Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia), Records

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection contains records relating to the activities and operations of the Regiment, and to the officers and men who served in it, from 1786 to 2004. There are gaps in all the series - partly this is a reflection of the nature and history of the Regiment, which has at some periods been inactive, while at others has had a far more active existence, being embodied for military service or for regular training. However, some of the gaps in the series result from the lack of survival of records.

The activities of the Regiment are recorded in order books, adjutants’ letter books, records of training, and records relating to operations in the First and Second World Wars, as well as records of parades and special events. A small number of papers relate to the organisation of the Regiment in the twentieth century, and to some of its reformations. A ‘Record of Service’, annual reports and newsletters provide summaries of the activities of the Regiment at various dates.

Records relating to the members of the Regiment include records of officers’ service, registers of enlistments, regimental rolls, a hospital admission book, and a register of dependant families, as well as returns on the strength of the Regiment made to the War Office and pay lists.

Also included in the Archive are the records of the War Memorial Committee, the Prisoners of War Committee, the Welfare Fund. Although these are not strictly Regimental, being set up as independent bodies, all had very close links to the Regiment. The records of the Regimental Dining Club are also included for the same reason.

The material in the collection is wide-ranging, and will be of interest not only to military historians, but also family historians, local historians, social historians, and those who are studying the history of medicine.

Administrative / Biographical History

The history of the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia) can be traced back to the sixteenth century. Its title has changed on several occasions, and its role has varied over time, but throughout its long history one feature has remained constant: the regiment has never been part of the regular army, but has always been a reserve force. Composed of men who had ordinary occupations, and who were brought together for military training at intervals, the Regiment was called on at times of need. At such times, it was ‘embodied’, and its members became full-time soldiers for as long as was required.

The origins of the Regiment lie in a muster roll of 1539, which lists all those in the county of Monmouthshire eligible for military service in the county militia. At this period, each parish had to provide a quota of men and equipment for the militia, which was intended to provide a local defence force. The system had shortcomings, but continued in existence - albeit with some changes and periods of inactivity - until the mid eighteenth century.

In 1757, the Militia Act brought substantial changes, creating a far more professional force. County regiments, Monmouthshire included, were smaller and better trained than the militia had been in the past. Rather than all men being expected to serve, a number were selected by ballot to serve for three years – although it was possible for those who were selected to avoid service by paying for a substitute. Officers were appointed by the Lord Lieutenant of the county, and were from the higher social classes. Most importantly, the regiments were ‘embodied’ (assembled) from time to time for training.

The militia could only be deployed at home, but provided an important contribution to the maintenance of civil order and to home defence. The Monmouthshire militia was embodied four times between 1760 and 1816. The most significant of these periods of service was during the wars against France from 1793 to 1816, when the Regiment carried out defence duties on the south coast of England, as well as serving in Bristol and the west country, and in Ireland. At the start of this period of active service, the Brecon Militia (which was only of company strength) was incorporated into the Regiment, under the new title Monmouth and Brecon Militia. The name was changed to the Royal Monmouth and Brecon Militia in 1804. In 1820, the militias were separated into two regiments again, with the Monmouthshire Regiment being named the Royal Monmouthshire Militia.

From 1816 until the 1850s, the Regiment, in common with other county militias, was for the most part inactive. In 1852, however, another Militia Act revived the militias. The Act abandoned the principle of conscription, which had fallen into disuse, in favour of voluntary recruitment. The Monmouthshire Militia was revived with the name the Royal Monmouthshire Light Infantry. The Regiment was embodied in 1854, at the time of the Crimean War, but only for home defence duties. It was posted to Pembroke Dock from January 1855 to July 1856.

In 1877 came a major change to the regiment: it was converted from an infantry regiment to a corps of engineers, with the new name the Royal Monmouthshire Engineers (Militia). The new role demanded different and more intensive training, as members of the regiment acquired the specialised engineering skills required of them. Supervision of the training came from the (regular army) Royal Engineers, based in Chatham, and it was partly in order to identify the Regiment more closely with the Royal Engineers that the name was changed again, in 1896, to the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia). This has remained the name of the Regiment since then.

