Creating structured data about WWI military units

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Another huge task!

The problem

It's currently surprisingly difficult to answer the question 'where was this specific unit at this time?'. Experienced military historians may know the answer off-hand, and will certainly know where to look to find out, but how do novice researchers figure it out?

And to make things harder, each country's military hierarchy is different. Some armies, like the British, have long histories that are reflected in the complex structures and names of their military units. Each country responded to the need to rapidly expand their armies in slightly different ways. Some countries no longer exist in the same form - the Australian and New Zealand armies fought together at first; Irish soldiers fought for the United Kingdom and the 'Indian' army covers many contemporary Asian countries.

The solution

Structured data!

Data structures to describe battalions

When you start a new page, headings and tips are preloaded to help ensure that each page is consistent and to provide prompts to help get over the 'where do I start' feeling when creating a new page.

The current version is Template:Battalion (the actual template structure is best seen in edit view.

Data structures to describe military hierarchies around units like battalions

Currently using MediaWiki 'infoboxes', in part because more formal 'linked data' methods meant introducing another platform (introducing further delay as it was installed and configured). Many people already know how (or are willing to learn) to edit wiki pages, and the infoboxes could be included in the battalion template.

This is ongoing. See discussion on Template:Infobox command structure and Template:Infobox military unit

Populate military hierarchy data

Generally the data is contained in published 'Order of Battle' books. One issue is sampling and keeping track of progress.

The process

How you can help

Having limited time, initial data structures were proposed quite quickly and iteratively updated to deal with relevant data about different armies.

An overview of the process can be seen by reviewing template and template talk pages or contact Mia for more information.

You can help by:

  • reviewing the current pages in light of data you've recorded about battalions in the past. If everything looks ok to you, leave a comment saying so! Or...
  • suggest updates or request clarification on existing data structures