Diaries of World War II

Contemporary Diaries and Journals from World War II now appearing as Blogs

Given the nature of blogging it sometimes seems strange that there are not more people producing historical blogs – blogs that follow historical dates from a past age, day by day. There are a growing band of blogs covering some aspect or other of World War II.

In 2009 I wrote “… there are only a few sites reproducing contemporary diaries that were written seventy years ago and serving them up day by day in blog form.”

Over the past few years that has changed and I try to keep a link to all the one I come across here, with the most recent discovery at the top:


Broody’s War

A tribute to Andrew John Broodbank, a Radar Operator (Navigator) with 488 (NZ) Squadron, RAF. His Operational Tour lasted from 3/ix/43 until 9/ix/44.

His grandson is “lucky enough to have a significant collection of material from this period including flight logs, photos, personal journals and notes. This blog will follow, 70 years later, his time with the squadron. I hope you enjoy reading this blog, which I hope will serve as a lasting tribute to my grandfather and all those he served with.”

Air Marshal Sir Roderick Hill, Air Officer Commanding ADGB, is shown the wreckage of one of three enemy aircraft shot down by aircrews of No. 488 Squadron RAF.

Air Marshal Sir Roderick Hill, Air Officer Commanding ADGB, is shown the wreckage of one of three enemy aircraft shot down by aircrews of No. 488 Squadron RAF, flying from Bradwell Bay, Essex, on the night of 21 March 1944. In the photograph are, (left to right) Flight Lieutenant C P Reed (navigator), Squadron Leader E N Bunting (pilot, pointing toward the wreckage), AM Sir Roderick Hill, Wing Commander R C Haine (Commanding Officer of No. 488 Squadron) and Flight-Sergeant J L Wood (navigator). This particular aircraft, a Junkers Ju 188E-1 of 2/KG6, came down at Butler’s Farm, Shopland, Essex, and was Bunting and Reed’s second ‘kill’ of the evening.

From the Squadron ORB on 21st March 1944:

The most successful night in our history – 5 Huns destroyed by 488. A very large raid was plotted from the Dutch Islands and very appropriately, the first aircraft of the formation; a JU88 was shot down into the sea by our Dutch Pilot F/Sgt Vlotman C.J, with Sgt Wood J.L (British) as Navigator. Shortly afterwards F/Sgt Vlotman intercepted a second Hun and shot this down into the sea near Herne bay. Pieces of wreckage hit our Mosquito and the Pilot was compelled to feather his starboard engine, making a brilliant landing at base on the remaining engine. A very fine performance.

F/Lt J.A.S Hall & F/O J.P Cairns (British) who had witnessed the destruction of F/Sgt Vlotman’s first Hun, intercepted a JU88 over Essex and shot it down in flames near Earls Colne; the wreckage fell on an American airfield causing some damage but no casualties. This is their third Hun this year.

S/L E.N. Bunting DFC and F/L C.P.Reed, DFC were also meeting with success and intercepted a JU88 near Sudbury, Suffolk, shooting it down 10 miles away at Clare[?]. They had searchlight assistance and made use of this a few minutes later when they pursued a JU188 which they destroyed near Rochford (Southend area). Once again this wreckage bore evidence of S/L E.N. Bunting’s excellent marksmanship.


Waynes Journal

Wayne A. Gray was a B-25 tail gunner/armorer with the USAAF’s 42nd Bombardment Group, 13th Air Force in the South Pacific. The story begins in March 1944. We know that Wayne will go on to do 63 combat missions but we don’t know much more about how this will turn out.

From the 6th March 1944

The orderly room banana tree has finally been raped. A lot of fellows, including my engineer, had their eyes on it. Seehorn was going to get a stalk last night. He was disgusted to find, on arrival there, that someone had beat him to it. He was so woebegone that I got a kick out of it! There are a million laughs around here. But they’re unusable in stories as too much sex is involved. Damn it! That’s no good when a fellow is looking for material to write books after the war. How about that, Bonnie!

