The UK WWI War Diaries are unit diaries (not personal diaries) via the National Archives of the UK that document operations and movements for British and colonial units serving between 1914 and 1920 in France, Belgium, and Germany, as well as in the Gallipoli/Dardanelles Campaign (in what is now Turkey but was then the Ottoman Empire). On Fold3, these diaries are separated into two titles: UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium, And Germany) and UK, WWI War Diaries (Gallipoli-Dardanelles).
As required, all units on active duty kept a daily record of events. They were written by a junior officer, then approved by a commanding officer. Some diaries contain more information or are more descriptive or detailed than others, though most if not all record at least the date and location. While some diaries contain daily reports, intelligence summaries, tactics, and general observations, others merely record things like losses (casualties, fatalities, etc.) and map references. Likewise, the format in which the information was recorded can vary widely from diary to diary, as can the types of supplementary documents included.
Though individuals may be mentioned by name, the purpose of these diaries was to record information about the movements and actions of the unit as a whole, not to focus on particular people. Still, the war diaries can be helpful in fleshing out your understanding of what your family member experienced, as you can learn where your family member’s unit was on a given day and what activities the unit was involved in.
On Fold3, these diaries are organized by regiment, division, then sub unit. Some diaries may be somewhat challenging to read as they might be handwritten or may be carbon copies of the original records. This may require you to browse through the documents rather than relying solely on search results for the information you’re looking for.
Do you have family members who served with the British Army during WWI? Tell us about them! Or get started looking for the units your British WWI ancestors belonged to in Fold3’s UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium, And Germany) and UK, WWI War Diaries (Gallipoli-Dardanelles).