'Islands of No Return' by Charles J. Bonington with accompanying photographs

Scope and Content

Manuscript autobiography of Charles J. Bonington, with accompanying photographs, relating to his life in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the life and work of his father, M.C.C. Bonington, and the history of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Includes: his childhood and early life in Port Blair and Stewart Sound; encounters with aboriginal tribes [ethnic groups] (Jarawas, Onges, Nicobarese, Great Andamanese, Shompens); work in surveying aboriginal tribes as part of the 1931 Census of India; convicts; timber camps; and historical sketches and incidents. Some pages are missing and others duplicated.

The photographs which accompany the text include images of aboriginal groups and Indigenous life; convicts; funeral customs; canoes and ships; Port Blair (including central gaol); elephants; timber camps; and a photocopied photograph of M.C.C. Bonington.

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles J. Bonington was the son of M.C.C. Bonington, an official in the Indian Forest Service on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, who is also described (in his son's autobiography) as "officer-in-charge of aborigines". Charles lived on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands until he was sent to school in England at the age of nine. He returned 12 years later to work with his father in the Forest Service, and assisted his father in carrying out a census of native tribes as part of the 1931 Census of India. After he retired, M.C.C. Bonington took over a contract felling and delivering timber to Forest Service sawmills; Charles worked with him, running timber camps on his father's behalf. Charles appears to have left the Andaman and Nicobar Islands by the Second World War, during which he was a prisoner of war in Germany. Nothing is known of his later career.

Internal evidence and accompanying notes suggests that Charles Bonington's autobiography was begun as early as 1937 and appears to have been worked on as late as 1986; some sections were also written in 1953. There is no evidence that the manuscript was published. It is a combination of an autobiography, a historical sketch of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and an acccount of the work of his father.

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Geographical Names