Researching Military History

Trench map from the Ypres Salient.

Timeline for 1914-1918

A section of pages detailing the events in each year of the First World War, with links to more detailed descriptions of battles, battle sites and what can be seen there today.

Timeline for 1914-1918

Theatres of War

Military operations of the First World War took place in seven theatres of war around the world.

Theatres of War

Official Histories: Military Operations

Most of the nations involved in the First World War published an official account of the involvement of their military forces. These official publications usually comprise numerous volumes and can be a great help to family historians looking to trace the place of action of a serviceman or woman. In some cases they are now available as republications or on DVD. The Canadian and Australian WW1 Official Histories are available to view for free online.

Official Histories of the First World War

Unit Histories

There are also many published histories for regiments, battalions, divisions, corps and armies. Generally written after the First World War they were compiled using War Diaries and personal accounts of the men who served in that unit, together with other various official sources. Some may be more lavishly illustrated with photographs and maps than others. Some were published privately and may essentially reflect the views of the author. Some published personal experiences of life in the 1914-1918 war have become known as the unofficial records of a regiment or battalion.

The Imperial War Museum London has an unrivalled collection of printed books which include regimental histories. If you wish to find out whether a regiment you are interested in published a history and obtain the details of the title you can search the IWM Collections online or contact the museum to make an enquiry. Go to our page about the Imperial War Museum for the link to the IWM Collections Search:

Website: Search

Orders of Battle

An Order of Battle is a list of an Army and its units as a structure of command before a battle. The units are listed in order of seniority. This list can be very useful to find out whether a particular unit was involved in action at a certain time. The listing will provide confirmation as to which division, corps and Army the unit was serving with at that time.

For more information about the Orders of Battle and where to find records of these go to our page at:

Orders of Battle

Trench Maps

Detail from British Army trench map no. 28 N.E.3. (trenches corrected to 24-10-17) showing Fitzclarence Farm in the Ypres Salient.
Detail from a British Army trench map of the Ypres Salient.

A Trench Map is the name given to the maps used in the Theatre of War by the British Armed Forces during the First World War. Within the first few months of the war the British Army was producing maps for the fighting front to show the detail of the enemy trench lines, enemy positions and topographical information about the landscape. Most of the Front Line occupied by the British Army and its Imperial Forces was mapped to the scale of 1:20,000 and 1:10,000.

There are collections of surviving Trench Maps held in military and public archives which can be viewed and studied. Some collections have been reproduced on DVD and some are available to buy as reprints. When trying to follow in the footsteps of a serviceman, finding a Trench Map of the area where a particular unit was in action is a very good way of finding out the exact location down to the nearest few metres or yards, of where he was.

See our page on Trench Maps for detailed information about the maps and places where collections can be viewed:

British Army WW1 Trench Maps

War Diaries

British Army War Diaries were documents written as a daily account of a unit on Active Service or as an Intelligence Report. War Diaries can provide a valuable insight into the activities and locations of a particular unit and can offer information at a level of detail not available in Official Histories or regimental histories.

For more information about War Diaries, what sort of information can be found in them and where to view them, go to our page at:

WW1 British Army War Diaries

Military Publishers & Book Sellers

Specialist books for First World War study.
Specialist books for First World War study.

Publishers and second-hand book sellers specialising in military books.

Military Publishers & Book Sellers

Academic Study

Educational establishments committed to the study of the First World War can be found on our page of organizations at:

Organizations for WW1 Academic Study


A listing of key sources used in the compilation of text on this website.


Military Museums & Archive Collections

Imperial War Museum London houses collecting departments for archive photographs, film, art, books, documents and sound recordings.
Imperial War Museum, London

Some military museums contain unrivalled collections of the histories of military units in the First World War. The larger museums may also hold copies of military unit histories of other national forces. Museums dedicated to a specific part of the services, such as medical services, will likely have well stocked reference libraries focusing on that special subject.

For a listing of military museums specialising in the First World War see our page at:

WW1 Museums & Archives