Catalogue description War Office and Ministry of Defence: Army Unit Historical Records and Reports

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Details of WO 305
Reference: WO 305
Title: War Office and Ministry of Defence: Army Unit Historical Records and Reports

This series consists of peacetime historical records (other than Quarterly Historical reports) kept by army units and formations. Most date from 1950 onwards. Many Commander's Diaries contain photographs and maps.

Date: 1705-2005
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Army, 1660-

Ministry of Defence, 1947-

War Office, 1857-1964

War Office, Department of the Permanent Under Secretary, 1924-1964

Physical description: 9399 files and volumes
Access conditions: Open unless otherwise stated
Immediate source of acquisition:

From 1986 Ministry of Defence

Accruals: Series is accruing.
Administrative / biographical background:

A war diary is a regularly updated official record kept by military units of their activities during wartime. The purpose of these diaries is to both record information which can later be used by the military to improve its training and tactics as well as to generate a detailed record of units' activities for future use by historians. War diaries are focused on the administration and operations of the unit they cover, and generally do not contain information about individual personnel. The British Army first required that its units keep war diaries in 1907 as a means of preventing its mistakes of the Second Boer War from being repeated, and units currently operating in Afghanistan continue to maintain such diaries The content of the commander's diaries include a narrative and appendices. The narrative can include such items as changes in command, establishment, equipment and organisation; information received, decisions made and orders given; a short summary of the day's fighting, including company movements; opinions and recommendations of the commander with regard to equipment, tactics, organisation and morale; progress of defensive work, weapons state, weather and ground conditions; major causes and number of casualties to officers, men and equipment The content of individual war diaries depends on the unit concerned and their functions and daily activities. Overall, however, the main factor controlling the contents and quality of contents of a particular diary remains the skill, dedication, and enthusiasm of the officer who was in charge of compiling it.

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