Post by Dave Homewood on Sept 9, 2011 1:00:51 GMT 12
Has anyone here been involved in researching Army records from WWII?
I'm curious to know what sort of records there are in existence, and how they are broken down.
If say I were keen to look at a particular Battalion, would I be able to look at distinctly seperate records for each Company within the Battalion? And perhaps individual records for different Platoons within that Company? Did each keep it's own seperate log book, unit diary or daily records?
If I wanted to pick a particular platoon and follow it's war service would that be easy to do in the paper trail of the archives? Or would it be a matter of picking out snippets on that platoon on a much wider battalion level record?
Also would I have to go to Waiouru, Trentham of National Archives for such records?
So what size is a unit when it comes to an Army unit diary? Is that Company level? Battalion? Or even bigger all in together?
Army formation is a Brigade which generally has at least three regiments, or battalions.
Next an Army unit is a Battalion or Regiment (title dependant on corps/arm of service). A battery, squadron company are sub units which are further broken up into troops or platoons.
Is it so that a Battalion had A, B, C, and D Companies plus HQ Company? And each of those main Companies have about 20 platoons within? So what does a Unit Diary cover? Maybe 80+ platoons??
The actual organisation and number of sub units depends on the Corps/Arm of Service. So artillery, armoured, infantry (Rifle or Machine Gun), engineers, transport etc organisations and personnel number were each quite different. Using an infantry rifile battalion as an example you would expect to find:
Battalion typically 33 officers and approx 750 Other Ranks (ORs)
Battalion HQ of 5 officers and 50 ORs 4 Rifle companys each with 5 officers and 120 ORs. Each company had a Company HQ and three rifle platoons Headquarters Company of 8 officers and 248 ORs. The platoons in HQ Coy were all specialist and included; Signals, Carrier, Anti Armour, Pioneer, Mortar and Administration platoons.
So a typical Rifle battalion would have 18 platoons covered in the unit diary.
Got that I'll test you tomorrow
Last Edit: Sept 13, 2011 18:30:38 GMT 12 by 30sqnatc
Post by Dave Homewood on Sept 13, 2011 23:18:14 GMT 12
So what it boils down to is an Army Unit Diary would be pretty hopeless to use as a source if you simply wanted to pick one platoon and follow it's own career and the happenings of the men in that unit. And if you were going to do that you'd really need to find personal diaries, letters and memories of those people rather than official records which will be pretty non-specific about the activities of one platoon except if they lost someone or there was a stand-out performance?
ie they are as general and wide reaching and even more impersonal than Official History volumes?
So what it boils down to is an Army Unit Diary would be pretty hopeless to use as a source if you simply wanted to pick one platoon and follow it's own career and the happenings of the men in that unit. After even a relatively short period of time I think you would find the personnel would change completely.
And if you were going to do that you'd really need to find personal diaries, letters and memories of those people rather than official records which will be pretty non-specific about the activities of one platoon except if they lost someone or there was a stand-out performance? Much of the time the exact actions of individual platoons was not recorded as the Battalion was considered smallest organisation on the battlefield that could influence a battle.They certainly note key acts by people but even then some things are missed. I put together the history of a previously unrecorded WWI Unit, the 5th NZ Light Railway Operating Company. Even with the official diary, some copies of unit orders and organisation, gazette notices and maps, it was still full of holes.
ie they are as general and wide reaching and even more impersonal than Official History volumes?The amount of detail in a diary tends to vary depending on who is writing it and how busy the unit is. Actually the files of notes (in Wellington NA) that were used to prepare the Official War Histories contain a wealth of information. However you have to be careful as the questionares etc were completed after the war so individuals memories were not always correct. They had a process requiring multiple colobrating soruces of evidence and often key personnel refused to take part in the process.
Last Edit: Sept 13, 2011 23:40:00 GMT 12 by 30sqnatc