Tag Archives: Mountbatten Papers

Battenberg and Mountbatten

The House of Windsor was created on 17 July 1917 when King George V decided that the name of the royal house should be anglicised in response to anti-German sentiment resulting from the First World War. The name Windsor was adopted, replacing Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. At a meeting of the Privy Council on 17 July 1917, George V declared that “all descendants in the male line of Queen Victoria, who are subjects of these realms, other than female descendants who marry or who have married, shall bear the name of Windsor”. It was also decided that the various Tecks, Holsteins and Battenbergs who were British citizens should do the same. Among those affected were the family of Prince Louis Alexander of Battenberg.

Letterpress halftone portrait photograph of Admiral Prince Louis of Battenberg when First Sea Lord, 1914 [MB2/A12/61]

Letterpress halftone portrait photograph of Admiral Prince Louis of Battenberg when First Sea Lord, 1914 [MB2/A12/61]

Born at Graz, Austria, in 1854, Prince Louis was the eldest son of Prince Alexander of Hesse and his morganatic wife, Countess Julia Theresa von Haucke. Family connections with Princess Alice and Prince Albert (both children of Queen Victoria) led to Prince Louis settling in England and becoming naturalized as a British subject. He entered the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1868, at the age of fourteen. In 1884 he married his cousin Princess Victoria, granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Together they had two daughters, Alice (b. 1885) and Louise (b. 1889), and two sons, George (b. 1892) and Louis Francis (b. 1900).

Following a long and successful naval career lasting more than forty years, Prince Louis was appointed First Sea Lord in 1912 by Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty. In July 1914, with the First World War looming, Prince Louis took the initiative to ensure the British fleet was ready for combat. However, this did not shield him from attack on account of his German background and over the subsequent months his position became increasingly untenable. On 29 October he resigned from his position as First Sea Lord – a blow from which he is said to have never recovered. In his letter of resignation to Churchill he writes:

I have lately been driven to the painful conclusion that at this juncture my birth and parentage have the effect of impairing in some respects my usefulness on the Board of the Admiralty. In these circumstances I feel it to be my duty, as a loyal subject of His Majesty, to resign the office of First Sea Lord, hoping thereby to facilitate the task of the administration of the great Service to which I have devoted my life, and to ease the burden laid on HM’s Ministers. [MS 62 MB1/T48]

At the behest of the King he agreed to change his name and relinquished his German titles (of Serene Highness and Prince) in 1917. The family adopted the name Mountbatten, an Anglicisation of the German Battenberg (rejecting the alternative translation of Battenhill). Having renounced their German titles, they were compensated with British peerages of marquess of Milford Haven, earl of Medina, and Viscount Alderney. As a result, Prince Louis became Louis Alexander Mountbatten, first Marquess of Milford Haven; his eldest son George became Earl of Medina (succeeding to his father’s peerage on his death); while his second son acquired the courtesy title Lord Louis Mountbatten (remaining Lord Louis until he was created a peer in 1946).

Black and white photograph of Prince Louis Alexander of Battenberg and his sons, Louis (on the left) and George (on the right), 1914 [MB2/A12/34]

Black and white photograph of Prince Louis Alexander of Battenberg and his sons, Louis (on the left) and George (on the right), 1914 [MB2/A12/34]

Lord Louis Mountbatten (nicknamed “Dickie” by his family and friends) was serving on board the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth when he acquired his courtesy title. He had begun his naval career four years earlier, in 1913, when he entered the Royal Naval College at Osbourne on the Isle of Wight. In so doing he was following in the footsteps of his father and older brother George, both of whom he idolised. He progressed to the fledgling Royal Naval College at Dartmouth in 1915. By the time he completed his training at the Royal Naval College at Keyham the following year he was eager to see action.

He was posted as midshipman to the battlecruiser HMS Lion on 19 July 1916. A month later, on 19 August, his wish to see action was granted when the Lion was involved in a brief encounter with the German fleet. Not long after he was transferred to the HMS Queen Elizabeth, the flagship of the Grand Fleet, while his brother George was transferred to the Lion – the Admiralty not allowing two brothers to serve on the same ship. Having visiting the front in July 1918, he joined HMS P31 in October of the same year where he was involved in escort and anti-submarine work.

Black and white photograph of the officers and midshipmen of HMS Lion including Prince Louis Francis of Battenberg (later Lord Mountbatten), 1916 [MB2/A12/65]. He can be seen in the uniform of a midshipman, seated cross-legged in the middle of the front row, tenth from the left. He is holding a small dog, probably the ship's mascot.

Black and white photograph of the officers and midshipmen of HMS Lion including Prince Louis Francis of Battenberg (later Lord Mountbatten), 1916 [MB2/A12/65]. He can be seen in the uniform of a midshipman, seated cross-legged in the middle of the front row, tenth from the left. He is holding a small dog, probably the ship’s mascot.

Following the end of the war, Mountbatten interrupted his naval career to study at the University of Cambridge in 1919. He then joined the Prince of Wale on a tour of Australia and New Zealand, and India, in 1920 and 1921. On 22 August 1921, his father was made an admiral of the fleet on the retired list. However, his health was in decline and he died of heart failure following influenza on 11 September.

Mountbatten spent the inter-war period pursuing his naval career, where he specialised in communications. In 1934, he received his first command on the destroyer, HMS Daring.  In 1939, with the outbreak of the Second World War, he became commander of the HMS Kelly – the exploits of which were made famous by the Noël Coward film In Which We Serve. The Kelly was sunk by German dive bombers off the coast of Crete in May 1941 with the loss of more than half its crew.

Following his role as Chief of Combined Operations – with the responsibility of preparing for the eventual invasion of occupied Europe – he was appointed the Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command (SEAC), in 1943. Working with General William Slim, he achieved the defeat of the Japanese offensive towards India and the reconquest of Burma. In March 1947, he became viceroy of India, overseeing the transfer of power to India and Pakistan on 14 August 1947. For his services during the war and in India he was created viscount in 1946 and Earl Mountbatten of Burma the following year.

Mountbatten returned to the Royal Navy in 1953, becoming commander of a new NATO Mediterranean command. In 1954 he was appointed First Sea Lord, fulfilling his ambition to succeed to the post that his father had held more than 40 years earlier. Finally, he became Chief of the Defence Staff in 1959, a position he held until 1965 when he retired to civilian life.

The papers of the late Louis, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, form part of University of Southampton Library MS62, the Broadlands archives. The collection includes personal and naval papers of Prince Louis of Battenberg, first Marquis of Milford Haven, 1886-1911 (MB1/T1-10).

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Victoria, first Marchioness of Milford Haven (1863-1950)

One of the key collections in the Archives at the University of Southampton is that of Earl Mountbatten of Burma. His official papers are well known, covering his long naval career, his role as last Viceroy of India, and later, at the Admiralty and Ministry of Defence – but the archive also includes personal papers relating to his early life; a remarkable and extensive collection of family photographs; and archives of the German branch of the Battenberg family.

Photographs of Mountbatten’s parents on their wedding day, 30 April 1884, from the album of Prince Louis of Battenberg [MS 62 MB2/A4/4-5]

Photographs of Mountbatten’s parents on their wedding day, 30 April 1884, from the album of Prince Louis of Battenberg [MS 62 MB2/A4/4-5]

Mountbatten’s mother was Princess Victoria Alberta Elisabeth Mathilde Marie of Hesse, the eldest daughter of Ludwig IV, grand duke of Hesse and by Rhine, and his first wife Princess Alice – second daughter of Queen Victoria. His father was Prince Louis Alexander of Battenberg, the son of Prince Alexander of Hesse.  Victoria and Louis were first cousins in a large and close family – Victoria tells many anecdotes of her childhood in her recollections, and she describes a happy and affectionate home-life in the ‘New Palace’ at Darmstadt.  There were frequent trips to relatives in Germany, Prussia, and England: often there was sea-bathing at Osborne in the summer. During a long stay in England in 1871/2:

“We were all at Balmoral first, while Uncle Bertie* and his family were at Abergeldie and we children saw a great deal of each other. Unfortunately all the children of both families contracted whooping cough there and I remember a dismal November at the top of Buckingham Palace shut away, coughing my head off.” [*Edward, Prince of Wales, later Edward VII]

When they were over the worst of the illness there was plenty of fun to be had:

“We found in the former nurseries strange sorts of bicycles with saddles, and adorned with horses’ heads and tails, which had belonged to our uncles and on which we careered down the corridor…”

All the young cousins then moved to Windsor: “and we were a very merry party of children. Our wild romps in the great corridor… were often interrupted by one of the pages bringing a message from the Queen that she would not have so much noise…”

“There were lovely corners and curtains behind which one could hide and leap out in the dark. Outside the Queen’s room there was always a table with lemonade and water and a side dish of biscuits which we used to pilfer secretly.”

These were happy years for Victoria. Tragedy struck the family at the end of 1878, when both her mother and youngest sister Marie died from diphtheria – Victoria was just 15. She wrote:

“My mother’s death was an irreparable loss to us all and left a great gap in our lives… My childhood ended with her death, for I became the eldest and most responsible of her orphaned children.”

The early loss of their mother caused Queen Victoria to take a special interest in the children – and the Queen was to become very fond of Prince Louis too – although:

“Grandmama was at first not very pleased at our engagement as she wished me, as the eldest, to continue looking after the younger ones and keeping my father company… However she consented to the engagement on condition we did not marry until the following year.”

They married at the palace in Darmstadt on 30 April 1884.

Photo of the Princesses of Hesse in 1885, from the album of Prince Louis of Battenberg [MS 62 MB2/A4/6]

Photo of the Princesses of Hesse in 1885, from the album of Prince Louis of Battenberg [MS 62 MB2/A4/6]

This photograph shows Victoria with her sisters in 1885: from left to right: ‘Ella’ (Elisabeth), the wife of Grand Duke Serge of Russia; Victoria; Irene, who married Prince Henry of Prussia in 1888; and Alix, who became the Tsarina, wife of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, in 1889.