People are making money hand over fist out here. Especially the barber and the doubtful ingeniousness of the cook who gets picture of bombers and naked women and sells them at the end of the dishwashing line.

Jiminy, but it’s quiet around here today. I’ve a feeling or foreboding that we’ll soon be off to the front, which will be Treasury or Los Negros Islands where Mac’s boys are mopping up the Japanese. That is Fifth or Seventh Air Force territory, though, I believe (Los Negros). Still rumored that we’ll go to China when and if Rabaul is ever taken, which I expect soon. Can’t be sure that we’ll land on Rabaul, however as we outflanked it by taking Los Negros. May become a place such as Bougainville Island which still has some 20,000 Jap troops which U.S. policy calls for starvation of. It seems to me that we’re angling for thousands of Jap prisoners so we can force better Japanese treatment of their war prisoners, which are our men! Don’t know though as I think we’re trying to get the war over as quickly as possible so we can deal with the instigators of Japanese brutality toward own men.

The world is going to be a much better place in which to live, ere this war and its after effects are very old. We veterans, I think, intend to keep it at peace from now on. I don’t believe war is an inevitable travesty. There must be some way of outlawing it. Believe the whole answer lies in international cooperation. The League of Nations was a good idea, but minus the necessary teeth to be any good. I believe this whole terrible war could have been prevented had we girded our loins, so to speak, and outlawed Japan as we would a common criminal when she first marched into China. But, no we couldn’t do that. Now, as we pay through the nose, I wonder how many statesmen are terribly sorry. This whole thing seems to indicate that President Wilson was right! But, we couldn’t be concerned with lasting peace at the time. Peace and victory, no doubt was too new in our minds! The time to make the governing principles of the new world and put them in effect is right now, when the horror of war is indeed a reality. Not afterwards when the people are satisfied to have won the war, and let it stop there!

Well Honey, I’m through theorizing for today so will close saying, I love you, Wayne


Writing Home WWII

Joseph Henry Thompson (known as ‘Mac’ in RAF circles) was born in June 1925.

He was born in Birmingham, England’s second largest city, in a relatively poor neighbourhood. His father had died in 1941, leaving his Mother a widow and WWII raging.

Joe ‘joined up’, along with thousands of other young men, in 1943 at the tender age of 18. The RAF was his chosen destination, and he said goodbye to his family and left for training in December, which is where these letters begin.


Dear All

John Moore joined up at the age of 17, rather than waiting for conscription when he was 18, partly because he wanted to “do his bit” but also he said that if you volunteered you could have more choice about where you went, he chose the Royal Signals. He trained at Catterick, spent the months leading up to D Day in the South of England, sailed to France in June 1944 and was in or near Hamburg when the war ended (the letters will hopefully tell us more on this when we reach that point). The letters were mainly sent to his mother, father and sister Gwladys – these three are the “All” in “Dear All”.


Chotie Darling

The letters of 1st Lt. Richard Kelner Williams who served in the 6th Bath & Dorset Regiment to his sweetheart ‘Chotie’

Chotie kept every letter from her sweetheart Richard (‘Dicker’) Williams – they tell their story of World War II in the time that it happened, 70 years ago. Chotie’s daughter writes this compelling blog of love letters, posted in real time, accompanied by real life historical background. You don’t have to be a history buff to love this blog; the letters are an amazing window into a relationship – and a time – long passed.


To Laurette

To laurette

The letters home of Canadian officer Edmond Blais to his wife Laurette were so frequent as to be almost a diary:

March 24, 1940

My Colonel tells me I am due to go to Scotland soon to represent the Canadian boys there. I am getting quite fed up of railroads rides, specially at night in the blooming blackout. By the way I never told you about London at night, you simply can’t see a darn thing. Everyone bumps into you and it is quite comical but lot of sore heads get quite insulted, and why. I had a studio picture taken in London and don’t like it so will take another soon when in town.

