Royal Army Medical Corps Muniments Collection

  • Royal Army Medical Corps
17th century - 20th century
  • Archives and manuscripts

Collection contents

About this work


Reports, diaries, memoirs, photographs and memorabilia given to the RAMC 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.

Part of the RAMC collection has been returned to the Army Medical Services Museum. In 2016 it changed its name to the Museum of Military Medicine. Please see individual items for further information.


17th century - 20th century

Physical description

454 boxes, 134 oversize boxes and folders


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.

Acquisition note

The RAMC Muniments Collection is deposited with the library at Wellcome Collection 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 library at Wellcome Collection.

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 1986-7.

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 library at Wellcome Collection.

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. In 2016 it changed its name to the Museum of Military Medicine.

Biographical note

A chronology setting out key events in the history of the RAMC and of these papers follows:

1810 Dr James McGrigor started collection of morbid anatomy specimens at Hilsea, Portsmouth

1816 Specimen collection transferred to York Hospital, Chelsea. Library of Army Medical Department founded by McGrigor. (The library was private, belonging to the medical officers who contributed to it by subscription and gift)

1822 Library annexed to Museum

1860 Army Medical School founded at Fort Pitt, Chatham, on recommendation of Royal Sanitary Commission (1858). Library and specimen collection moved here: latter became basis of pathological teaching collection. Accruals continued and it became the Pathology Museum. The Muniment Collection contains catalogues of the Pathology Museum at Fort Pitt (ref 277) and the Necrology and Pathology registers of the hospitals at Fort Pitt and Netley (ref 281-284).

1863 Royal Victoria Hospital opened in Netley, Southampton, and Army Medical School moved there with the Pathology Museum and Library

1898 Existing Army Hospital Corps and Medical Staff Corps merge and Royal Army Medical Corps founded

1907 Royal Army Medical College founded at Millbank to replace the Army Medical School

1927 Library moved from Royal Victoria Hospital to Millbank

1930s A historical museum in existence at Millbank: origins unknown (See catalogue in collection, ref 616)

1939-45 Pathology/teaching museum dismantled and evacuated: much destroyed

1950 Historical Museum Committee established. Museum to be reconstructed, not as morbid anatomy/teaching establishment, but as a regimental museum illustrating history and tradition of RAMC

1952 RAMC Historical Museum established at Queen Elizabeth Barracks, Crookham, Hants, and Muniment Room established next to Library at Royal Army Medical College, Millbank

1984 Muniment Collection removed to RAMC Historical Museum at Keogh Barracks, Mytchett, Surrey, because of storage pressure at Millbank

1986 Collections of printed books moved from Millbank to Wellcome Trust

1987 Muniment Collection transferred from Keogh Barracks to Wellcome Trust

1991 Formal agreement to place collections on permanent loan with the Wellcome Trust

Related material

At Wellcome Collection:

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.

Background reading

Published sources are listed in A guide to the sources of British military history (ed. Robin Higham), published by the University of California Press in 1971, which contains a chapter on military medicine by FNL Poynter. A particularly useful review of the organisation of medical services in the British Army can be found in Colonel William Johnston's Roll of Commissioned Officers ...1727 to 1898, reprinted in Drew's Commissioned Officers in the Medical Services of the British Army 1660-1960, published by Wellcome Library in 1968. Sir Neil Cantlie wrote a History of the Army Medical Department (Churchill Livingstone, 1974), and the World Wars of the 20th century are well covered in the official histories published by HMSO.

The PRO publishes information sheets explaining the departmental responsibility for army departments and under what references the records might be found. These include No.6 'Operational records of the British army in the First World War', No.7 'Operational records of the British army during the Second World War' No. 61 'Operational records of the British Army, 1660-1914' and No.120 'Military nursing and nursing services'. There are also information sheets and fact sheets on army records as sources for biographical and genealogical research (Information sheet No 59, Family fact sheets Nos.2 and 3).

Further details of sources for genealogical research can be found in chapter IV of Jane Cox and Timothy Padfield Tracing your ancestors in the National Archives (3rd ed., HMSO, 1984). Drew's Roll of Commissioned Officers (see above) does not include officers on temporary commissions, but all medical officers are qualified doctors and are therefore recorded on the Medical Register (from 1859) and usually in the Medical Directory (from 1845).

Copyright note

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.

Terms of use

This collection has been catalogued and is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records.

Material that has been returned to the Museum of Military Medicine is open and available by appointment at the Museum. A digitised copy is available to view via the online catalogue on the Wellcome Library website.


Appraisal note

During cataloguing, any correspondence of relevance to the individual accessions which was found with it has been transferred to separate files and is now held with files relating to the administration of the RAMC Muniment Collection in the Archives and Manuscripts Department of the Wellcome Library.

For conservation reasons, publications originally held in the Muniment Collection were extracted and shelved separately; descriptions can be found on the Wellcome Library's computer catalogue of published material.

Ownership note

The historical background to the origins and provenance of these collections is long, complex and largely undocumented. To assist those who are interested in the background to this collection, an outline chronology, giving the history of the institutions with which the Muniment Collection has been involved, may be found in this record under Historical Background. 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 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.

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