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East Africa and Ceylon [Sri Lanka] during the 1940s

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/Y30468AA

Scope and Contents

Collection of 248 photographs, chiefly amateur. Most captions are derived from the original album pages or the printed titles of postcards. Photographs without measurements are approximately 80 x 60 mm in size, and this suggests that they may have been taken by the collector, with the others acquired from colleagues or purchased.

The photographs, housed in two albums, were found pushed through the letterbox of Woodspring Museum. They had clearly suffered from damp, the albums were disintegrating, and most of the photographs were affected to varying extents by staining, scraping, or mould. Following receipt by the RCS, the albums were destroyed after inscriptions had been copied, and twelve photographs of Ceylon damaged beyond recognition were also discarded. Many of the remainder have been trimmed after drying and cleaning, and the collection has been remounted in an album.

There are a few professional photographs and postcards, but the majority are amateur snapshots, apparently taken or collected by a soldier serving in Ceylon and East Africa in World War II. The only name to appear is on the back of plate 108: 'Captain … Drummond, Low Greenfield House, St. Helens, Bishop Auckland, Co. Durham,' but it seems likely that he was the source of the photograph rather than the collector. Occasional notes give dates, but these are far from precise. As the collector was in East Africa at the end of the war in Europe, his Ceylon service probably preceded this, unless his unit was sent to Asia before the end of the war with Japan. One postcard of Polonnaruha is marked 'Stationed here for four months.' Whatever the correct chronology, the Ceylon photographs, which form only a small part of the total, have been listed at the end.

The earliest dated East African photograph is the prison at Mwanza, dated 12 June 1943. The collector was stationed at Jinja for four months (and visited Kampala on leave); other places in the Victoria Nyanza shown are Bukoba (9) and Kisumu (17-24). There are also views (undated) of Kigoma on Lake Tanganyika (25-29). Kenya photos show Mombasa (30-38), Nairobi (39-62), Nakuru - 'stationed here for six months' (63-72) and Nanyuki - 'last station in Africa - stationed here three months' (73-75). As there are photographs of V-Day at each of the last three, that of Nanyuki (22) being professional, his exact movements are hard to establish. There are a few photographs of the Congo and other parts of Africa, the majority professional, both in the first geographical section, and in the subject categories described below.

As far as could be ascertained from the damaged albums, the photographs were arranged partly by location and partly by subject, and this has been adopted as the basis for the list as follows:

1 - 85 East African views, chiefly town, with a few from the Belgian Congo and Libya
86 - 93 Northern Rhodesia and Victoria Falls
94 - 132 Mountain, lake and river scenes
133 - 177 Occupations and crafts
178 - 198 African people
199 - 209 South African commercial photographs of African people
210 - 233 African wildlife
234 - 247 Ceylon


  • Creation: 1940 - 1949

Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (


248 item(s) (248 images)

Language of Materials


Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

As indicated, the general condition of the collection is not good

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Given by the Curator of Woodspring Museum, Weston-Super-Mare in August, 1985.


The collection level description was entered by WS.

Date information

DateText: The dates are approximate..



Includes index.
2006-08-21 15:53:52+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
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Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom