WW1 Soldiers’ Diaries Now Online

From the Guardian:

First-hand accounts of trench warfare, gas attacks and battles involving horses and machine guns, are contained in nearly 4,000 diaries released online on Thursday to mark the centenary of the 1914-18 world war.

The diaries, digitised by the National Archives in a joint project with the Imperial War Museum, reveal the sheer stoicism and black humour that helped troops – on both sides – survive the slaughter in Belgium and northern France. They include accounts of the battle of Loos in September 1915, a notoriously unsuccessful and bloody offensive in which the British army used poison gas for the first time and suffered more than 60,000 casualties in less than a month.

An intelligence report of the army’s 12th division in northern France, dated 10 July 1915, records: “A brown paper kite was found on night 8/9th in front of the right section of our line … covered with German writing, of which the following is a rough translation: ‘You can fill your trenches with devils – we Germans fear nothing in the world, and we Germans await victory … Englishmen, how badly you shoot! You will be served as the Russians’.”

The message added that while German soldiers had “wine, sausage and meat”, the British were “hungry and thirsty”.

The entry goes on to discuss two cats and a dog that were apparently spying for the Germans (who knew?)

The diaries can be viewed at the First World War 100 Portal.

The best part–if there is a ‘best’ part about one of the bloodiest events of the twentieth century–is that the National Archives need volunteers to scan the contents of these diaries and tag points of interest in each entry. Historical attribution from your home PC sounds like a winning project to me.

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