skip to content
 

Early military records

The Manuscripts Department holds a number of early military documents, starting with a collection of fragments relating to military charges for a war in Germany, ca 1300 (MS Add.3303). There are several items from the sixteenth century including a 'Treatise on Military Array and the Right Ordering of An Army', probably written during the reign of Henry VIII (MS Ff.11.10); also a collection of miscellaneous Elizabethan orders for musters and other military papers, 1558-1635; a manuscript copy of 'Alarme to England' by Barnaby Rich, first printed in 1578; and a manuscript by Anthony Lynton on the invention of an incendiary shot, dated 1588.

There are a small number of manuscripts relating to the English Civil War including some transcripts of civil war papers formerly belonging to Colonel Thomas Sanders. Amongst the papers collected by Sir Thomas Blore is an account of Sir Thomas Gell's motives for taking up arms and his raising of a regiment of foot, 1642-3, MS Add.3879. Other seventeenth century records include an order book of the Board of Ordnance, 1636-9 (MS Mm.2.2), Norfolk militia papers and commissions in the Buxton family papers (see bound catalogue), and instructions to the Norfolk commissioners for general muster (MS Mm.5.7).

The Department holds some military papers for the eighteenth century including the letter book of John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll, whilst Commander in Chief of British forces in Spain, 1711-12, during the War of the Spanish Succession. The archive of Sir Robert Walpole (Cholmondeley [Houghton] MSS) contains extensive army papers for the early eighteenth century including lists of officers, troop estimates, accounts, expenses and muster rolls. The Department holds returns of forces at home and abroad for 1760 and for October 1782. There are also some Cambridgeshire and Norfolk militia records (MS Add. 5944/19, Buxton Papers). MS Add. 10014 is a German-language military manual from the eighteenth century.

The Department holds a collection of correspondence, papers and transcripts, including military material, originally collected and donated by C.E.Wurtzburg, of Sir Stamford Raffles and others relating to Java and the Far East, dating from the eighteenth century (MS Add. 7353-7405).

The nineteenth century

There are several groups of papers relating to the Napoleonic Wars including regimental orders written at Windsor by Colonel Sir William Lee, 1798-9. The Department has the travel journal of a tour of France by an English officer during the short-lived Peace of Amiens, 1802. There is also the letter book of General Sir John Moore, covering the period 1803-5, which deals with matters of home defence, army discipline and reorganisation. The Department also holds copies of letters received by Lt General Sir P. K. Roche, 1808-17, which relate mainly to the Peninsular War (MS Add.7521). In addition there is the letter book of Major Charles Stewart, with the 53rd regiment stationed in the West Indies, 1801-02. Printed and manuscript items in the Library's holdings feature in its online exhibition A damned serious business: Waterloo 1815, the battle and its books, and there is a related Waterloo collection in the Cambridge Digital Library.

The Department has acquired some important papers relating to the Crimean War, principally two sets of papers of Alexander William Kinglake, MSS Add.7633 and 9554, comprising notebooks, correspondence and papers relating to his eight-volume history of the war published between 1863 and 1887. The Kinglake papers also contain a collection of letters written by W. G. Romaine, Judge Advocate General to the Army in the East, from the Crimea between 1854 and 1856. The Department holds the Crimean War letters of Captain Christopher Blackett, of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 1854-6, described by Kathleen Cann in the Bulletin of the Friends of Cambridge University Library, 22 (2001), pp.15-17.

There is a collection of military correspondence of the Duke of Cambridge, Commander in Chief of the British Army, covering the period 1847-1902. This comprises 59 letters from soldiers, statesman and colonial governors and 27 letters to Sir Richard Airey. Topics covered include the Crimea, the relief of Khartoum, and Kandahar (Add.8782). The Department has letters and papers of George Percy Badger, relating chiefly to Egypt and covering the period 1861-3, including plans of various forts.

There is a small number of papers relating to the Boer War, comprising the letters home of Lewis Jarvis, serving with the Cape Mounted Rifles, 1897-1905, and Captain John Challenor, Royal Lancashire Regiment, 1900-02. The Boer War diaries of Bandsman J. E. Emmett, 1899-1900 and 1902, are held as MS Add. 9947. The Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) Collection contains a number of papers relating to the Boer War, including notes on the siege of Mafeking; papers on the Jameson Raid (RCMS 113/99, 214); and notes and documents on the Boer War (RCMS 113/198, 215, 216).

India, Central Asia and the Indian Ocean

Over the years the Manuscripts Department has built up an interesting collection of military papers relating to India under British rule, beginning with two journals of expeditions in West Bengal by Lt John Fergusson in 1769. The Department also holds papers of Lt Colonel Thomas Fiott De Havilland, Chief Engineer with the Madras Presidency, including his journal of the Ceylon Expedition of 1796 and correspondence and papers relating to his career 1800-50. The Department also holds the journal of a recruiting tour of the Carnatic by Lt. William Gibb of the 14th Madras Light Infantry, 1838-9.

There is a collection of sketches and maps of hill forts by members of the Bombay Engineers, 1826, and twentieth-century copies of the Bengal army diaries of Captain T. O. Travers, 1813-43 (MSS Add.7395-7400). The Stewart family papers include the recollections of Surgeon General Ludovick Charles Stewart of the Second Sikh War, 1848-9. The Department also holds papers of Richard Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo, whilst Governor General of India, 1866-72. These include military papers concerning army expenditure and reorganisation, and frontier security. Also of note are papers of Field Marshal Sir George Pollock regarding the Afghan Campaign of 1842-3. The Department has letters of Captain James E. Simmons to his mother from Mauritius, 1847-55.