 


War and peace and the price of cat-fish

A daily diary kept by ‘Uncle Fred’ which follows a family living in south London – full of lots of interesting domestic detail as well as how the war affected everyone.

CroydonAerodrome2

Saturday 24th August1940: Dad’s shelter door
.
Very mild, some nice modest sun. Air raid warning lasting an hour from 8.20 a.m.. polished the floors. Dad made and fitted a door to the air raid shelter. Another warning from 4 to 5 p.m., much air activity, and hear 30 or 40 bombs several miles away in W. or N.W, direction. Cycled round the houses in evening – did 6 miles anyway. Air raid warning before 11 p.m. and lasting till 1.20 p.m. on Sun 25th. German plane hovering overhead for what seemed an eternity. Heard two fighters go over but without seeming to make contact. Heard several bombs.
.
On this day: Fred’s record coincides with Vera Brittain’s Diary of air raid warnings she noted at 8.30am, 3.55pm and 11.45pm. Manston airfield in Kent was badly damaged and put out of action; Portsmouth suffered badly. German bombers missed Thameshaven oil storage depot east of the City of London and instead bombed the heart of the City, destroying many notable old buildings. The RAF lost 22 fighters and the Germans 38. Only two German bombers were lost.


WWII daily journal of Charles F. Bruns, Army 3rd Division, 10th Combat Engineers

Charles F. Bruns lived in the East Central Illinois town of Champaign. A local athlete, ‘Chick’ joined the Army in 1941. In October of 1942 he was sent to the European Theater. During his tour he was able to keep is daily thoughts in a journal that is presented here.

Oct 26, 1942 – Monday

We are to find out where we are going to night. We had to carry some secrete maps up today. While we were carrying the maps up, one fell open and we saw the name of Morocco. Monday night our Officers told us we were going to Casablanca. That is a town in Morocco, Africa. Nobody knows whether the French troops there are friendly or not. The sea has been fairly rough today and no excitement occurred.


Rural Lincolnshire becomes an armed camp, ready for invasion

May Hill’s diaries combine the domestic and the international. Follow the lives of her family as they are all affected by the wartime conditions that are imposed on her village near Skegness.

Wed Jan 21 8.45 am. [1942]
# POLITICIANS FACE STRATEGY CRITICISM
# GUN POST PREPARED ON NEARBY FARMLAND
# RUBBER SALVAGE PROCEEDS DISPUTE SETTLED
# LARGE BATCH OF JAM MADE
Very cold and I am afraid another bitter black frost, tho’ there is not so much wind. It is barely daylight yet. The snow has gone and I hope it does not return, tho’ I daresay it would be warmer. Yesterday Japs were only 75 miles from Singapore. Mr Churchill is back from America, think he will have an uneasy time getting things into shape again. Was interested to hear how Lord Addison stuck to his previous views about Popham and Malaya. I think a good many share his views. Russ[ians] have recaptured Mozhaisk. Soldiers here are barb wiring round J. Kirk’s farm, say they are bringing a gun in or near his yard, hope it is not A.A. or we shall be in a war corner, and I do not want to move. I hate “flitting” but that is a small matter, when we think of all the homes ravaged and blitzed and burned. Sometimes when I think how well fed we are and the extra luxuries with our “pink points” from abroad, I feel like David when he poured out the water before the Lord and cried “Is not this the blood of men, who went in jeopardy of their lives.” Not yet have we plumbed the depth of Mr Churchill’s prophesy of toil and sweat and tears and sacrifice, but we may do yet. I hope not. C Parish just brought milk. Says it is colder than ever, but I don’t think it can be, at least that icy wind doesn’t blow. Snip. [kitten] came in again for new milk tho’ she had porridge and potatoes before.


Facing the tribes of Waziristan on the North West Frontier of India

The Leicesters in Waziristan

Colin Dunford Wood was with the Indian Army on the North West Frontier during 1939-40.

