This project is expected to take several years to complete.
The National Archives of Australia’s collection database, RecordSearch, has a more detailed description in the series notes.