I have often wondered if there is a need for "a comprehensive online index to the Great War", covering Who, When and Where.
It would be a vast project, but by being online the work can be shared out and can incorporate or reference existing work.
- When: The Great War can be divided into phases (see LLT), each phase could then have a Google Map overlay showing say the Divisions involved. Any heirarchy (of subphases > actions > Skirmishes) is possibly controversial - but might be developed further
- Where: Some form of set of overlays could show the movement of the front-line during each phase and the site of major actions. Again there is a heirarchy (that gets messier as you drop throug it): Front > Sector > ??.
- Who: LLT gives a useful Order of Battle for British Units. There is an established heirarchy here (e.g. for Infantry) Corps > Division > Brigade > Battalion > Individual
I envisage some sort of tool being developed which can allow people to access (via very carefully focused search?) the major online resources and (separately) a less fussy search which pulls up things like GWF posts relevant to the original search. They key is to be able to access it via any of the above dimensions. Thus typical questions:
Where can I find out more?
- My Great Grandfather was in the 1/4th Loamshires
- My Great Uncle died in March 1918
- My Grandfather fought at Oppy Wood
Either (old style) we look for someone to create some commerical online tool which is very rigid, or (better - more realistic) we look to see what can be done with existing online tools (forums, wikis, blogs, flickr, google maps etc.) So:
- My Great Grandfather was in the 1/4th Loamshires - access via a comprehensive Order of Battle (Wiki based?)
- My Great Uncle died in March 1918 - access via a comprehensive timeline (Calendar based?)
- My Grandfather fought at Oppy Wood - access via a comprensive gazetteer (Wiki or possibly directly via Google Maps and the LH side panel)
All three access methods (dimensions?) would need comprehensive cross-referencing. In effect we would be defining a huge number of information points (each one on a blog post or wiki entry) each point being defined by the questions who, when, where, drawn off the above three heirarchies (ORBAT, Timeline, Gazetteer). These information points then lie in their own hierachy. I suspect this is best done manually rather than relying on some so-called intelligent piece of software! So for instance:
- Mega Point (BEF, Spring 1918, Western Front), has subpoints such as:
- Major Point (2nd ? Army & ??, Battle of The Lys (March- April 1918), South Ypres Sector?), and so on
- ..., to
- Minor Point (148th Brigade, 26 April, 1918, Vierstraat)
How far each of these heirarchies (which at the lower levels could be quite fluid) is developed depends on the interests of contributors and available information.
I suspect that this would be a difficult exercise and probably take us beyond 2018 (might even be the cause of WW3 - at least online)! I am not at all sure how it could be done but the starting point to me would seem to be trying to develop (or more likely find/adapt) the three main heirarchies (ORBAT, Timeline, Gazetteer) and bringing them into some form of public domain tool.