1944 Service’s Diary

Sometimes an object is interesting on a number of levels. Tonight’s artefact is one of these. On a purely physical level this diary is interesting, however it is what is written inside that elevates it to a truly special item in my collection. The diary contains an eyewitness account of the allied advance across Europe in 1944 by an ambulance driver who wrote it as it happened. We shall look at this account at a later date though, tonight we are focussing on the diary itself. This diary is a small pocket sized volume, bound in blue leather with an embossed logo on the front in gold:imageThe logo combines the anchor of the Royal Navy, eagle of the RAF and crown of the Army. Opening the volume reveals a portrait of the King, and that it is a ‘Services Diary’ for 1944 (hence explaining the logo on the front):imageThe opening pages of the diary have useful information for service men including a comparative table of officers’ ranks:imageRank insignia of the US Army:imageSome helpful knots:imageDecorations for Valour and Gallantry:imageAnd Semaphore:imageThe rest of the book is a fairly standard diary, however each day has listed famous battles and conflicts from British history:imageIt is interesting that many of these are from the preceding five years of conflict. This little volume was sold at the NAAFI and could easily be slipped into a pocket allowing it to be taken with the soldier anywhere he went, as in this case. Although soldiers were officially prohibited from keeping diaries, many did and this archive of material is now a gold mine for historians looking to explore the everyday life of soldiers in the Second World War, interestingly the growing literacy of Britain is evident from the much greater numbers of OR diaries from WW2 when compared to WW1.

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