Unofficial records : a study of diaries with special reference to those kept by soldiers on the Western Front during the First World War

2014-07-10T09:08:52Z (GMT) by Jane E. Hewetson
The Imperial War Museum houses over 2,000 diaries from: the First World War alone. This study, with the aid of source material and interviews, examines why so many men of rank and officer class kept diaries during the war, when it was against the King's Regulations to do so. The diaries utilised range from 1914 - 1918, and illustrate the change in attitude to the war from the Old Contemptible, the eager volunteer, to the war-weary recruit. Each diary is represented as a case study of the soldier,illustrating his family and educational background. Because these studies range from public schoolboy to carpenter, differing responses and styles of writing are used to describe the war. Hundreds of soldiers have published memoirs and reminiscences since 1918. Today publishers edit selections, but the purpose of this study is not to reiterate what has already been written. Memoirs recall the war years often with fond remembrance of the most important event of their lives and forget the agony of route marches, hunger and battle. After 1918 it was easier to recall the esprit de corps, and forget the Buffering. Published diaries, like memoirs, cannot be considered a true record. Editors select what they consider the more interesting battles and episodes, so that the reader could believe soldiers spent all of their time in France engaged in battle. These unpublished selections illustrate battles, but also the monotony of the days 'in rest', on marches, and on fatigues. Soldiers kept diaries during the war for companionship, to record the great adventure, and to work out the horrific and inexplicable. They were not, as published material would often have us believe, describing a glorified infantryman's picnic.