Documenting World War 1 at Sea

We chose our first batch of logbooks to cover the period of the First World War, as our climate records from this period were particularly poor. This gave us not only invaluable new climate information, but also a new look at a key historical period which is about to reach its centenary.

To use our historical results, we teamed up with Gordon and Naval-History.net. In Gordon’s words: ‘Our present world has been shaped by World War 1 – as much a maritime war as World War 2. Not just the Battle of Jutland or the Allies near-defeat by the U-boats, but Mediterranean, Belgian coast, South West & South Africa, East Africa, Persian Gulf, German raiders, Atlantic convoys, North Russia.’ We need to present our logbook records so they can contribute to public and scholarly understanding of the period.

The transcribed and edited logbook records are now a major component of naval-history.net, where they are described as:

British warship log books of the World War 1 era, totalling some 300,000 pages. The logs of over 300 ships have been transcribed, and most are online. They include coverage of Battle of the Falklands, Northern Patrol, Dardanelles, East Africa, trans-Atlantic convoys, Indian Ocean, China Station, amounting to some 60-70 percent of all major warship movements 1914-18, outside of British home waters.

But they are not enough on their own, we should combine them with other sources of information. Naval-History.Net has prepared for the centenary for some years, using contemporary sources where possible and more recent research where available. Current projects include:

  1. Chronology providing the political and military background to the war at sea.
  2. Naval Operations by Corbett and Newbolt – many of the excellent plans are online including all the Battle of Jutland – and the three volume Merchant Navy histories by Hurd.
  3. Navy despatches and relevant Army despatches from the London Gazette. Also Royal Navy honours and gallantry awards by award and by Gazette date. Includes Medal index/database by name.
  4. Royal Navy and Royal Marine casualties (researched by Don Kindell working with the Naval Historical Branch (MOD)), as well as those of the Dominion Navies and U.S. Navy & Marine Corps.
  5. Royal Navy warships and auxiliaries from the invaluable “Ships of the Royal Navy 1914-1919” by Dittmar and Colledge. Although still in progress, all warships and many of the auxiliaries are listed by name and by type/class.

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