The commanders' diaries in this record series were prepared by officers commanding headquarters, units and detachments serving in Malaya/Singapore, Sarawak-Brunei-Sabah and South Vietnam, as a record of operational activity during their service abroad. The aim of the diary was to provide data on which to base future improvements in Army training, equipment, organisation, administration, and to provide future historians with a record of activities of units and formations in operational periods. Diaries were also prepared during non-operational periods of peace, however this series mostly contains diaries of units serving on operational deployment during involvement in conflicts in Southeast Asia.
During operational periods the diary was compiled in duplicate by commanders of all formations, each branch of the staff at formation headquarters commanded by a brigadier or above, heads of services not below the range of lieutenant colonel, personal staffs and officers holding special appointments, unit commanders and commanders of a detachment of a unit when so ordered. The original and duplicate copies were sent to the OIC, Military History Section, AHQ on different dates about one month apart to avoid the risk of loss. In some cases units also prepared a triplicate diary.
The diaries in this series were first transferred to the Australian War Memorial from Army Headquarters (Military History Section) in November 1970, with an additional consignment from the Office of Director-General, Coordination, Department of Defence (Army Office) in June and August 1976.
The major portions of the series were transferred to the Memorial by the Army Office Directorate of Army Information Management (DAIM) in five consignments from February to April 1982, and were initially recorded by the Memorial under accession number OW82/12. The five consignments together amounted to 91 boxes, the boxes being marked CD1 to CD 91 including the original Department of Defence transfer list recording the contents of each box.
Subsequent acquisitions of diaries from government and private sources occurred in the years following. In 1989 and 1990 'The Tedder Collection' was acquired, which included the diaries of 105 Field Battery, from that unit's former commanding officer, Peter Tedder. In 1994, some more diaries found in other record series or accessions were moved into AWM95. In October 2001 some additional Special Air Service (SAS) diaries arrived from Defence Archives in Queanbeyan, along with those of 6 Task Force and 10 Task Force. In April 2003 a few more SAS diaries arrived from the Directorate of Classified Archival Records Review (Dept. of Defence), covering SAS activities in Brunei during 1965-66.
AWM95 was first designated a 'temporary series' sometime between 1983 and 1989. It was registered as a proper series, AWM95 in June 1990. The original title of the series appears to have been 'War in Vietnam-Commander's diaries (originals)', however by 1989 this had changed to 'Australian Army Commanders' Diaries' with a date range 1965-1972.
The content of the diaries includes:
-Changes in command, establishment, equipment and organisation
-Information received, decisions made and orders given
-Where applicable, a short summary of the day's fighting, including company movements
-Opinions and recommendations of the commander with regard to equipment, tactics, organisation and morale
-Progress of defensive work
-Weather and ground conditions, if of potential importance
-Major causes and number of casualties to officers, men and equipment
-A note of all prisoners and enemy equipment captured
-A statement showing how the unit was employed in the time not accounted for
Both copies of the diary consist of a cover (AF C2119) (Adapted), an index as printed on the cover, a narrative (AF C2118) (Adapted) and annexes as shown in the index. Annexes take the form of logs, orders, instructions, messages and other papers documenting unit activities. The cover outlines the annexes to be incorporated into diaries:
A - Duty officer's log
B - Messages connected with log
C - Operation orders and instructions issued
D - Operation orders and instructions received
E - Situation Reports (Sitreps) issued
F - Orders of battle and location reports issued
G - Intelligence reports and summaries issued; appreciations made
H - Administrative orders and instructions issued
I - Administrative orders and instructions received
J - Administrative reports and bulletins; ammunition returns; field strength returns
K - Standing orders issued
L - Commander's policy and demi-official letters
M - Action reports (if required)
N - Other papers, eg maps and diagrams, air photos, reports from sub units
O - Periodical summaries of operations
Z-Top secret supplementary diary
The diaries vary greatly in the amount and detail of information they hold. Those for the larger headquarters formations such as Australian Force Vietnam, 1 Australian Task Force and 1 Australian Logistic Support Group are detailed, most containing a daily narrative of events, a duty officer's log recording radio messages received and sent, and detailed annex material. The battalion diaries generally contain the daily narrative, a duty officer's or operations log for some diaries and annex material. The smaller support units produced less detailed diaries, and in some cases these consist only of the daily narrative or a copy of their monthly report.
System of arrangement and control:
The diaries were generally arranged by unit with the headquarters units at the beginning of the run. They were subsequently re-housed into smaller Type 1 and Type 4 boxes and the CD number was expanded to identify more than one box. In some cases more than one CD number was used for diaries from the same unit.
Because this arrangement was so difficult to retrieve from, the arrangement was changed and a new numbering system introduced circa 1992. This new arrangement was first based upon the established Army corps order of precedence and unit using a two number system, and finally with a chronological identifier at the end. The first number represented the corps, the second number the particular unit and the chronological identifier represented the month and year for each diary. For example [7/4/Oct 65] represented [Royal Australian Infantry Corps/4th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment/October 1965]. This numbering system was constructed so that further transfers of commanders' diaries could be easily incorporated into the series.
Subsequently however, during 1994/95 the numbering system had to be changed again to an all numerical three-part number, e.g. 17/1/May 68 was changed to 17/1/13. This change was due to the incompatibility of the previous system with the new archival database, ANGAM II.