War diaries?

Discussion in 'Unit History' started by Sanne, Jul 11, 2022.

  1. Sanne

    Sanne Member


    Previously I have received some good help for my research in this forum, so now I’m back :)
    My question is this: I have heard mention of war diaries. What exactly would be in these? Where are they found? And how much information would I need in order to look for one?

    All the best,
    CL1 likes this.
  2. Lindele

    Lindele formerly HA96

    Hello Sanne,

    just a couple of examples:

    I have copies of war diaries from two officers 1940 until 1945, even through their POW captivity and escape.
    CL1 likes this.
  3. 8RB

    8RB Well-Known Member

    Hi Sanne, Assuming you mean War Diaries as held by units (battalions, brigades, Divisions and higher formations): if you know the unit you are looking for, have a look at the National Archive's catalogue. If you know the catalogue number, there are people on here that can provide you with a digital copy at a reasonable price. Good luck.
    vitellino, Lindele, Sanne and 2 others like this.
  4. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

  5. Sanne

    Sanne Member

    Thank you both!

    If anyone would happen to have the war diaries of Palestinian 1st Division, I would be happy to pay for them.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2022
  6. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    To be clear, are you looking for diaries First Division (British) who were in Palestine at the end of the war until about 1948?

    Docs – Middle East 1930-1948 – Palestine & Trans-Jordan 1930-1948

    I'm sure someone here can find the reference numbers for the files at the National Archives, but there may (or may not) be multiple diaries at unit, brigade and divsion level.

    For example:
    Search results: "1 infantry Division" | The National Archives

    What specifically are you interested in? And for what months/years?

    Fictional Example: "I'm interested in 236 Field Company Royal Engineers from July 1945 until Septmember 1946."
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2022
  7. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    I thought you were interested in 1st Battalion, Palestine Regiment, Jewish Brigade.
  8. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Wrong Tree.
    SteveDee likes this.
  9. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    See Sanne 's other threads. :)
    Charley Fortnum likes this.
  10. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Last edited: Jul 13, 2022
    Sanne likes this.
  11. Sanne

    Sanne Member

    Sorry, I should have been more specific!
    I am trying to track my father’s movements during the war. 1st Battalion, Palestine Regiment, Jewish Brigade was only established in 1944, and since that part is well-documented (they fought at the Northern Italian front, at Senio river), that part is not really the problem. However, according to Wellesley Aron’s book, three Jewish divisions were created already in 1940. From his descriptions, it sounds like my father could have been in the one that went to Cyrenaica, which I think was 1st division.
    Later, I know that they were put under Royal East Kent Regiment (The Buffs), which was part of Montgomery’s 8th army. However, it sounds like the Palestinian divisions were only used for rather “menial tasks”, such as guard duty and transport.
    I would really like to track them, but it sounds like I have to be patient, and wait for MoD to cough up his service records. Maybe then I can get more info about which unit he was in.
  12. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian Patron

    Sanne, it might help (reduce confusion or possibly friction) if you could use the exact term used in the book you refer to. Divisions were much larger units than regiments. Did this Wellesley Aron refer to companies perhaps? Vague "detachments"?
  13. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I haven't read your other posts, so apologies if I'm stating the obvious.

    As Chris C says, I'm pretty sure you are not talking about brigades or divisions—forget those completely.

    You're likely to be searching for diaries of one of the battalions of the Palestine Regiment. (1st?).

    The only complication is that there were separate Arab and a Jewish Palestine Regiments.

    Once you establish which racial category you're looking for, you can then try to figure out which battalion you are looking for (one infantry regiment often comprises multiple battalions, 1st, 2nd, 3rd...) and consult the diary for that particular battalion.

    From what you have written, it sounds as if you can discount the Arab units and consider only the Jewish ones.

    If you are subsequently able to discover which particular company within the battalion your father served in, you might manage to find a higher level of detail in a company diary, if one exists. If you know your father's company already, skip the battalion/regiment diary and go straight to the company one.

    Infantry battalions are usually composed of companies, but this might only be true in administrative terms: the companies could be scattered across multiple geographic locations—or they could be united in one.

    Colonial units performing support roles often seemed to get dispersed in the former fashion.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2022
  14. Sanne

    Sanne Member

    Thank you for your reply. Yes, I am definitely confused about the terminology!
    So, even if I do find my father’s company, there is no guarantee that I can track his movements during the war, because they might be scattered all over Europe?
    I also don’t understand how the page checks work - I see they charge per page. It sounds like I need to be more specific than just asking about the movements of a given company?
    The archive website refers to private investigators that you can hire. Given that I am so inexperienced, I am considering this. Is this something you have any experience with?
  15. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Any researcher, be professional or amateur, would need to know the unit or units a person served with in order to correctly trace their service. Unless the soldier was particularly famous for some reason or other the chances of finding the necessary information online is most unlikely.

    You should also bear in mind that servicemen went where the army wanted them, just because they were in one particular unit at one particular time doesn't mean they stayed there throughout the war.

    It may be frustrating but official service records are really the only way to go.

    You do say that his records were obtained by someone else:
    Help figuring out uniforms, medals, badges, vehicles!

    Won't they send you a copy?

    Once you know which unit(s) he served with you will need the diaries for the appropriate period. As an example only:
    Search results: "Palestine" regiment | The National Archives
    Sanne and 4jonboy like this.
  16. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    No, if you can find his company you will likely be able to follow his movements reliably. It's the battalion/regiment that may or may not have been scattered into companies.

    You don't want to order copies of diaries direct from the National Archives—they're a rip-off. What those pages from the Discovery search engine will give you are the required reference numbers for the diaries

    Yes, some members here offer a copying service and charge by the page. The problem is that they mostly do not undertake research—so you need to supply the references for the diaries you want without first knowing the page count. And that's a complete lottery: could be twenty pages per year, could be six hundred.

    As Tony56 rightly says, the service records are the only way to reliably find out the unit, especially as there is no currently active successor unit or museum for the Palestine Regiment.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2022
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  17. Sanne

    Sanne Member

    Thank you both for your replies. Yes, that does sound like a bit of gamble. Also, I will keep in mind the bit about National Archives and their pricing policy ;)

    I actually did get back jn touch with him since my last post. Unfortunately he does not have the papers anymore.

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