The announcement is part of the government’s World War One centenary programme and has been hailed as an “unprecedented opportunity” for members of the public to make new discoveries about life at war.
Stephen Crabb has called for local people to make the most of this vast new historical resource, which will allow school children and adults alike to try their hands at being “citizen historians”.
The online archive hosts a collection of official and private diaries and provides a fascinating and detailed account into the “everyday” life of trench warfare. Around 300,000 pages have so far been uploaded to the National Archive website with a total of 1.5 million pages due to go live by the project’s completion.
Centenary celebrations have already begun across the UK, where Pembrokeshire became one of the first counties in Wales to start remembrance through the Neyland Armistice project, run by local veteran Barry John MBE.
In September, Stephen and Barry visited the Somme battlefields to commemorate the area where thousands of Welsh soldiers fell almost a hundred years ago. They attended a ceremony at the Town Hall of Albert where they were presented with soil for Pembrokeshire’s armistice sculpture, due to be unveiled later this year. The sculpture is just one of a number of commemorative tributes that will take place across the county in the run up to Armistice Day on November 11 2014.
Speaking from Westminster, Stephen said: “I am delighted that this rich resource of personal history has been put online so that people anywhere in the UK can uncover the many untold stories of WW1.
“It was a great privilege to visit the Somme last year where so many Pembrokeshire soldiers lost their lives and these diaries provide a humbling insight into the everyday lives of men like them.
“This is a fantastic resource for anyone interested to know more about what it was like to serve in the trenches and is particularly useful for local schools looking for ways to commemorate 100 years since the beginning of the First World War.”
If you would like to view the diaries online, please log-on to the National Archives Website via http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/war-diaries-ww1.htm