During the Second Boer War (1899-1902), a number of members of the Regiment volunteered for service overseas. Three companies and a section, composed of these volunteers, went out to South Africa between 1900 and 1903, serving a year or more each. The rest of the Regiment was embodied for a short period (May – October 1900) for service in the UK, replacing regular engineer units which had been sent to South Africa.

A major reorganisation of the reserve forces in 1908 led to the end of most of the militia regiments. The Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia), however, survived the changes to become a unit of the newly-created Special Reserve. As such, the Regiment was available for service overseas should it be needed, and it was mobilised in August 1914 on the outbreak of the First World War. At this point, the Regiment consisted of three companies; in November 1914, all three were sent to France and Flanders where they served in various locations until the end of the war. Between September 1914 and January 1917 five further companies were formed from new volunteers. Four of these were sent to France, but one (No 5 (Siege) Company) was sent to Gallipoli and Egypt. All eight companies were disbanded during 1919, and the Regiment reduced to a cadre of fifteen men.

In 1926, the Regiment was re-formed, as part of the newly-created Supplementary Reserve. This was a reserve force composed of specialist troops, available for service overseas as well as at home. Recruitment to the Regiment went well, a number of former officers returned, and as well as regular training, annual camps were held most years from 1926 to 1939.

On the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the Regiment was mobilised, and its two companies were sent to France as part of the the British Expeditionary Force. Most of the members of 101 Company returned from France via Dunkirk in May 1940, but most of 100 Company were taken prisoner and spent the next five years in prisoner of war camps. 100 Company and the remnants of 101 Company regrouped, and in June 1944 returned to France as part of VIII Corps Royal Engineers.They played an active role in the invasion of Europe, being especially skilled in the construction of long Bailey Bridges over major rivers and canals.

By the end of the war, the companies had effectively become absorbed into the regular Royal Engineers, but the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia) was re-established in 1948, again as a Supplementary Reserve regiment.

The Supplementary Reserve was abolished in 1953, and the Regiment became part of the Territorial Army. In 1967, a major reorganisation of the Territorial Army threatened the existence of the Regiment as a distinct entity. However, it not only survived, but increased in size as squadrons from other engineer regiments in south Wales, the west Midlands, and Bristol which had been disbanded were added to it.

The Regiment has retained its close links with Monmouth, and in particular with Great Castle House, next to the ruins of the castle. Although Great Castle House was built by the Duke of Beaufort in 1672, he used it little, and throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it was used for a variety of purposes. The association of the Regiment with the building began in 1853, when it was leased to the Clerk of Peace for Monmouthshire as a barracks for the militia. Substantial wings were added to each side of the building in the 1860s, and in 1901 the War Department bought the freehold of the house, as well as of the adjacent Little Castle House and the castle ruins. For a short period after the First World war, the building was unoccupied, and during the 1920s and 1930s it was shared with the Monmouth Territorial Army Association. Since 1945, Great Castle House has been in the sole occupation of the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia), serving as its headquarters.

More information on the history of the Regiment can be found at http://www.monmouthcastlemuseum.org.uk/

Arrangement

Arranged into series according to the original order of the records where possible. A number of artificial, subject-based series have been created where it was impossible to establish the original order.

Conditions Governing Access

Most of the collection is open access. A small number of items are closed; this is noted on the item-level description.

Acquisition Information

The records come from several sources:

  • The records which were in Great Castle House were donated by the Regiment to the Regimental Museum in 1978.
  • The records which had been given by A A M Lumsdaine to Gwent Record Office were returned to the museum in 2008, and have been re-united with the archive.
  • Records which were given to the Royal Engineers Museum and Library at Chatham were returned to the museum in 2009, and have been re-united with the archive.
  • The records which had been given by A A M Lumsdaine to the National Army Museum were returned in 2011, and have been re-united with the archive.
  • Some of the records given to the museum by the family of the late Colonel Howard Everett have been added to the archive.
  • Colonel A J Carter gave to the museum records relating to his time as Commanding Officer 1975-1977.

Other Finding Aids

Item-level catalogue available.

Alternative Form Available

None known.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Volumes, booklets, folders, papers, plans, posters, newscuttings

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Rosemary Boyns, Consultant Archivist, in accordance with ISAD(G), and with reference to Graham Watson, Militiamen and Sappers. A History of the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia) (Monmouth, 1996) and to research on Great Castle House by Colonel A.F. George. Description completed January 2008, as part of a project funded by the Welsh Assembly Government under the Museum Challenge Grant Scheme.

