1914-1918 Personal Accounts

The centenary commemoration of the Great War of 1914-1918 has created a focus for many official archives to bring WW1 collections of letters, diaries and autobiographical accounts together, to make them more easily available to researchers, family historians, teachers and students. Previously unknown stories and personal experiences of this war are also being discovered by people encouraged by the commemoration to look into the history of their WW1 ancestors. Many fascinating stories about daily life on the fighting fronts and the home front are now available to read online or as published accounts. The aim of this page is to list some of the wonderful treasures in the collections and accessible personal accounts by the people whose lives were affected by the war.

Archive Collections

Imperial War Museum, London

The Department of Documents has over 18,000 collections of personal papers, diaries, documents and letters. These can be viewed by appointment. To find out more about the department and research facilities visit the website at:

Website: www.iwm.org Documents

Our/Your Stories

Collections in the New South Wales State Library have been brought together in themes to reflect Australia's experience of war. Themes include daily life at the fighting front, love and friendship, children in war, and entertainment for the troops. The collections of archive material include diaries, letters, newspapers, posters and photographs. The collection includes the diaries of over 500 people.

The library welcomes you to be in contact if you have any stories to add or if you can help to identify people and details already held in the collection.

Website: www1.sl.nsw.gov.au

Printed Autobiographies

At Sea in the Great War

Cover of At Sea in the Great War

At Sea in the Great War: 4 (Memories)

by Joseph H Hird

296 pages. Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (9 Mar. 2014), ISBN-10: 1494874717, ISBN-13: 978-1494874711

The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston

Cover of The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston

The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston

by Siegfried Sassoon

656 pages. Published by Faber & Faber (1980), ISBN-10: 0571099130, ISBN-13: 978-0571099139

Goodbye to All That

Cover of Goodbye to All That

Goodbye to All That

by Robert Graves

288 pages. Published by Penguin Classics (2000), ISBN-10: 0141184590, ISBN-13: 978-0141184593

Hell On Earth, My Life in the Trenches 1914-1918

This is a book published by the last surviving son of Captain the Reverend C V Burder, MC, MA. The book was undiscovered in an old trunk for 97 years and describes the horrors of life in the trenches of the First World War between 1914-1918.

Cover of Hell on Earth book

Hell on Earth: My Life in the Trenches 1914-1918 (hardback)

by C V Burder

232 pages. Published by Big Ben Books (1 July 2010), ISBN-10: 095238907X, ISBN-13: 978-0952389071

Captain Burder's son, John, has also recorded an abridged version of the book as an MP3 audio edition. It is available from John Burder at:

Email: burderfilms@aol.com

The History of ‘A’ Battery 84th Army Brigade RFA 1914-1918

Cover of The History of A Battery, 84th Brigade

The History of ‘A’ Battery, 84th Army Brigade RFA 1914-1918

by D F Grant, MC

The vivid first-hand account of a troop’s frontline experiences during the First World War. This is the true story of ‘A’ Battery, 84th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, 18th Division, and the part it played in the tribulations of World War I. It is based on the contemporary diary of its author, ‘A’ Battery’s Commander, Major Donald Farquharson Grant, who created the battery at the start of hostilities in 1914 and almost uniquely remained with them throughout the war until the Armistice in 1918 and the battery’s demobilisation in 1919. In a crisp and economical style Grant documents life in the trenches on the Somme and later at Passchendaele when the battery played a pivotal role during the German retreat of February 1917. This is no dry account of manoeuvres, however, but a vivid, moving, sometimes humorous and mordant recounting of real human experience: the drudgery and frustrations of trench warfare; the occasional incompetence of the ‘brass-hats’; and the heroism of the ordinary men who fought and died together in the ‘war to end all wars’. As Lieut.-General Sir Ivor Maxse says in his foreword to this remarkable book, “As soldiers, hating war, they meant to see the thing through, and they did. But it is true to say that the recruits of 1914 joined up in a spirit of patriotism and knightly adventure.” In many ways this was their tragedy. This new publication has been brought about by Major Grant’s daughter, Eileen Grant. 114 pages. Published by Book Guild Ltd (28 Mar 2013), ISBN-10: 1846248299; ISBN-13: 978-1846248290

Over the Top: A Digger's Story of the Western Front

Cover of Over the Top book

Over the Top: A Digger's Story of the Western Front

by H G Hartnett

Henry George Hartnett enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in September 1915. He saw action at the Battle of Fromelles and the Battle of the Somme 1916, where he was badly wounded. On his recovery he rejoined his battalion on the Western Front. This is a highly recommended book. 348 pages. Published by Allen & Unwin (1 Nov 2012), ISBN-10: 9781742375953; ISBN-13: 978-1742375953

Sagittarius Rising

Cover of Sagittarius Rising

Sagittarius Rising

by Cecil Lewis

344 pages. Published by Frontline Books (2009), ISBN-10: 1848325193, ISBN-13: 978-1848325197

Testament Of Youth

Cover of Testament of Youth book

Testament Of Youth: An Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900-1925 (paperback)

by Vera Brittain

A powerful personal account of four years of war on the home front by volunteer nurse Vera Brittain. Vera suffered the loss of her fiancé, brother and two close friends. 640 pages. Published by Virago (2004), ISBN-10: 0860680355, ISBN-13: 978-0860680352

Related Topic

Tracing World War 1 Family History

Cpl Thomas Henry Parker, Royal Welch Fusiliers, killed in action 6 November 1916.

Our pages about getting started on tracing a person in your family who served in the First World War will help to give you information about what sort of detail you can find for medals, war graves, Service Records and where to look for it online or in archives and museums.

Tracing World War 1 Family History