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Libraries and Special Collections in County Durham

War and Military Records

From the Jacobite Rebellion to the Indian Mutiny, there are extensive research collections in the region of Durham relating to war and military conflict.

Jacobite Rebellion

The Jacobite Papers, held in the Ushaw College archives, are a vitally important source for the study of Jacobitism. The papers are chiefly concerned with the life of Walter Thomas Tyrrell and his support for the Jacobite cause in the eighteenth century. The collection also includes letters containing news from the battlefield itself.

Of particular importance are the letters from Tyrrell's nephew, Lieutenant John Dempsy, who fought on the Jacobite side in the 1745 Rebellion. Although Dempsy was predominantly stationed in France awaiting orders for embarkation to Scotland during the '45, his letters provide a unique perspective on continental support for Jacobitism.

The Crimean War

The Papers of General Charles Grey, held by Durham University Archives and Special Collections, mainly concern matters relating to his position in the royal household but also include military correspondence, on such topics as army reorganisation and reform, the Crimean war, and the Indian army.

Campaign medals from the Crimean War can be found in the collections held by the Durham Light Infantry Museum.

Spanish Civil War

The Wylde Family Papers, held by Durham University Archives and Special Collections, contain substantial material relating to topics such as the Spanish civil war, British annexation of the Fijian Islands, Spanish and American interests in Cuba, Portuguese and British colonial relations and African exploration.

Colonial conflict

The Durham University Archives and Special Collections contain a significant amount of material relating to British colonial conflict in both Asia and Africa. 

The John Stevens Blackett letters cover the period of the Indian Mutiny, and describe the course of the rebellion in the neighbourhood of Agra whilst the Papers of Charles, 1st Earl Grey relate to the 1793-4 expedition to the West Indies, where Grey captured Martinique, St Lucia and Guadeloupe.

Other relevant collections include the Abbas Hilmi Papers and the Sudan Archive which contains records relating to a range of colonial conflicts including the 1924 Egyptian Mutiny, the relief of Khartoum and the battles of Omdurman and Atbara.

First World War

An extensive volume of material relating to the First World War can be found in the Durham University Archives and Special Collections

The E. T. Richmond Papers record Richmond's war service in Belgium, Gibraltar and France between 1914 and 1918 whilst the W. D. Lowe Collection relates to William Douglas Lowe's career in the Durham Light Infantry during the First World War.

Other relevant collections include Wingate, R. E. L.Wingate, General Sir ReginaldKenny, W. D.Leach, T. A. and Milligan, S. L., all of which can be found in the Durham University Sudan Archive, and the Durham University Miscellaneous Albums.

In addition, the Durham Light Infantry Museum, the Durham County Record Office and The Bowes Museum possess substantial material relating to the First World War, including photographs, medals, uniforms and war diaries, whilst the World War I collection held by Tyne and Wear Archives provides an insight into the impact of the war on local communities. 

Second World War

A large volume of material relating to the Second World War can be found in the Durham University Archives and Special Collections.

The Louis Allen Papers and the Oriental Manuscripts contain material relating to Japan's involvement in the conflict whilst in the Sudan Archive the papers of Orlebar, J. O. relate to Sudan Defence Force operations at Kufra oasis, Darfur, Kordofan, S. Sudan and the Kassala/Abyssinia border during the Second World War.

Other relevant collections, also held in the Sudan Archive, include Marino, A.Laurie, W. G. R. M. and Brown, W. B. E. 

In addition, the Durham Light Infantry Museum and the Durham County Record Office possess substantial material relating to the Second World War, including photographs, medals, uniforms, war diaries, as well as the online exhibition Listen to the Soldier. Comprising 200 interviews with veterans who served with the DLI in the Second World War, this exhibition is the largest, most comprehensive and wide-ranging collection of recorded material in the world relating to a British infantry regiment during the conflict. 

Weapons and fortifications

The Durham University Archives and Special Collections contain a considerable amount of material relating to weapons and fortifications.

An eighteenth-century gunnery manual can be found in the Bamburgh Library Manuscripts whilst drawings of medieval siege engines and other weapons can be found in the W. T. Jones Durham Lantern Slides

In the Sudan Archive, the papers of Haunch, T. O. include a gun drill book for an anti-aircraft gun whilst the collection of Gillan, J. A. contains the sword and robe of Ali Dinar.

In addition, the Durham University Castle Museum holds a fine selection of arms and armour, many of which are on public display in the Great Hall, whilst the Oriental Museum possesses arms and armour from Japan, India, South Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and Korea.

Researchers interested in the history of weapons and fortifications might also wish to visit Barnard CastleRaby CastleRichmond Castle, the Castle Garth and Castle Keep in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Norham CastleAlnwick Castle, Bamburgh Castle and Berwick-upon-Tweed Castle and Ramparts. Many of these castles stand testament to Anglo-Scottish warfare and the turbulent military history of the North.

Durham Light Infantry

Records relating to the military campaigns of the Durham Light Infantry can be found throughout the region of Durham. 

The W. D. Lowe Collection, held by Durham University Archives and Special Collections, contains manuscript, typescript and printed material relating to William Douglas Lowe's career as an officer in the Durham Light Infantry from September 1914 until October 1918.

The Durham County Record Office also boasts extensive an extensive regimental archive relating to the Durham Light Infantry which can be searched online. The archive at the Durham County Record Office is complemented by the object and medal room collections in the Durham Light Infantry Museum and Art Gallery

Earl Grey Family Papers

The Earl Grey Family Papers are a major source for 18th-century British military history, as well as political, colonial, and diplomatic history of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Sudan at War

Explore the Durham University Sudan Archive to discover extensive military records relating to colonial conflict, localised rebellions, and the Sudanese Civil War.