War Diaries: Discover what individuals or military units did during the war

Are you curious to discover what battles an individual fought in? Or what a unit did during the First or Second World War? Or maybe what regions a person travelled through with their unit?

In the first post, we suggested Published Histories. If there is no published history, or it is not detailed enough, then War Diaries may help.

War Diaries are the day-to-day log of a unit’s activities. For the Army, the official term is “War Diary.” For the Navy, the official term is “Ship Log” and for the Air Force it is “Operation Record Book.”

The Advantages of War Diaries:

  • They provide the most complete first-hand record of how and where the unit was deployed;
  • They provide information that may not have been included in a published history.

To search for War Diaries, please use our Archives Search database.

For more details on War Diaries, visit our Genealogy and Family History website.


  • Not all War Diaries can be borrowed through interlibrary loan*; some can only be consulted on site at Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa.
  • War Diaries are not personal diaries. They rarely record information about individual soldiers.

(*) Update: End of Interlibrary Loan (ILL) Services

ILL services at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) will end in December 2012. Users of LAC‘s current services should note the following dates:

  • November 13, 2012: End of loan requests from international libraries.
  • November 16, 2012: End of renewals. All items loaned after this date will be non-renewable.
  • December 11, 2012: End of loan requests, location searches, and ILL-related photocopying services.

LAC‘s ILL listserv (CANRES-L) and Canadian Library Gateway will also be archived in December 2012.

LAC will continue to facilitate interlibrary loan activities among other institutions through the ILL form in AMICUS, and through ongoing administration of Canadian Library Symbols.

Through our modernized service channels, LAC will emphasize increased digital access to high-demand content. LAC is working with Canada’s ILL user community in order to inform this approach to accessing the institution’s unique holdings.

For more information, please visit “Interlibrary Loan at Library and Archives Canada“.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

4 thoughts on “War Diaries: Discover what individuals or military units did during the war

  1. I accidently stumbled on these awhile back when researching a great uncle who died in France during World War I. I felt like I hit a gold mine of information!

  2. Just entering war diaries in Archives Search will not give you great results, so I highly recommend looking at the War Diaries page (http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/genealogy/022-909.009-e.html) before jumping into the search. The page offers some great information on how to limit your search by service (army, navy or air) and the other types of keywords that will further narrow down your search (ship, regiment, battalion number or date).

  3. Pingback: Published Histories: Discover what individuals or military units did during the war « Library and Archives Canada Blog

  4. Pingback: From Enlistment to Burial Records: The Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War | Library and Archives Canada Blog

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