War Diaries Talk

New tags coming soon...

  • lukesmith by lukesmith moderator

    We are going to release some subtle but important changes in the next few days. Before I describe the changes, I'd like to explain how we decided on them. In short, we listened to you, the volunteers.

    Operation War Diary went live January 14th. As is usual with new online systems (particularly innovative ones like this) we had lots of useful feedback suggesting improvements and pointing out things that didn't work correctly. You can see the suggested improvements on the Talk forum.

    We implemented many improvements in the first few weeks. But some of the suggestions required more thought.In particular, we are very cautious about adding or changing tags. The original set of tags were compiled by IWM historians and validated with the National Archives and then with IWMs Academic Advisory group for centenary digital projects.However, there are around 1.5 million diary pages with a wide variation of unit types and activity types. As volunteers got exposed to a far wider range than an individual historians could possibly see, they (i.e. you) suggested tags that could be usful. Finally, we needed to see some of the data coming back from volunteers to determine what was needed.

    We have now reviewed the data and the suggested tags and we are preparing to release the following new or revised tags. I'm also including the request and / or rationale so you can understand the reasons for these decisions:

    The new tags

    UNIT STRENGTH (new tag)

    We created this to capture the numbers were exact unit strength is written in the diaries.

    CASUATIES (new tag)

    This allows volunteers to enter the number of casulaties, by type, when that information is in the diaries.

    PERSON: Reason

    New reasons:

    • Departed: Posted or detached: "Temporary transfers of personnel"
    • Unit CO: "Temporary command for officers"
    • Deserter or Absent without leave: "deserters"
    • Resigned, discharged or demobilised: "Demob"
    • Non combat death: "Person died of a heart attack shortly after the war began, but there's no 'Casualties: Other' or 'Non-Combat Casualties'"

    Revised reasons:

    • Sick or Wounded: "Mention is made of staff illneses- again can tehre some freetext used to record these?"


    New activities:

    • Re-supplying: "various methods of movement of supplies, and what the supplies were eg rations, troops, vehicles, horses,artillery etc, etc. (working with Service Corps diaries nearly everyday has unit activity that can only be recorded as other, unless there is training going on.)"
    • Construction: "a tag for work that is to do with road making, track laying, etc" " sinking wells for water supply, or fitting out bunks for billeting or building shelters. I'm not sure what I tag these under, 'other' doesn't seem to cover it." "building Nissen huts, constructing bridges, building tracks for tanks etc."
    • Working party: "'cleaning' up  camp etc." "working" "Clearing/burying dead men and horses"
    • In Reserve: "Units in reserve"
    • In Support: "Support"
    • Objective achieved: "Occupying Positions"

    Revised tag names:

    • Attacking/Firing: "for artillery activity (by both sides)" -- there are tags for being under fire and the Attacking tag has been amended to read Attacking/Firing includes artillery activity more explicitly
       - Patrolling and Reconnoitering: "patrol"

    Other changes considered:

    These were not required, so the request and the alternative or reason is listed.

    • "Commenced Operations (for units that don't fight eg Latrine Unit)":-- Each unit only commences operations once and that is when the diary will start so we do not need a tag for this.
    • "Friendly fire":-- This is not an activity but is interesting so use #friendlyfire
    • "supporting artillery (other unit)":--No need to tag this as it will be in the other unit's diary.
    • "preparations for attack":-- All attacks need to be prepared for! This could incorporate reconnoitering or raiding or training.
      - "for horses- number injured, illnesses eg mange, number put down and sold to butchery":-- We are not capturing details about animals but you could use #animals or #horses
    • "Also a job title- 'horsekeeper'- or have I missed these in the selections available?":--  This is not a rank so is not in the list. If you want to highlight the work use #horsekeeper
    • "Mines and other explosions set off by own side":--Use the Attacking/Firing tag and use #mines
    • Damage to trenches or other fortifications We are not capturing visual descriptions of the environment. The Digging and Repairing trenches tag could be used if appropriate.
    • "Troops rather bored":-- could use #bored !!
    • "'under fire' be expanded so that for example 'being shelled by your own guns' isn't categorised along with 'being sniped by the enemy'":-- please use #hashtag e.g. #sniper
    • "Drill":-- REPSONSE please use training. Use Training, Parades or Inspections as appropriate
    • "'Gassed' or 'wounded (gassed)":--The field guide says: Distinctions were made between men who were wounded but still at their post, men who had been poisoned by gas or who were suffering shell shock symptoms as a result of an explosion eg Wounded (Gas), Wounded (At Duty), Wounded (Shell Shock). They should all be tagged as Wounded. Please use #hashtag, e.g. #gassed or #shellshock if desired
    • "Mentioned":-- If this is 'Mentioned in Dispatches' then include as Awards. Otherwise use Combat, Discipline or Other
    • "Reference is also made to field hospitals which are number- how can they be recorded as places?":-- The number allocated to a hospital should be reflected in the name of unit. It is not a place.
    • "Mark a location as a route or road.":-- Trench or road names can be added as a place, they just won’t appear on the google list of place names
    • "Enemy Activity to get it's own breakdown box, e.g.  Retreating Advancing Shelling with high explosive shelling with shrapnel":-- We are only tagging the activity that happened to the unit whose diary this is. There is an enemy activity tag to captures instances where the enemy were mentioned.
    • "OTHER UNIT activity, eg. 'support/reserve'":-- The Other unit will record in their diary if they are in Support or Reserve


    This has taken a lot of thought and testing (thank you to the volunteer beta testers). Hence it has taken a while to get right. We've also been working on lots of other things. We hope it makes the tagging experience more logical and produces even better data.