A Story of War started before World War II when Colin Dunford Wood was engaged in an entirely different conflict. The British Empire still had troops stationed on the North West Frontier of India to quell the troublesome tribes of Waziristan, even as Britain fought for her survival in the summer of 1940. However Dunford Wood’s diaries make clear that he wanted to be elsewhere, preferably in the air:

June 7th 1940 Lahore

Met Appleton, joining the RAF (3 Blenheims) in Calcutta. Up again this evening for 40 minutes. Walters the pilot instructor unable to teach me aerobatics, so I go on a recce over Lahore, about ten miles away. Keep at 2000′ and try to take a couple of photographs. A bit of a haze and much smoke, but most enjoyable and finish with a perfect landing. The damn man won’t let me spin her, me who has spun at 3000′ in Madras – he says he doesn’t like chaps of only 6 or 7 hours flying throwing the planes about. What the hell’s he think I am? Met a flying British officer there and was telling him what Adams had told me about Haig going to the RAF, and found he WAS Haig, and that they had accepted him and then done nothing more about it.

 


The Orwell Diaries cover life in war time London

George Orwell portrait

George Orwell - his Wartime Diaries cover attitudes on the Home Front.

Perhaps in a different league is George Orwell who records all sorts of fascinating minor detail about peoples attitudes and how they coped with the war:

17th September 1940

Heavy bombing in this area last night till about 11 p.m……. I was talking in the hallway of this house to two young men and a girl who was with them. Psychological attitude of all 3 was interesting. They were quite openly and unashamedly frightened, talking about how their knees were knocking together, etc., and yet at the same time excited and interested, dodging out of doors between bombs to see what was happening and pick up shrapnel splinters.

Afterwards in Mrs. C’s little reinforced room downstairs, with Mrs C. and her daughter, the maid, and three young girls who are also lodgers here. All the women, except the maid, screaming in unison, clasping each other, and hiding their faces, every time a bomb went past, but betweenwhiles quite happy and normal, with animated conversation proceeding, The dog subdued and obviously frightened, knowing something to be wrong. Marx [his dog] is also like this during raids, i.e. subdued and uneasy. Some dogs, however, go wild and savage during a raid and have had to be shot. They allege here, and E. says the same thing about Greenwich, that all the dogs in the park now bolt for home when they hear the siren.


World War II London Blitz Diary 1939-1945

Diary of Ruby Side Thompson (1884-1970) an English housewife and mother of seven sons living in Romford, London during World War Two. Her style is to combine revelations on both the general progress of the war and daily life, for example …

Monday May 12, 1941

No morning letters yet. Do not know what has happened to Mother, but presume she is all right, or I should have heard to the contrary. We had three alerts last night, and a fairly noisy night, though nothing like as bad as Saturday night. Saturday’s was another terrorizing raid on London.

In the nine o’clock news last night we were told of some of the damage. The heart of the attack was at Westminster. Serious damage was done to Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, and the Houses of Parliament. Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Hall were all seriously damage by high explosives and incendiaries. The abbey is open to the sky, the Lantern Roof burned. The Little Cloisters were burnt out. Five more hospitals hit, a cinema, a “large” hotel.

In the hotel one hundred and forty guests and employees were sheltering in the basement, but a bomb crashed through, and it is feared all are dead. Frightful. It is the Devil’s work.

About four o’clock yesterday Mary Bernadette came in pale and shaking. She came to bring me news o f Doreen Peel. Mary had been in her house alone all night. She had spent the evening at the Peel’s; they asked her to stay the night, but she declined. About noon a boy called in to tell her that the Peel house was destroyed, the family all safe, but Doreen was in the hospital. The Peel’s live or lived on Castellan Avenue, Gidea Park. A land mine came down just outside their house. Doreen heard it landing and went to warn the family. Before she could do so, the front door blew in on her, knocked her unconscious and cut her face open. (It is feared she will lose an eye.) The house is collapsing. Mary had come from seeing it, and described the fantasticness of the wreckage to us. The house is beyond all repairs. …

The diaries have been published but also feature as a day by day blog that can be read online at London Blitz Diary.

