Bertram Romilly: Letters from Sudan and France

Scope and Content

Seventeen letters and one report, written by Bertram Romilly unless otherwise indicated.

1. Letter to S.H. Romilly, father, from El Obeid, 15 April 1912: comments on the popularity of Lord Kitchener amongst Egyptian officers; reports on fighting in two parts of the Sudan, including a punitive expedition against the Anuak tribe; local prosperity at El Obeid caused by the arrival of the railway has led to recruitment problems for the Camel Corps; expects to get command.

2. Letter to S.H. Romilly, 14 May 1912: expresses worry about Camel Corps affairs; the region is in midst of a grain famine; has received notice of the award of a fourth class Osmanieh from the Khedive of Egypt; criticism of the new savings bank scheme, introduced by Kitchener for the Fellaheen, on the grounds of its compulsory nature.

3. Letter to S.H. Romilly, 25 July 1913: comments on news of staffing problems at the family home; now in command of his unit; has granted leave to a returning patrol, and is planning a new patrol into the desert lasting from August until the following February; outlines a new method of patrolling he has introduced.

4. Letter to S.H. Romilly from Dilling, near the Nuba Mountains, 28 February 1914:reports his arrival in command of a small force; rough sketch of plan of campaign; further details of his military plans; intending to take extended leave after this patrol is over and then two months pending discharge between October and December.

5. Letter to S.H. Romilly, from camp at Ullul, 15 March 1914: lengthy report on recent fighting in the Nuba Mountains.

6. Letter to S.H. Romilly from El Obeid, 21 August 1914: he has no news regarding the outbreak of the war in Europe; arrival of Indian expeditionary force in Egypt; wanting to return to his regiment; his plan after the peace to get on the half pay list and offer his services to the Colonial Office.

7. Letter to S.H. Romilly, 28 August 1914: comments on military news from France; much of his time spent drafting a report on the management of the Camel Corps, both camels and men.

8. Letter to S.H. Romilly, 14 September 1914: 'I wish there were some German territories near here for us to take on - one would feel one was doing something at any rate. There is a chance, though a small one, that the Camel Corps may be required for some special work...I think it more likely that we will find ourselves in a few weeks time harrying our old friends the Nuba...this would be in pursuance of the policy recommended by Vickery and myself'; expresses view that by December the Egyptian Army would have to let him go.

9. Letter to S.H. Romilly, 1 January 1915: describes arrival at Boulogne; awaiting orders.

10. Letter to S.H. Romilly, 5 January 1915: he has taken command of B Company; description of conditions.

11. Letter to S.H. Romilly, 10 January 1915: suffering from a fever, which delayed his return to the front line; long, detailed account of the bad conditions at the front following heavy rain.

12. Letter to S.H. Romilly, 18 January 1915: managing to do all his periods in the trenches despite a bad cold, his battalion now taking its turn in reserve; more complaints about the conditions.

13. Letter to S.H. Romilly, 27 January 1915: first account of the fighting at the 'Keep' on 25 and 26 January.

14. Copy of MS.Add.9656/13.

15. Letter to S.H. Romilly, possibly from Lt. Colonel Frederick William Romilly, uncle of Bertram Romilly, written from the family home, 56 Eccleston Square, London, 27 January 1915: he has heard 'from our front trenches we had a redoubt in some brick fields, held by Romilly and B Company. Romilly did quite splendidly. He hung on to the redoubt all day, checked the Boch and gained time for reinforcements to be brought up'; list of casualties.

16. Letter to S.H. Romilly, 9 March 1915: on his return to France following leave, describes his visit to the line in preparation for an attack.

17. Letter from Lt. Colonel Victor Mackenzie to Lt. Colonel Frederick William Romilly, 11 March 1915: 'My dear Colonel, I am very sorry to say that Bertram has been badly wounded in the head yesterday, by a shell which burst in our billets'.

18. 'Report on operations at and about the Keep on January 25 1915', typed document, signed B.H.S. Romilly, 28 January 1915.

Administrative / Biographical History

Bertram Henry Samuel Romilly (1878-1940), of Huntingdon Park, Herefordshire, was born on 6 October 1878, the eldest son of Samuel Henry Romilly (1849-1940), barrister and J.P., and Lady Arabella Charlotte (d. 1907), eldest daughter of James Carnegie, 9th Earl of Southesk. His great-grandfather was Sir Samuel Romilly (1757-1818), Solicitor-General and legal reformer. Bertram was educated at Charterhouse and Sandhurst before joining the 1st Battalion, Scots Guards, in 1898. He joined the battalion in South Africa in January 1900, with the first draft of reinforcements, and was later attached to the Scots Guards mounted infantry company, operating against the Boers in the north of the Cape Colony. He was awarded the D.S.O. and mentioned twice in despatches. He left South Africa in September 1902.

In 1904 Romilly was attached to the Egyptian Army Camel Corps in the Sudan, leading the force from 1913. By December 1914, having completed ten years seconded service with the Egyptian Army, he was posted back to his regiment, the Scots Guards, in England. In January 1915 he rejoined the 1st Battalion in France, defending a section of the front near the village of Cuinchy, in command of 'B' Company. On 4 December 1915 he married Nellie, daughter of the late Colonel Sir Henry Hozier and Lady Henrietta Blanche, eldest daughter of the 7th Earl of Airlie.

Between 24 September 1916 and 11 April 1917, Romilly, now Lt. Colonel, was in command of the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Scots Guards, stationed in South Kensington, and later Chelsea. On 3 May 1917 he returned to active service, taking command of the 2nd Battalion, then behind the line at Clery. However, he was hospitalised on July 29th, when his dugout suffered a direct hit from a German shell. After a period of recuperation from shell shock, he commanded the reserve battalion until the end of the war in 1918.

From 1919 to 1920 Romilly was military governor of the province of Tiberias (Galilee) in the British mandated territory of Palestine. Between 1920 and 1924 he commanded the 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards, retiring from the regiment as a Colonel in 1924. He then returned to the Middle East. From 1925 to 1928 the Egyptian army employed him as chief instructor at the Cairo Military School. Romilly inherited the family estate at Huntingdon Park, Herefordshire, following his father's death in March 1940, but died shortly after, on 6 May 1940.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Julian Browning, 16 June 2002.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives.

Other Finding Aids

There is a detailed description of the collection in the Additional Manuscripts Catalogue, available in the Manuscripts Reading Room.


Geographical Names