Description extensively revised, with the addition of more material, by Rosemary Boyns, Jan-March 2009. The work was part-funded by the Welsh Assembly Government under the Museum Small Grants Scheme and by the Army Museums Ogilby Trust.

Description further revised by Rosemary Boyns March 2011, following the return of items from the National Army Museum and June-July 2011 to include additional material from within the museum.

Conditions Governing Use

Documents may usually be copied, but permission should first be obtained from the museum trustees or honorary curator.

Appraisal Information

All records have been retained.

The records from Great Castle House which had been transferred into the care of the museum were given numbers as part of the accessioning procedures of the museum. However, these numbers did not reflect the relationships between the records, and they have all been renumbered to reflect the arrangement of the archive. The former reference numbers have been noted on the current catalogue.

The loose papers which had been collected and assembled into files by A A M Lumsdaine presented problems. It was impossible in most cases to re-establish the original order, so the re-assembled order has for the most part been retained, as have many of the notes attached by Lumsdaine. Obvious later and irrelevant additions have however been removed.

Custodial History

The Regimental Archive includes material from three sources: the records held in Great Castle House, as the working records of the Regiment; records dispersed from Great Castle House, but subsequently returned; and the records of individual Commanding Officers.

1. Records kept in Great Castle House

Great Castle House has been the Headquarters of the Regiment continuously since the mid nineteenth century, and the records of the Regiment accumulated here. Inevitably, some destruction and loss occurred over the years, and survival is patchy, with more surviving for some periods and some types of records than for others. As well as more ‘natural’ losses, however, the records also seem to have suffered particularly at the hands of two researchers. The first loss took place in the early twentieth century, when some records of the Regiment seem to have been lent to Sir J A Bradney, the eminent Monmouthshire historian. These records seem subsequently to have been deposited in the National Library of Wales rather than being returned to the Regiment. The second occurred between 1955 and 1980, when A A M Lumsdaine, who was employed for a while as a civilian at Great Castle House, took a great interest in the history of the Regiment and in its records. He probably saved some records from destruction, and he carried out a great deal of research; however, in doing so he frequently destroyed the original order of the records, removing papers from files, constructing new files from disparate papers and adding in his own notes, and sometimes writing comments on the original records. In addition, without authorisation, and without the knowledge of the Regiment, he gave away a number of items from the Regimental records to at least six other repositories.

When the Castle and Regimental Museum was set up in the late 1970s, all the remaining records were taken into the care of the Museum, and a working list of the records was drawn up.

2. Dispersed records subsequently returned

All the material which Lumsdaine had deposited in the Gwent Record Office, the Royal Engineers Museum and Library in Chatham, and the National Army Museum was returned to the Museum, to re-join the Archive.

3. Records of Individual Commanding Officers

The records of individual commanding officers relating to the activities of the Regiment are sometimes regarded as their personal records, rather than Regimental records, and have often been retained by the officers. (Hence, Regimental Order Books for the late eighteenth century can be found among the Beaufort family records at Badminton, because the 5th Duke of Beaufort was Colonel of the Regiment during this period.) However, records originally kept by two twentieth century Commanding Officers have been returned to the Regimental Archive:

  • Colonel Howard Everett, who joined the Regiment as an officer in 1930 and was Commanding Officer 1948-1952, used records of the Regiment which he himself held when he wrote, jointly with Gavin Low, The Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers Militia 1908-1967 (published 1969). These records were kept together with drafts and notes for the book, which were later given to the museum. The records have been extracted from the notes and drafts, and placed in the Regimental Archive.
  • Colonel A J Carter donated records relating to his time as Commanding Officer, 1975-1977

Accruals

Accruals may be possible.