On the home front there are no less than two diarists from Colchester in Essex whose diaries are appearing day by day:


Alwyne Garling: WW2 in Colchester

Mr. Garling kept a sharp eye not just on the minutiae of life in wartime Colchester – always the weather and his family’s health – but events on the local, national and international stage too. So, on October 3, 1940, he wrote:

Dull wet day. Cold still rather bad. Another bomb dropped at Colchester by lone raider Chamberlain resigns from Cabinet. 3 girls killed at Old Heath Laundry & 2 people in house.

Mr. Garling, who had just turned 30 when war was declared, noted the dates in 1940 when meat and sugar rationing began and when King George VI visited Lexden that October. He also kept a monthly air-raid tally, recording bombings at Mile End and Berechurch in Colchester, Marks Tey, West Bergholt, Eight Ash Green, Fordham, Tiptree, and further afield.

On a snowy day in Januray 1941, he recalled:

We heard that some bombs had dropped down Chitts Hill, so decided we would go and see if there was anything to be seen. We battled our way through the blizzard and when we got to the gates, we found that the railway gates’ house had been damaged and the telegraph wires brought down – a nasty mess. The gatekeeper was having a bath, but was not hurt. There was some casualties in the train which was machine-gunned – two being killed.

At times, the war came much closer to home. As enemy aircraft flew overhead, Mr. Garling, his sister Vera and parents Albert and Annie, were often forced to take refuge in the Morrison shelter built in their garden in London Road, Lexden.

Discover his most recent entries at: Alwyne Garling: WW2 in Colchester

Maurice Southgate Diary: SOE

I disembarked in Falmouth 19th June 1940, covered in a blanket and shoeless. I was taken by ambulance to a nearby camp, where I was able to take a shower and lose my watch. Then came a coach journey, a magnificent trip in the English countryside, to Plymouth RAF Station where I met with several of my squadron companions in the Sergeant’s mess. I was met with open arms, cries and lots of beer.

Next morning, in ill-fitting uniform, I left for London and arrived at my parents on the evening of 20th June 194, my birthday.

Now being updated at Maurice Southgate SOE

 

E.J. Rudsdale: A Civilian in the Second World War

Eric Rudsdale was a Curator at Colchester Museum, ill health and a pacifist outlook prevented him from serving in the military.

E.J. Rudsdale picks up much incidental detail about the war:

4th October 1940

Heavy rain and high wind. Names of the dead on the Casualty Board at the Public Library, together with an incredible coincidence, the names of three evacuated children, sent to Rushton, near Kettering, and killed there in school yesterday. Amazing that two such things should happen on the same day.

 
 
 

Do you know of any other sites that are reproducing contemporary diaries from World War II in Blog form ?

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Pierre Lagacé June 23, 2014 at 11:34 am

I don’t have any journal or diary but I have logbooks and pictures from veterans that family members have shared with me. I also met some veterans.

This led me to write several blogs.
I am a reader of Wayne’s Journal and Broody’s War which I find most interesting.

This blog is also incredible with all the stories. I often send my readers to some in the hope they will read all of them if possible.

Paula Sillars May 9, 2014 at 3:31 am

I have embarked on a personal project to both digitise and translate my Grandfather’s WW2 diary on my blog. I thought it was a good way to share it with extended family and the wider public.

I am struggling with some of his difficult to read hand writing and am grateful for any assistance in working out the mystery words or correcting my guesses.

