The collection of Canadian War Diaries of the First World War published by Library and Archives Canada is a wonderful resource for researchers. Unit diaries, when used in conjunction with service records, regimental histories and maps, help tell the story of a Canadian soldiers experience during WW1. Knowing where a soldier was when he wrote an emotional letter home, or what he had experienced that day can make it all the more poignant. The diaries also provide clues as to what may have transpired on the day a soldier was wounded or died. Soldiers from the ranks are rarely mentioned by name but sometimes the events experienced by the unit that day will suffice. Officers, and to a lesser extent NCOs, are often mentioned.
While the War Diaries are essential reading the user interface is cumbersome. The simple search engine used to access them is fine however the diaries themselves are broken out into individual diary pages each with its own link, requiring you to navigate back and forth every time you want to turn the page. Not the most efficient way to read a diary. Library and Archives Canada has posted a message indicating that the diary pages are no longer being maintained and that they “are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards”. I suspect (and hope) something is in the works for 2014 but in the meantime I’ve made some of them easier to use by compiling individual diary pages into larger PDF documents. This has saved me a lot of time and I suspect it might help you as well.
I’ve added a WW1 Canadian War Diaries page which includes pdfs for the 13th, 14th, 16th, 42nd, 49th and 67th Infantry Battalions and the No. 2 Tunnelling Company. If you’re looking for searchable war diaries I highly recommend you visit the War Diaries section on the Canadian Great War Project website where you’ll find entries for over 60 Canadian units.
Categories: Researching, War Diaries
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