WarningThis information has been archived for reference or research purposes.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived on the Web is for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It has not been altered or updated after the date of archiving. Web pages that are archived on the Web are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats on the "Contact Us" page.

Web Reviews

war diaries of the first world war

Reviewed by Andrew C. Young

Print PDF

For more information on accessing this file, please visit our help page.

Library and Archives Canada, with support from the Canadian Culture Online Project, finished work in June 2003 on the War Diaries of the First World War project. The site can be accessed at www.archives.ca/02/020152_e.html.

The database contains the digitized War Diaries of all infantry, artillery and cavalry units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force between 1914 and 1919. It also contains the war diaries of the Corps, Division and Brigade Headquarters, as well as other units such as railway, medical and forestry troops. With over 350,000 images, the War Diaries project was a massive undertaking. Some diaries have yet to be posted on the site, but the vast majority are ready to be viewed. The database provides open, free access to all interested researchers and is a prime source on the history of the First World War.

The site also provides some contextual information to guide researchers in the use of the material. This information is found in the sections: The War Diaries, How to Search the War Diaries Database, How to Interpret the Diaries, How to Use the War Diaries, and Why are the War Diaries Written Only in English?

For those seeking information on individual soldiers, two other useful databases are linked to the War Diaries site. Soldiers of the First World War (1914-1918) provides a searchable database of over 800,000 images of attestation papers of the more than 600,000 Canadians who served in the C.E.F. during the Great War. See www.archives.ca/02/020106_e.html.

Also of use is another searchable database linked to the site, The Regimental Number list of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. See www.archives.ca/02/02015203_e.html. This database can be used to link an individual soldier’s regimental number (which can be found in his attestation papers) to the soldier’s assigned military unit. From here, a researcher could then consult the relevant War Diary of the unit he or she was interested in. While War Diaries seldom mentioned the actions of individual soldiers, it is a good place to begin research.

Although a keyword list is provided for locating war diaries of individual units, it is not an exhaustive list. A useful complement to the War Diaries site would be David W. Love’s 1999 reference book, A Call to Arms: The Organization and Administration of Canada’s Military in World War One. It should also be noted that the bulk of a unit’s routine orders and other documentation have not been digitized. This information must be consulted in person at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. These holdings can be searched through LAC’s public access module, ArchiviaNet at http://www.achives.ca/02/0201_e.html.

The War Diaries site provides a goldmine of primary source material to the military historian, the genealogical researcher, or any other interested user. Brief introductions on how and why War Diaries were compiled are given, and clear instructions on how to find material are posted. For anyone interested in the military history of Canada in the First World War, this will be a rich resource.

CMJ Logo

Andrew Young is with the Intellectual Control services Section of Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. He is a part time graduate student in the War Studies Programme at Royal Military College.

War Diary