    Thank you,



  • brecon_beacons by brecon_beacons

    Noted - will use recommended changes


  • poppynine by poppynine

    Thank you all for listening and making these additions. I have taken a hard copy but expect they will appear in the Field Guide, shortly.


  • HeatherC by HeatherC moderator

    That's great news Luke and particularly good to see the detailed explanation about how tags were chosen in the first place which gives an understanding of why things can't just be changed overnight.

    @poppynine I think the updated Field Guide will appear at the same time as the new tags.


  • cyngast by cyngast moderator

    Glad to see the changes! They all look really helpful and useful. I sometimes think I am using "Other" more than any specific tags for these exact reasons.


  • marie.eklidvirginmedia.com by marie.eklidvirginmedia.com

    Quite large number of people died in the flu epidemic at the end of the war. If a NAMED person is sent to hospital with influenza and a couple of days later died from this, I can't tag as Killed In Action, or Died from wounds. What would a tag be for this - or can you add a tag for this?


  • HeatherC by HeatherC moderator

    As Luke said above, there's going to be a new tag for "non-combat deaths"


  • lukesmith by lukesmith moderator

    Morning everyone,

    Thank you for your supportive feedback. These changes are now LIVE, along with revised Field Guide.




  • SarahtheEntwife by SarahtheEntwife

    Wonderful, thank you!

    Question for the "unit strength" -- is this to be used only for reports of the entire unit? I often see reports of "draft of 50 recruits" or some such, or unnamed men going on leave.

    Also, am I seeing correctly that we're not tagging other units anymore?


  • marie.eklidvirginmedia.com by marie.eklidvirginmedia.com in response to HeatherC's comment.

    Thanks Heather, just seen the new tag for someone who died of the influenza epidemic. You all do a good job in answering our questions!


  • Dunedin by Dunedin

    Other Unit tab is missing from the list on the Dairy page.IS this deliberate or just a mistake?


  • Maria64 by Maria64 in response to Dunedin's comment.

    I reported this yesterday, Dunedin, (OTHER UNIT TAG?), and several others replied saying they hadn't got this tag in the Diary Page any more either. The ever-vigilant Heather replied that she doesn't know if this was an intentional change or an error and also remarked that the Reference tag was absent too. I was just relieved that I wasn't going mad!
    As luck would have it, it was Saturday morning when I noticed this and Heather says that the relevant staff wouldn't be available until Monday to check on this issue. Hope it helps. Maria.


  • caromj by caromj

    Unit strength - what do you put when it says Battn strength 553 but doesn't specify Officers, N.C.O.s and O.R.? Leave it out?


  • HeatherC by HeatherC moderator in response to caromj's comment.

    That's very frustrating. Maybe we need to have an "undefined" category in the Unit Strength tag like we had to put in for Casualties.

    Incidentally I think that anyone who cannot see the new tags and is still able to see the old version needs to either log out and in again or simply refresh the page to see the new version.

    @Maria64 I have replied to you in another thread. Good intention on the hashtag but I don't think it can be used as you suggest and if everyone does this it will simply fill up the "recent" page and swamp questions that people are asking so don't worry about missing these tags for now.


  • Maria64 by Maria64 in response to HeatherC's comment.

    Thanks for the advice, Heather. Thankfully, the weather's been so nice today that I haven't been able to do too much damage. 😉 I'll edit my post to remove the suggestion just in case.


  • caromj by caromj in response to HeatherC's comment.

    An "undefined" category in Unit Strength would be good. It seems a pity not to tag these mentions of unit strength just because they don't go into detail.


  • atozvet by atozvet

    This is an improvement in the classification. Its a pity the animals in war activities do not get a category in view of the current interest by military historians as well as the public's perceptions of their role e.g. War Horse. I did not realise in the latter years of the war, horses were regularly going to the butcher/ horse slaughterers and cash payments were received for the meat. C'est la guerre?


  • Cameronian_Volunteer by Cameronian_Volunteer in response to lukesmith's comment.

    Just picked up on your clarification of tagging diary events. I have been classifying sniping as "Under Fire" or "Firing". Should I just #sniping and otherwise ignore.


  • HeatherC by HeatherC moderator in response to Cameronian Volunteer's comment.

    I think you should indeed classify being sniped at as "under fire". The way I read Luke's post that he was responding to a request to split up the "under fire" tag to differentiate between different types of fire. I think the point he was making is that if you want to highlight that it is sniper fire then you can hashtag it if you wish as well as tagging it normally as "under fire".


  • Cameronian_Volunteer by Cameronian_Volunteer

    Thanks Heather. Will do as you suggest.