Border Regiment War Diaries

The home of the Lonsdale Battalion 1914-1918
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The Border Regiment War Diaries are military handwritten and typed documents that were usually written by junior officers each evening on the standard Army Form C.2118 to provide an account of the day's activities, even if very little occurred. These accounts, often associated as reports and intelligence summaries were regulation in the British Army since 1907. The commanding officer of each unit was ultimately the person responsible for ensuring the war diaries were written up and, therefore, accountable if they were not. Each war diary had to kept up to date, a day by day account for each single-month period throughout a unit's active service. Active service would continue until a time a unit was no longer required for active service overseas. This also included if a unit was disbanded (the unit ceased to exist) or it was amalgamated into another unit (also ceases to exist and partially absorbed into another unit). War diaries also included other relevant attached files, namely in the form of appendices containing operational orders, operational reports, sketches and maps to name a few. The war diaries would be signed off by the commanding officer and then passed on to higher ranking officers. These documented records of events were used extensively by the British Army's senior commanders to a) learn about the enemy, their movements, weaknesses and, wherever possible, to use this intelligence against them and b) as a historical reference of events that could be used in any future planning that would ultimately help win the war.

All war dairies are historical records preserving the actions of many units across several different theatres of war: France and Flanders, Italy, Gallipoli, Salonika, Palestine, Mesopotamia and Russia. They were instrumental towards learning about the enemy and strategic planning for offensives and counter-offensives but they were also, at times, accounts of awards, honours and of the sad losses that were witnessed on a daily basis. Other ranks were recorded simply as numbers against 'killed,' 'wounded,' 'missing,' whilst officers were listed by name. There were days when major battles took place, some in the space of a few hours, and this is most obvious where the accounts of the unit's actions have been recorded on multiple pages of extremely detailed information, recounted by the hand of the junior officer with precise and astute attention. Other days where very little happened were recorded merely as one line accounts of something uneventful, maybe along the lines of attending a Sunday Service, bayonet practice, providing fatigues for the Royal Engineers or minor sniper activity. In any event, war diaries were used extensively every day by a variety of different officers for one main purpose, to accurately record each unit's actions to help in the fight against the enemy.

Purpose and aims[edit]

This project started with the transcribing of the Lonsdale Battalion war diary, the purpose of which was to provide a quickly accessible and easily readable source of the war diary that was not, at the time, available online. Many pages within the diary were written in a style that made reading the handwriting, on occasion, a little challenging and time-consuming. The original transcribing project was realised to combat the issues that sometimes come with reading various handwriting styles, and from that point onwards the war diary took on a new digitised form. The completion of one battalion war diary saw the start of further war diary transcribing projects for other battalions of the Border Regiment. This resulted in several war diaries being partially transcribed with the help of some contributors. The transcribing project ceased when the war diaries became more readily available at a fraction of the original costs set by the National Archives.[note 1] Now, with the advent of new technologies and websites providing free and unlimited access, transcribing the war diaries is no longer a primary project and it's continuation depends largely on contributor help.

Another aim of the overall transcribing project was to include as much of the original character of the war diary as possible, which included incorrect spelling and infrequent punctuation. At times it was necessary to include comments to provide additional information that was not part of the original war diary text. These comments are contained within [square brackets] and will represent the following:

  • Grammar, spelling mistakes and missed punctuation left as on original documents.
  • (Words in round brackets) are as such on the original documents.
  • Illegible or guessed words are in [square brackets?] with question marks. Transcription notes in [square brackets].

War diary transcriptions[edit]

The following war diaries have transcriptions, some complete, others incomplete. The links below take you to the category pages of each war diary where you can choose specific months from that war diary set.

Military abbreviations and acronyms[edit]

War dairies of the First World War contain a wide variety of military abbreviations and acronyms that were used almost interchangeably with ordinary words written in longhand. Regimental war diaries at first glance may look the same or similar to any other war diary of its type but in reality they are unique in both style and manner, depending on the junior officer writing the war diary at the time. Generally, they also conform to a set of standardised military terms, for example: artillery, weaponry, military ranks, occupations, honours, awards and regimental units, that ultimately furnish the reader with an abbreviated/longhand collaborative prose that can, to the casual reader, appear dry and at times incomprehensible. Conversely, however, some war diaries from this period can also come across as clear and succinct and lacking any major discernible abbreviations or acronyms.

Use of war diaries in public spaces[edit]

The National Archives holds the copyright of the scanned images. However, transcripts of unpublished Crown Copyright war diaries from the First World War can be used in any type of media such as websites and books. The National Archives state:

You are free to transcribe, translate, index and quote from published or unpublished Crown copyright material among the records as extensively as you wish and you may publish the results in any format and any medium: in accordance with the terms of the Open Government Licence.

More information describing this in detail can be seen at the National Archives website in the following documents:

Contributors and acknowledgements[edit]

Our thanks go to the following contributors who have made many of the above transcriptions possible:

  • Paul Bramham
  • Kevin Johnstone
  • Mike Deacon
  • John Fearn
  • Hugh Fulton

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. Obtaining a copy of a non-digitised war diary a decade ago was a costly business, especially with war diaries containing several hundred pages, each of which would have been digitised at a premium rate. The project to make the Lonsdale war diary available to everyone with zero cost to the end user took a couple of years in total. It was made possible by a Lonsdale Battalion enthusiast who generously donated a paper copy of the entire document to ensure the project could be realised, at personal expense to the sum of approximately £500. Today, obtaining the war diary is much easier and costs a fraction of the price, if not free.