This past January, while flying to Nairobi, I picked up the NY Times International edition, for some light reading. The issue felt like a hybrid US/English paper. I heard the writing with an English accent on many stories but one in particular.
“Diaries from British World War I trenches now online.”
I was struck by the simple statement that soldiers were “required to keep official dairies daily.” Specifically they were to include details that they were forbidden to share with their family or friends to whom they wrote letters.
These were boys, in terrible circumstances, putting pen to paper to both capture what they were experiences and releasing it. Some entries read like poetry, “everywhere the same hard, grim, pitiless sign of battle and war.” Others were more clinical, “Men were buried alive whilst others were dug out in time and brought to, unable to stand, with their back half broken.” I can envision the soldiers, hunkered down in the trenches, cold, damp, dirty, scared seeking refuge from the moment by remembering other moments and scratching those memories onto paper with ink.
It seems as if the entries have been transcribed. What visitors to the National Archives will find are the words but not the writings. I hope that some of the actual pages have been scanned. As soon as I have internet, I will log on to see for myself.
It took some time but I finally got around to logging on and checking out these diaries. Surprisingly many of the original diary entries were typed. Not what I expected. There were plenty that were handwritten and preserved as such.
The full information is available at: http://www.greatwar.co.uk/research/military-records/british-army-war-diary.htm#wheretofind
Australia has also posted letters from its soldiers: http://www.smythe.id.au/letters/15_10.htm
If you Google “diaries from world war 1 trenches” and select images, there are many available.