This book offers a comparative analysis of British Army Unit War Diaries in the two World Wars, to reveal the role played by previously unnoticed technologies in shaping the archival records of war.

Despite thriving scholarship on the history of war, the history of Operational Record Keeping in the British Army remains unexplored. Since World War I, the British Army has maintained daily records of its operations. These records, Unit War Diaries, are the first official draft of events on the battlefield. They are vital for the army’s operational effectiveness and fundamental to the histories of British conflict, yet the material history of their own production and development has been widely ignored. This book is the first to consider Unit War Diaries as mediated, material artefacts with their own history. Through a unique comparative analysis of the Unit War Diaries of the First and Second World Wars, this book uncovers the mediated processes involved in the practice of operational reporting and reveals how hidden technologies and ideologies have shaped the official record of warfare. Tracking the records into The National Archives in Kew, where they are now held, the book interrogates how they are re-presented and re-interpreted through the archive. It investigates how the individuals, institutions and technologies involved in the production and uses of unit diaries from battlefield to archive have influenced how modern war is understood and, more importantly, waged.

This book will be of much interest to students of media and communication studies, military history, archive studies and British history.

chapter |22 pages


From battlefield to archive

chapter 1|50 pages

“Scribbled hastily in pencil”

Unit war diaries in the First World War

chapter 2|63 pages

The typeset war

Unit war diaries in the Second World War

chapter 3|56 pages

The matter of materials and archives

chapter |24 pages


From the age of information to information overload