China and the Far East

The Department holds a collection of papers relating to the Anglo-Chinese or Opium Wars including the journal of Sir Thomas Pratt, 1840-1, covering his period as commander of the land forces during the 1841 expedition; also Lt William Gibb's journal of the expeditionary force to the Yangtse River, 1842-4. In addition the Department holds the journal of William Almack, China Tea Merchant, covering the First Opium War, 1837-41. Amongst the papers of the consul and diplomat, Sir Harry Parkes, are military dispatches and correspondence relating to operations around Canton, covering the second Opium War, 1857-9. There is also some late nineteenth-century Chinese material: correspondence between Sir Thomas Wade and Sir Henry Gordon regarding General Gordon's visit to China in 1880.

The twentieth century

The Department has acquired the papers of Francis Battersby, writer and war correspondent, which contain letters dealing with army reform, ca 1904-11; these are described by Jonathan Spain in 'The Battersby Papers', Bulletin of the Friends of Cambridge University Library 22 (2001), pp.18-22. There is a small collection of letters home from Lieutenant, later Major Bertram Romilly, Commander of the Egyptian Camel Corps, written between 1912-14, which relate to action taken against various tribes in the Sudan; see Bulletin of the Friends of Cambridge University Library 24 (2003) pp.8-9.

The First World War

The Department holds several collections of letters home from officers and men serving on the Western Front during the period 1914-18. These include the war diaries and letters of Colonel E.D. Ridley (MSS Add.7065-70); letters from servicemen to Mrs Prime of Cambridge (MS Add.7660); the correspondence of E.J. Dent, Professor of Music at Cambridge University, with graduates serving in France; letters home from Colonel Bertram Romilly, serving in France with the Scots Guards in 1915; and correspondence of Lt F.B. Turner, Royal Garrison Artillery, from Flanders to his father in India, 1918-19. The J.R. Monsell papers include First World War letters, sketchbooks and notebooks, relating to his service in France,1914-19. The papers of Hermann Braunholtz include a war diary kept by Braunholtz in France and England, 1918-19, and wartime correspondence. Also of note are English translations by Lt Colonel D.C. Phillott, Chief Censor, India Base, Port Said, of letters sent home by Indian troops serving in Palestine, 1918. The Royal Commonwealth Society Collection contains the diary of Lt Col Herbert Crocker while commander of the Cheshire Regiment in Iraq, 1917-18. The RCS collection also includes two scrapbooks of First World War Memorabilia belonging to Captain Arthur O. Temple Clarke, R.A.S.C. The papers of the poet Siegfried Sassoon contain the journals he kept as an infantry officer in France and Palestine, 1915-1918, and the Egremont Sassoon papers include letters written by Sassoon while on service; the journals can be viewed in the Sassoon Journals collection of the Cambridge Digital Library. MS Add. 10082 are papers of the Fairbank family relating to military service, much of it during the First World War: these are featured in the Fairbank Papers collection in the Cambridge Digital Library. MS Add. 10156 is a scrapbook of cuttings and letters commemorating Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895–1915), compiled by his parents William Ritchie Sorley (1855–1935) and Janetta Colquhoun Sorley.

The papers of the 1st Marquess of Crewe contain ministerial and cabinet papers relating to the First World War, including correspondence and papers on the Indian Expeditionary Force (Iraq) 1914-15 and the Volunteer Training Corps, 1915-8. The papers of Viscount Templewood, Sir Samuel Hoare, contain material on British military intelligence concerning Russia, Italy and the Balkans during the First World War and the early 1920s. The papers of the writer William Gerhardie include correspondence with his family while on military service with the British Army in Russia, 1917-20.

The Interwar period

The Department has papers of Captain O.B. Wallis, first battalion, Herefordshire Regiment, relating to his service in Ireland, 1919-20 (MS Add.8856/260-290). The papers of Stanley Baldwin contain defence papers for the inter-war period, including records of disarmament negotiations.

The Second World War

The Department has a diverse range of papers relating to the Second World War. The Templewood papers, noted above, contain his papers as British Ambassador to Spain, 1940-44. Also of interest are the correspondence and papers of the Cambridge lecturer, Helen Grant relating to her work on war-time Spain at the Foreign Research and Press Office, Balliol College, Oxford (later the Foreign Office Research Department). The papers of Stefan Heym, the Jewish literary exile from Germany, include material relating to his work in psychological warfare for the US army in Europe, with the 2nd Mobile Broadcasting Company, 1943-5. The papers of the writer and academic David Holbrook, MS Add. 9987, include material relating to his service as a tank commander in Operation Overlord in 1944, and the novel Flesh wounds which was based on that experience.

The Department holds the correspondence, diaries and papers of Professor J.D. Bernal concerning his war work with the Civil Defence Research Committee, Bomber Command and as Scientific Adviser to Lord Mountbatten, Head of Combined Operations, covering the period 1941-8; also the correspondence and papers of A. N. L. Munby, while a prisoner of war in Germany, 1940-45. The papers of Sir Herbert Butterfield contain correspondence and papers relating to a conference of Allied historians in 1942 on the preservation and accessibility of World War II records.

The Department has the papers of Captain T.E.M. McKitterick, SOE Cretan Section, 1942-5; also Lady Isabel Marian Schonland's papers relating to the history of South African involvement in the Second World War. Finally, a typescript paper by D. B. Welbourn, 'Resistance to Hitler: some individual cases'.

Jonathan Spain 2003, revised John Wells 2017