Related Material

There are a large number of related records in a number of repositories. Some of these are separated items – records which originally formed part of series in the Regimental archive, but which at some stage became separated from the rest of the archive. These are noted at the appropriate place in the detailed list of the records, as well as being listed below. However, most of the related records are records concerning the Regiment and its predecessor, the Militia, which were created by other organisations or individuals – for example the War Office, or the Beaufort family of Badminton, who were closely associated with the Monmouthshire militia in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. A detailed list of both separated and related records, with full document references, is held at the Castle and Regimental Museum and can also be found at http://www.monmouthcastlemuseum-archives.org.uk . The most significant of the records are listed in outline below:

The National Archives holds muster rolls for Monmouthshire,1539 (E36/26 and E36/42), 1601-1602 (E101/66/3) and 1639 (SP16/419). It holds militia rolls and pay lists for the Monmouthshire Militia, 1798-1886 (WO13/1510-1535, WO13/2533, WO68/507); and Militia Attestation Papers, c.1879-c.1915 (WO96/1297-1307). Records relating to the Regiment can be found in Home Office militia correspondence (series HO50) and War Office Files and papers, 1859-1960 (series WO32 and WO33). A number of First World War diaries for the Regiment are in series WO95, while one Second World War Regimental diary can be found in CAB106/256. Records of officers commissioned into the Royal Engineers Special Reserve are in WO25/3920; and records of many members of the Regiment who became Chelsea Pensioners are in series WO97. Plans of Great Castle House, 1888, are also held (MPHH 1/178).

The National Library of Wales holds muster rolls for 1601 (Bute G3), 1683 (Tredegar 59/7), 1759 (Tredegar 113/17-16) and 1766 (Tredegar 113/19-23). It also holds a number of items which fill gaps in the series held by the Regimental Museum: monthly returns to the War Office, 1760-1764 (Tredegar 113/29 and 113/44/61), weekly returns 1804-1810 (MSS 2689E); Adjutants’ monthly muster rolls books, 1803-1815 (MSS 4833E); Regimental order books, 1765 (Tredegar 113/82) and 1804-1805 (MSS 1240B). A number of commissions for officers in the Regiment are to be found in the Tredegar papers, and two, for 1680 and 1681 in the Milborne papers (Milborne 257 and 546). The Tredegar papers also include papers concerning the embodiment of the Regiment in 1715 and 1759-1762, and some miscellaneous correspondence. In addition, there are some references to the militia in correspondence 1679-1690 in the Kemeys-Tynte papers (Kemeys-Tynte C25, C59, C134, C152, C174).

Gwent Record Office holds a large amount of very significant related material, particularly in the records of the Monmouthshire Quarter Sessions and Lieutenancy, although there is also some important material in deposited collections. The Lord Lieutenant’s Correspondence relating to militia and volunteers (LL.C.M.V.), Militia Lists (LL.M.L), and Miscellaneous papers (LL.Misc.P.) all contain a wealth of information about the militia. Quarter Sessions Miscellaneous papers (Q.Misc.P.) and County Buildings Committee (C.Bu.) hold much material relating to Great Castle House. Of particular note are an enlistment register for 1852-1853 (Q.Misc.B.0004), and Militia lists for 1826 (LL.M.L.0002 and LL.M.L.0003). Private and miscellaneous deposits include a letter book of Richard Herbert, Deputy Lieutenant of the County in the mid seventeenth century, which contains a list of officers and numbers of militiamen for 1637 (Misc.Mss. 648) and other material relating to the militia; Militia lists for 1831 (E&E00388).

The Badminton Muniments (some held at Badminton House and some at the Gloucestershire Record Office) include Regimental Order Books, 1778-1802 (FmL2/2/4) and letter books 1793-1801 (FmL2/2/5), as well as a small number of miscellaneous papers and accounts.

The Imperial War Museum holds the research notes and collected papers of 'Major A De Lumsdaine' [A A M Lumsdaine] (reference AD), which include recollections and extracts of the diaries of various members of the Regiment who served during the First and Second World Wars. It also holds sound recordings of the reminiscences of several members of the Regiment of their experiences during the First and Second World Wars.

The Royal commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales holds drawings and files concerning Great Castle House.

Location of Originals

Almost all items are originals.

Bibliography

The records were used extensively in research for the following books:

  • Sargeaunt, B E The Royal Monmouthshire Militia, 1910
  • Low, G and Everett, H M The Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia) 1908-1967 (1969)
  • Kissack, Keith Life in the Militia
  • Watson, Graham Militiamen and Sappers. A History of the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers (Militia) (1996)

Geographical Names