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Royal Army Medical Corps Muniments Collection

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0120 RAMC
Held at: Wellcome Library
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Full title: Royal Army Medical Corps Muniments Collection
Date(s): 17th century - 20th century
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 454 boxes, 94 o/s boxes and parcels, 36 o/s parcels and folders
Name of creator(s): Royal Army Medical Corps
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) is a specialist corps in the British Army which provides medical services to all British Army personnel and their families in war and in peace.


Scope and content/abstract:

Reports, diaries, memoirs, photographs and memorabilia given to the Royal Army Medical Corps Museum and Library by former officers and men of the Corps. Some date back to Marlborough's campaigns of the late 17th century; there is also material relating to the continuing European and Imperial conflicts of the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Crimean War (1854-1856), the Boer War and the Balkan conflicts of the early 20th century, the two World Wars, the Korean War and other smaller conflicts thereafter.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The present catalogue is effectively a detailed list of the Muniment Collection in accession order: a full scale re-arrangement of the collection has not been undertaken. Thus there is no inherent structure to the catalogue, and indeed one may find parts of the same individual's papers in different places if they came to the RAMC at different times. The reference number is the original museum 'acquisition number': thus a reference number might refer to a single volume, or several volumes, or a collection of papers. Larger collections have been arranged and described in sections or sub-sections by a chronological or other logical arrangement.

Conditions governing access:

The majority of the papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking. However, RAMC 95 (Charles Bell watercolours) are restricted access due to their size and fragility: a set of colour photographs is available. Access to RAMC/1280 is restricted until 1 January 2030. Readers must apply for access by completing a Restricted Access application form.

Conditions governing reproduction:

No information available on copyright: the position will presumably vary from item to item, with copyright in official documents resting with the RAMC or other Government department and that in personal memoirs remaining with the creator, his/her heirs or assigns.

Finding aids:

Archival Information

Archival history:

The historical background to the origins and provenance of these collections is long, complex and largely undocumented. It is important to note however that in spite of its title, the muniment collection is not the official records and archive of the Royal Army Medical Corps: these will be found at The National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office).

The Library for medical officers and a Museum of morbid anatomy specimens were founded by Sir James McGrigor (Director General Army Medical Department 1815-51) and both pre-date the formation of the Army Medical School. They moved into the School when it was started in 1860. Over the years the library became a repository for collections of manuscript and archival materials mostly given by members of the Corps and relating to British military medicine. Manuscript items were frequently given as part of a collection containing printed material. However,no accession record appears to have been kept. With the establishment of a 'Muniment Room' at Millbank in 1952 all the manuscript collections acquired by the Museum and Library were placed together. Separate accession registers were then kept by Muniment Room and Museum and the register of the former records that some items were transferred back to the Library which explains some of the gaps encountered in the RAMC Accession references. ('Muniment Room Acquisition Book' held in the Archives and Manuscripts department administrative papers covers accession number 1-1625, dating presumably from 1950s, but dates were only entered from 1956 (Acc 226) and only routinely entered from May 1960 (Acc 366)). Some library accession books are to be found in the collection: catalogues of the officers library at Fort Pitt and Netley are at RAMC 278 and 285.

RAMC 801, the "Mytchett Collection", accumulated at the Historical Museum at the RAMC Barracks from 1952 and was integrated into the Muniment Collection as accession number 801 only in 1971. It seems to have started as a collection of published and photocopied items of interest to the Corps, but at later stages a large number of photographs, some personal papers and a manuscript register of Army Hospital Corps offenders were added.

Immediate source of acquisition:

The RAMC Muniments Collection is deposited with the Wellcome Library under an agreement between the Wellcome Trustees and the Trustees of the RAMC Historical Museum in 1991. This agreement also covered the pre-1850 Collection of books of historical value and the Collection of post-1850 medical textbooks, also placed in the Wellcome Library.

In the 1980s the Trustees of the RAMC Historical Museum entered into negotiations with Dr Peter Williams, then Director of the Wellcome Trust, about the possible housing and cataloguing of the collections. This culminated in the transfer of book and muniments collections to the Wellcome Tropical Institute (owned by the Trust) in 1986-1987

When the muniments collection first came to the Wellcome Trust it was intended that only items of tropical medical interest would be catalogued and retained by the Wellcome Tropical Institute. In order to discover exactly what was in the collection a detailed description based on the existing accession order was started. It became clear that extracting items on the basis of tropical or medical interest was impracticable and undesirable since it would break up coherent groups of material. For the same reason it was deemed unacceptable to split collections by removing items which were in fact strayed public records and which ought strictly to have gone to the Public Record Office. With the agreement of the PRO it has been possible to retain such material in the Muniments Collection. With the closure of the Tropical Institute in 1989 the RAMC material entered the archive collection of the Wellcome Library.

Some archives proper of the College and Fort Pitt Hospital were kept in the RAMC Library and were transferred to the Wellcome Trust with the Muniments Collection: they have never been accessioned with Muniment material and remain uncatalogued.The publications listed in the hard-copy RAMC Muniments Collection catalogue as Appendix E were returned on 24 November 2003 to the Army Medical Services Museum, Keogh Barracks, Ash Vale, Aldershot, GU12 5RQ.

Allied Materials

Related material:

At the Wellcome Library: Diaries and other personal records of Army personnel can be found in various collections; most notably the papers of Sir David Bruce, RAMC, which are part of WTI/RST, and of Sir Leonard Rogers, IMS, ref. PP/ROG.

At other repositories: Administrative records of the RAMC and its component units and predecessor bodies are public records and are kept in The National Archives when no longer administratively useful. They include war diaries of individual units; three copies are made of each of these, and those in the RAMC Collection are the duplicates kept by the commanding officer.

Personnel records of soldiers serving in the RAMC are kept at the Medical Services Record Office in Chester and are sent on discharge to the Army Record Centre, Bourne Avenue, Hayes, Middlesex. Officers' records are kept at the Regimental Headquarters at Keogh Barracks, Ash Vale, Hampshire, and are passed when no longer current to the Army Officer Documentation Office, Government Buildings, Stanmore, Middlesex. Pre-1914 records are in the National Archives.

Many First World War personnel records were destroyed during the Second World War, and access to those that survive is restricted: information will be given only on receipt of written permission of the individual concerned, or, if he is dead, to the legal next-of-kin on production of documentary evidence of the death and of the relationship. Other institutions which hold private diaries and unpublished memoirs, etc, include the Imperial War Museum and the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives at King's College, London.

Publication note:

Described in: Shirley Dixon, "The Royal Army Medical Corps 'Muniment Collection'" in Medical History vol.38 (1994); Shirley Dixon and Julia Sheppard "The Royal Army Medical Corps Muniment Collection" in Friends of the Wellcome Institute Newsletter volume 1, no 1 (June 1993).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Copied from the Wellcome Library catalogue by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
In compliance with ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description - 2nd Edition (1999); UNESCO Thesaurus, December 2001; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Jan 2009

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