It has sparked a greater interest to find out more of what New Zealanders experienced during their service in many foreign lands.

http://14weeksworthofsocks.com/category/grandads-wwii-diary/

Editor March 4, 2014 at 7:43 pm

Must be a project well worth pushing for someone … http://www.operationwardiary.org … would be a good place to start.

mark March 4, 2014 at 11:07 am

Are there any WW1 diarys. ?

malcolm dobbing February 2, 2014 at 1:48 pm

my dad was kia 15th feb 1945 in the battle for the reichwald forest, sgt seaforth highlanders, i cannot find out how he was killed, cannot find war diaries for that date, any one can help me i would be gratful. kind regards malcolm.

zelda becht November 10, 2013 at 6:25 pm

I was so intrigued by the stories i just read on your blog sheet. I was born in England, but the United States is my home. i am also a writer, and in 1943 i gave up my job as a lawyer’s secretary to become a welder in a Federal shipyard in Kearney, New Jersey. Women did that then. We did what the boys couldn’t do because they were on two fronts fighting a bloody war. I have written about that time and what it is like for a girl 20 years old. I welded on destroyer escorts. It was a cold winter in 1943. But it was worth everything to do what I could to get out the ships for the troops and supplies. I believe it helped win the war.

Janine Harrington October 25, 2013 at 11:54 am

As Secretary of the worldwide RAF 100 Group Association and Editor of the Association quarterly magazine ‘Confound & Destroy’, I am writing to ask if anyone who served, or who has a relative who served in any of the Squadrons under RAF No.100 (Bomber Support) Group during the war has material … written in the form of letters, diaries, Log Books, etc and photographs … they might like to have included in a book covering the history of all Norfolk airfields under this secret Group during the war, together with the voices of the people who gave so much for the freedom we enjoy today. I remain passionate about remembering them, widening awareness of what it meant to serve under the RAF No.100 (Bomber Support) Group during the war, and to keep alive their memories.

As an author of 18 published books, I have already created a series of booklets, each covering a brief history of Norfolk airfields, including RAF Foulsham, RAF Swannington, RAF Great Massingham, RAF West Raynham, RAF North Creake, etc. But I have so much more material that I am now bringing together these booklets under one cover to create a complete and comprehensive book for the future including not just the history of the airfields and the Group as a whole, but also the shared writings and photographs of those who were there at the time, their poems, anecdotes, etc, bringing alive an era otherwise lost in the mists of time.

I would welcome hearing from anyone on:
raf100groupassociation@gmail.com

Thank you
Janine Harrington
Secretary: RAF 100 Group Association
Editor: ‘Confound & Destroy’ Association Magazine

Zelda Becht October 18, 2013 at 5:51 pm

My husband was in the US Army. He was in the Sicilian Invasion. Was wounded. In hospital 18 months. At that time I left my office job to work in a shipyard, welding destroyer escorts. I was Zelda the welder. And, I have written such a book. It is about 1943, precisely, and it was an interesting time. I also had many letters from Arthur. That is for another book. My website is zeldabecht.weebly.com. You will see my book there. Have a good read… all the comments bring back so many memories. That was my life then, 70+ years ago.

Janine Hoffman August 20, 2013 at 9:47 pm

I found your blog when I did a search for “the first bombing in Berlin.” I love your blog. And I wish I had letters or diaries from my family, but all I have are stories my mother passed on to me. My mother was born in May of 1940 in Berlin. She lived there until 1955 when she came to America. She tells me stories that her mother told her about their life during the war and after. Her memory is pretty poor but the stories need to be written down before they are forever lost. I’m trying to make sense of all the stories and piecing them together so the timing all comes together. I’ll be starting a blog about it soon, but I just don’t know what to call it. Where did you get the broadcast information about the first bombing in Berlin? I’m fascinated by this part of history and hope to learn as much as I can.

Andrea Slaby July 19, 2013 at 5:38 am

Thank you for your blog. I found love letters from WW II written by my grandparents. I finally transcribed them into a word document. Thank you for keeping this alive I am in the process of publishing a book on their history and letters since they were politicians after the war. I’m curious if there are any meetings or conferences that bring everyone together who’s still alive from this era. Please keep me posted.

Sincerely

Andrea Slaby

Deborah Sweeney June 8, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Hello,

I just stumbled across your blog today while doing some research for mine. I write a World War II blog which features the letters of my grandparents written between 1942-1946, My grandfather served in the south Pacific in the Navy. He was a doctor.

I will definitely spend some more time looking around on your blog,
Sincerely,
Deborah

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