Transcription Tuesday 2017: Join the Operation War Diary team!

By Jon Bauckham, 10 January 2017 - 7:32pm

For WDYTYA? Magazine’s first-ever Transcription Tuesday event on 17 January, staff writer Jon Bauckham will be volunteering for Operation War Diary. In this blog post, he explains why you should join him…

  • Register for Transcription Tuesday 2017 here
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Monday 9 January 2016
Jon Bauckham, staff writer
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The Operation War Diary project launched online in January 2014

Since 2014, hundreds of volunteer projects have been taking place across the UK to mark the First World War Centenary.

As demonstrated by Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine’s very own Britain Remembers map, the scale and scope of these projects has been incredibly diverse, with research initiatives being run by major museums, local family history societies and individuals alike.

However, one of the most ambitious volunteer projects that we’ve seen so far isn’t actually tied to one location. Led by The National Archives (TNA), Imperial War Museums (IWM) and Zooniverse, Operation War Diary lets anyone across the world annotate more than 1.5 million pages of unit war diaries from the conflict.

Digitised from original material held in series WO 95 at the TNA, the diaries offer a fascinating insight into the day-to-day activities of infantry and cavalry units serving on the Western Front between 1914 and 1919.

I recently used the records myself to piece together the final days of my great great uncle, who was tragically killed while serving with the 1st Battalion of the East Kent Regiment – something that I found very moving.

The project allows users to annotate the diary pages with details such as time and date

At present, it is only possible to browse through the diaries by visiting TNA in person or downloading PDF versions of the scans (organised by unit) via the Discovery catalogue. As I found during my own research, the lack of searchable indexes means it can take a lot of time to find a specific entry in the diaries.

However, by digitally annotating the pages with key details such as dates, times, locations and even weather conditions, the diaries will eventually be made more accessible to researchers. It will help historians gather large amounts of data on certain topics and get a better overall picture of what it was like to serve during the First World War.

Although the records were never intended to be roll call of individuals, the tagging of specific people who are mentioned in the diaries (such as casualties and prisoners of war), will also enable the project team to create a name index for IWM’s Lives of the First World War platform. This will be a crucial development for genealogists.

Overall, I think Operation War Diary is a brilliant initiative that will truly allow these precious records to be unlocked for all. That’s why I’ve decided to focus on the project for our first-ever Transcription Tuesday event on 17 January.

If you would like to join me on the day, please complete the Transcription Tuesday registration form here and read the basic instructions I’ve included below. Good luck!

Getting started

Step 1
Navigate to the Operation War Diary homepage and click on the ‘Get Started!’ button.

Step 2
You will be taken to a 10-minute tutorial, which demonstrates the annotation process. It will guide you through the different types of tags that you’ll need to add to the diary pages, such as date, time and place.

Step 3
Once you have completed the tutorial and feel confident that you know how to annotate the war diaries, I’d recommend creating a free Zooniverse account to keep track of your progress. You can do this by clicking on the ‘Sign up’ button in the top-right hand corner of your browser and filling out the form that appears on the screen.

Step 4
Once you have logged in, you can monitor your progress by clicking on ‘Profile’, which shows the number of tags you have added and the pages you have worked on. Don’t worry if you didn’t manage to tag everything on a page or think you may have made a mistake – each diary will be annotated by multiple users until a consensus has been reached.

Step 5
By logging in, you can also share your discoveries on Talk – a forum for Operation War Diary users. Another perk is that it shows the hashtags that have been added during the annotation process. For example, the screenshot below displays a list of all 101 times that the hashtag ‘Canadian’ has been used to describe pages.


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