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Image:  [Embarkation of horses for the Boer War from Australia, 1900] Horses crossing a waterside railway track and walking up a gangway, seen from the shore. Bales of straw strewn about. Classmark: Y308M / 26

The Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) collections hold a number of published, archival and photographic records of military campaigns in Britain's former colonial territories. The majority date from the late 19th century to the mid 20th century.

The collection comprises reports and pamphlets, memoirs and correspondence, scrapbooks and press cuttings, photographs and ephemera.

The descriptions below link to online catalogues where they are available and in some cases to very detailed descriptions of individual files or photographs.


Boer War

These include:

  • RCMS 113/69 Siege of Mafeking. Notes and vouchers issued on the authority of Colonel Baden-Powell during the Siege of Mafeking, exchangeable for coin at the Mafeking Branch of the Standard Bank of South Africa on the resumption of civil law.
  • RCMS 113/99 Jameson Raid. Photocopies of letters concerning different accounts and views of Cecil Rhodes and the Jameson Raid. Much of the correspondence is between F.H. Hamilton and Mr Howell Wright.
  • RCMS 214 Bower papers on Jameson Raid. Correspondence exchanged between Sir Graham John Bower, Imperial Secretary to High Commissioner for South Africa, and Professor A.P. Newton in 1933 regarding the Jameson Raid.
  • RCMS 198 Notes on the Boer War, 1899-1900. T.O. Fraser's manuscript notes and press-cuttings reporting the events of the war, organised chronologically.
  • RCMS 215 Casey papers on Boer War. Passes and letters relating to Mother Agnes Casey's work in South Africa 1897-1902 during the South African War.
  • RCMS 216 Lydenberg and the Boer War. A lecture delivered at Highgate School in 1902 by W.F. Oakeshott discussing the impact of the opening of the gold mines and conditions under the Boer and British control, 1896-1902.


First World War

These include:

  • RCMS 63/1 Diary of military operations in Iraq, 18 Aug. 1917–23 Feb. 1918, by Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert Edmund Crocker, (1877-1962), commander of the Cheshire Regiment in Iraq.
  • RCMS 319 First World War scrapbooks of memorabilia belonging to Captain Arthur O. Temple Clarke, R.A.S.C. The scrapbooks contain letters, press cuttings, sketch maps, printed army documents, including regulations and training instructions, tables of army rations, rough handwritten notes, movement orders, leave passes, sports papers and demobilisation papers. There are also photographs, many of which were taken during Clarke's regular tours of inspection among the frontline troops while he was at Bethune, and which include scenes from the trenches.


Photographic records

These include:

Rare books and pamphlets

Examples include:


For guidance searching for items in the Royal Commonwealth Society collections, please refer first to the RCS web pages, in particular:

For guidance in searching for official publications within the RCS collections, see:

For guidance searching the RCS Card Catalogue for material relating to the First and Second World Wars, see:

  • Card catalogue. Drawers 165-166 in the cabinet nearest the glass wall cover WWI and drawers 167-169 cover WWII.



The Royal Commonwealth Society Library is not actively collecting new archival collections, photographs or manuscripts. However, donations of small collections which complement its existing collections will be considered.

Potential donors should contact the Smuts Librarian with details of their collection including, in the case of photograph collections, approximately how many images, whether or not they are captioned, geographical regions covered, dates, and, where known, the names of photographers or collectors.

Consideration will be given to the size and condition of the collection, as well as its subject content and provenance. If the Library feels unable to accept a collection, advice about alternative repositories will be given.


Contact us

Please address enquiries about RCS holdings to:

RCS Curator
Cambridge University Library
West Road


Telephone: +44(0)1223 333146.

Please note that we are unable to provide valuations.  We recommend you contact a specialist antiquarian bookseller or auction house.