In their own words: collecting experiences of the First World War
This project aims to provide context for an individual's experience of WWI by linking to personal narratives written by people in the same situation. By the end of this project, someone who wants to research a soldier in WWI but doesn't know a thing about how armies were structured should be able to find a personal account from someone in a similar role written at about the same time and place. We'll never really know what it was like for those who experienced the First World War, but we can come closer to understanding it by collecting the words they left behind.
Our aim is find a personal narrative - a diary, letters, memoirs or images - for each military unit in the British and allied armies. Populating the lists of battalions and linking the numerous personal and official diaries, letters, memoirs, etc already online is a huge task and it can only be done with your help.
The Finnish WarSampo project has a similar vision to ours, and this write-up, WarSampo: Publishing and Using Linked Open Data about the Second World War, is a great overview of how and why linked data can help us understand world wars.
Have you got a few free minutes to take on a small research challenge?
Getting started is easy:
- Take one of the personal diaries, letters or memoirs listed
- Match its author with a regiment or battalion.
- Send in the results via this form or edit the wiki directly to add their diary to the relevant battalion or regiment page
You can see the difference that contributors so far have made on pages listed in units with personal narratives.
Use the links on the left for:
- More about this project.
- Frequently asked questions and site help
- How you can help
- Direct links to specific armies' battalions and regiments
You can find more pages by drilling down through these categories:
- Units arranges units by type.
- Places arranges pages geographically. You can find units by the countries they belonged to.
- Themes arranges pages by other themes, such as women's history.
- Sources is about documents you can use or that need linking to units.
- To do lists pages that give details of things that need doing, and sub-categories of pages that need specific improvements.
- Help pages give more information about how to use the site.
These are some example pages that show what you can do here and how useful the site can be (but they still need some improvements):
- 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, UK
- 2nd Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers, UK
- 1/5th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, UK
- Australian and New Zealand Army Corps
Thanks and recent contributions
VLeachman has done lots of work adding documents to NZ unit pages, and found some great connections.
B3rn has been doing great work on Australian units, particularly medical units which weren't previously listed.
Huge thanks to various New Zealanders who sent me lists of units from the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces! It's been an immense help with New Zealand battalions in World War I.
Finally, GavinRobinson has done brilliant work, not only contributing information about specific battalions but also helping work out the requirements for structured data about battalions, regiments and other military units in the British Army, and most recently on importing records for hundreds of US infantry regiments.
Someone suggested a document via the form which was part of correspondence between two men, so their suggested added personal accounts to an Australian and a British battalion with just one link! Thanks to them pages for the 1/4th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment, British infantry and 5th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force (AIF) now exist and have links to documents created by a soldier in each battalion.
You can also view pages recently edited on this wiki.