Robin Ridgway Papers

Scope and Content

Papers of Robin Ridgway relating to his war service between 1939-1944. The archive comprises letters primarily from Ridgway to his mother, with a smaller number to his brother, Harry (Henry R Ridgway); there are also a few letters from his mother to Ridgway.

Ridgway appears to have retained these letters after his mother's death. In the early 1960s, he compiled typed copies of the letters, and annotated several letters with additional information.

Ridgway wrote regularly to his mother during his active service; during quieter periods, he would wrote roughly every week, but less frequently during other periods. He wrote less frequently to his brother Harry, who it appears was also a officer based in the UK, but such is the discretion of the correspondence that it is not entirely clear of the post his brother held.

Ridgway's letters are mostly routine accounts of his everyday life and the people he encountered in Britain and India. As a staff officer working in intelligence, Ridgway would have been more than usually aware of wartime censorship requirements, and his letters reveal little in hard military information, or his personal views on the war and of the senior officers and politicians he encountered (there are a few examples where Ridgway gave letters to friends returning from India to give directly to his mother, where the content was considered more sensitive). Generally,however, Ridgway avoided commenting on the progress of the war, and at least with his mother, is sanguine about the British position.

Ridgway was also acquainted with senior political and military figures in India including Viceroy Linlithgow, as well as Generals Wavell and Auchinleck. At various points, he meets Lord Louis Mountbatten,Stafford Cripps, and General Bernard Montgomery, and offers oblique comments on their personalities. Ridgway is consistently guarded in his comments about these individuals, almost to the point of platitude, and we learn little about the political atmosphere in Delhi during a period of considerable political turmoil and military uncertainty in 1942-3. The exception is Auchinleck (and his wife) about whom he is consistently positive.

For the most part, Ridgway confines himself to fairly anodyne comments about his work and his social activities in Delhi and Simla, although it is also clear he travelled frequently around the subcontinent. Ridgway spends much time in referring to former friends, colleagues and acquaintances he has met or heard from during the war. He showed particular interest in former colleagues and pupils of Winchester College, where he taught in the 1930s. and with many of whom he retained close contacts.

Ridgway continued to write to his mother, until her sudden death in mid-November 1943.

Administrative / Biographical History

(William) Robin (Palmer) Ridgway was born in 1900, the son of William John Parrick Ridgway and Katherine née Palmer. He attended a preparatory school run by his father in Egbaston, Birmingham, followed by Bradfield College, before reading modern languages at Clare College, Cambridge. After graduation, he was a schoolmaster at Oundle College from 1922 to 1926. In 1926, he moved to Winchester College to teach languages [teaching masters at Winchester are traditionally called dons] and he stayed there, apart from war service, until 1953. Ridgway played a particularly important, and successful, role in building up the school's modern language department.

Ridgway had joined the Territorial Force in the 1920s, and was involved with translation work. In 1939, shortly before the outbreak of war, he was made First Class Military Interpreter in French. With the outbreak of War in 1939, Ridgway was called up at an early stage, attending staff college at Minley Manor, Hampshire, before joining the War Office as a staff officer. After this, he held various staff posts in southern England in 1940-1, and participated in the brief Norway campaign in the summer of 1940. Ridgway became acquainted with General Claude Auchinleck, who commanded the IV Corps and then V Corps of the British Army. Auchinleck also commanded the Army expeditionary force to Norway, and after this, was promoted to GOC, Southern Command, responsible for the meeting any potential German invasion in the late summer of 1940.

Auchinleck obviously thought highly of Ridgway as he invited him to take up a staff appointment in India after Auchinleck was appointed commander-in-chief of the Indian Army in 1941. Ridgway sailed for India but by the time he arrived there, Auchinleck had moved on to become commander-in-chief , Middle East, taking command of the North African campaign. Although Ridgway visited Egypt during this period, he did not participate directly in this campaign.

In India, Ridgway worked at the GHQ of the Indian Army in New Delhi, under General Archibald Wavell, who had swapped posts with Auchinleck and later became Viceroy of India. For at least part of the time, Ridgway appears to have worked for Walter Cawthorn, the Director of Military Intelligence in India, and although Ridgway reveals little about his work, it is likely most of his time was spent in intelligence.

In August 1943, Ridgway was appointed secretary to Auchinleck when the latter once again became commander-in-chief of the Indian Army (a post he held until 1946). He then returned to Winchester, having married in early 1946, Anne Amadea Collins (1914-2002), the daughter of Maj-Gen R J Collins. After leaving Winchester in 1953, Ridgway moved to Lewes and worked for East Sussex Education Authority. He died on 10 October 1962.


Arranged chronologically. The original letters are combined with notes and annotations added by Ridgway in the early 1960s.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Donated to the Library by Mrs Anne Ridgway in the 1970s.

Archivist's Note

I am grateful to Suzanne Foster, Winchester College Archivist, who has provided information and copies of documents about Ridgway, including a useful obituary of Ridgway in The Wykehamist 7 November 1962.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.


None expected

Related Material

The Library has custody of some of the military papers of Claude Auchinleck (AUC). These include papers from his time as commander -in-chief of the Indian Army, but do not include correspondence with Ridgway.

Geographical Names