About private letters, diaries and memoirs

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Section of parody letter by Captain Neil Cantlie, courtesy Wellcome Library
Letters from the front were often censored (or men were on an honour system not to give away details of their location or activities), and privates were not meant to keep personal diaries or have cameras, so personal letters and diaries are not always as revealing as you might imagine. The Defense of the Realm (DORA) act, introduced in August 1914, also affected the contents of personal accounts:
"No person shall by word of mouth or in writing spread reports likely to cause disaffection or alarm among any of His Majesty's forces or among the civilian population"[1]

Find out more about 'How did 12 million letters reach WW1 soldiers each week?' from the BBC; the article also describes censorship.

This parody form letter, by Captain Neil Cantlie of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) gives you a sense of the formulaic nature of some letters home, and this pre-filled June 1918 postcard from Arthur John Moore Burrowes to his family shows how restricted messages could be.

  1. [https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/28887/supplement/6968 The London Gazette, 1 September 1914, Supplement 28887, Page 6968]