Topic: AIF - Lighthorse
Australian Light Horse Studies Centre
War Diaries and Letters
Site Transcription Policy
War Diary and Letters Transcription Policy
There are many philosophical difficulties faced by a person transcribing the War Diaries and letters. Each of the issues is addressed in this policy guideline.
The War Diaries used by the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre have a single source to ensure consistency. The War Diaries transcribed on this site are specifically sourced from the collection held by the AWM (Australian War Memorial) and may be found online.
Since the AWM changes its web site locations of documents, it is difficult to give a long term definitive address. Hence the entries contain no AWM web link as the currency of any link is not guaranteed. Hence, while the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre makes reference to the War Diaries at the AWM, should the individual reader wish to follow this up, they are encouraged to access the AWM sit and then conduct a search. Currently they are to be found by following these steps:
1. Access the AWM site at:
2. At the left side bar go down to the button “Collections Search” and click on this button.
3. On the Collections page, to the right of the left side bar there is a discrete column under the Search Box which states “Collection resources”. Go down this column until reaching the item:
“Australian Army war diaries"
"Browse images of selected Australian Army war diaries."
On the new page that opens, a selection of War Diary Categories are opened and the appropriate diary may be found.
In addition to the Australian War Memorial, British unit war diaries have been accessed from the War Office collection at Kew in the United Kingdom.
Private and public letters and diaries also are incorporated and these are documented accordingly. Similar principles are followed in their transcription.
For those seeking to reference the entries, there are two solutions.
Each War Diary Entry is designed to stand alone. At the bottom of the page is a citation link. The is designed to assist any researcher to quote the item in accordance with convention.
At the commencement of the Diary Entry, there is a picture of the actual page extracted from the original diary as held by the AWM. This allows authentication of the transcription by allowing the document to be read in the item itself or the reader to access the document at the AWM. As mentioned above, the steps to access the original document have been properly detailed to allow a person to find the original document and reference that particular item. The choice is entirely for the individual to determine that which is appropriate.
However, one thing must be kept in mind. To utilise the transcription on the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre site is not to cite the War Diary verbatim. The discussion of policies and methodologies employed relating to this issue are detailed below. Thus the transcription is unique to this site.
Verbatim or Expansion
The first obvious issue is whether to give a basic verbatim transcription – an as is – transcription. The problem with this lies with the underlying assumptions of the War Diary authors. They were military men writing notes about the day’s activities at night or early morning within a day or two of the events reported. Consequently, the War Diary was seen by many authors as just another pointless task demanded by the military bureaucracy and consequently tackled with minimum effort. Most of the War Diaries illustrate this frustration. In addition, being military men, short cuts were used by employing acronyms and other shortened terms which made sense to the authors and the immediate readership, all being contemporary military men. Ninety years later, all those with this knowledge have long since departed for the long sleep and there is no living knowledge of these underlying assumptions of understanding. Hence some of the paragraphs filled with arcane expressions can appear nonsensical or mystifying to our current audience and thus the information contained in them is missed by all except a few specialists.
Philosophically, verbatim presents the truest account but it also presents the most unreadable account for the modern audience.
To overcome this and make it readable to a non military audience some ninety years later, certain conventions have been followed.
1. All military ranks are given in full. Eg, “Lt” is Lieutenant.
2. All unit and formation contractions are expanded. Eg, 1 Bn is 1st Infantry Battalion.
3. All acronyms and capitalizations are expanded. Eg, “EEF” is “Egyptian Expeditionary Force”. The exception relates to expressions subsequently and currently employed as general or proper nouns and understood as such today. An example is the word Anzac.
4. All grammatical and word contractions are expanded. Eg, “+” is “and”; “E” is “east”.
5. Spelling of proper nouns is corrected according to issued maps of the time and aligned to these maps. Eg, “Belah” is “Deir el Belah”. This ensures that the reader can readily find the location through referencing alternative sources.
It is felt that should a person wish to refer back to the original War Diary entry in the verbatim form, a picture of the original entry is attached to each specific War Diary transcription which allows the reader to access the original item held by the AWM and then read it in its contemporaneous form.
At the end of it all is the aim to make the War Diary as readable to the contemporary audience and so make accessible the story contained in the entry. Each entry should stand alone and be intelligible to any non-specialist of the era. It is hoped that this goal is achieved for the ordinary reader.
Citation: Australian Light Horse Studies Centre, War Diaries and Letters, Site Transcription Policy