Victoria made many summer visits to her sisters in Russia. When Serge was assassinated in Moscow in 1905 by an anarchist’s bomb – thrown at close quarters into his carriage – Victoria went to Ella immediately to offer support. In the summer of 1914, as the political situation deteriorated, she set off on her usual trip to Moscow, travelling first to Perm and from there on a tour of the Ural Mountains, stopping off twice at Ekaterinburg; but this trip was destined to be cut short.  Alix called them back to St Petersburg as the outbreak of war threatened. They arrived on the evening of 4th August, the day that England declared war.  Alix helped them to make hurried preparations and they took a special train to the Russian frontier at Tornio, making their escape via Finland, Sweden and Norway.  From Bergen they sailed on “the last ship” back to England.  Victoria writes:

“I little dreamt that it was the last time I should ever see my sisters again.”

Her written reminiscences end in 1914. She explains to the reader:

“I intend to finish these recollections with the outbreak of the Great War as I find it unnecessarily depressing to go through the experiences of that time during the second Great War. Anyhow my children were sufficiently grown up by then to have recollections of their own to take the place of mine.”

So she seems to have written these recollections during WWII, for the benefit of her four children:

Photograph of the Battenberg family c. 1902 from the album of Victoria, Princess Louis of Battenberg, 1901-10 [MS 62 MB2/B2/6]

Photograph of the Battenberg family c.1902 from the album of Victoria, Princess Louis of Battenberg [MS 62 MB2/B2/6]

This photo of the Battenberg family was taken c. 1902. Princess Victoria is seated in the middle, with Prince Louis Francis on her lap.  On her left sits her husband Prince Louis Alexander, and on her right, her eldest daughter, Princess Alice. Prince George (dressed in a white sailor suit) sits in front of his father while Princess Louise sits on the floor. Louis was born on 25th June 1900 at Frogmore House, Windsor – and was christened Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas of Battenberg on 17th July that year.  He was Queen Victoria’s last godson – she held him at the christening – and baby Louis knocked her spectacles off her nose.

Victoria died in 1950 after a long life. By that time she was a grandmother and great grandmother.  Her biographer states: “she remained throughout her life a determined, stalwart figure, given to progressive ideas and with an interest in socialism and philosophy.”  Mountbatten remembers her remarkable intelligence and quickness; that she was talkative and forthright, very well read, and with a phenomenal memory – her family felt her death acutely.

The reminiscences of Victoria, first Marchioness of Milford Haven, form part of the Archive of Earl Mountbatten of Burma, MS 62 MB21.

The development of Special Collections

From June until December 2016, there will be a building project taking place in the Hartley Library. As a result, between June and September, the Archives and Manuscripts and Rare Books reading room will be running a restricted service: this might include brief periods of closure. While updates will be made available through our website, we take the opportunity to reflect on the development of the Special Collections division down through the years…

Early developments
The archive holdings date back to the 1860s, soon after the foundation of the Hartley Institution, the earliest predecessor of the University of Southampton. The Institution was founded as a local learned institution and had among its facilities both a library and museum. Between them, they gathered in or were presented with a number of manuscript collections. The early collections were eclectic in nature, ranging from the papers of local seamen and materials clearly brought back from their travels; to records that may have their origins in the archives of the corporation of Southampton, with which the Hartley Institution was closely associated; and groups of letters, some coherent archive groups, put together by autograph collectors. As early as 1873, the minute book of the library committee records the presentation of ‘Specimens of old English writing in the form of deeds, upon condition that they be bound’ (now MS 28).

Item from a collection of deeds relating to property in Petersfield and Mapledurham, principally for ‘Gobyesmede', together with lands in Liss and Sheet, Hampshire [MS 36 AO143]

Item from a collection of deeds relating to property in Petersfield and Mapledurham, principally for ‘Gobyesmede’, together with lands in Liss and Sheet, Hampshire [MS 36 AO143]

The Institution’s collections included items of more general interest, ranging from Renaissance drawings to manuscripts from among purchases and bequests of books. The Library and Museum received materials relating to the locality, to Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, the most important of which, the Cope bequest, contained manuscript (now MS 5) as well as printed items. With the establishment of local record offices, in Hampshire, for the county and city of Winchester, in and after 1947, for the corporation of Southampton in 1951 and for the corporation of Portsmouth, papers of local interest were directed there and local topographical manuscripts ceased to be an active focus for the University’s collecting policy. In 1972, the University dispersed to local record offices all the local material that it did not own; the material was transferred principally to the Hampshire Record Office, where it now has the reference 46M72 and 7M87-110m87. At the same time the remnants of the holdings of the museum of the Hartley Institution were transferred to Southampton City Museums, with the exception of some of the rock collections, which remain in the Geology Department. The maintenance of the Cope collection as a collection of materials of local interest continues, although its accessions are now almost exclusively printed.

Acquiring the Wellington and Broadlands archives
A new chapter of the University’s archive collecting commenced in 1983, when the papers of the first Duke of Wellington were allocated to the University under the national heritage legislation. There are close links between the University and the Dukes of Wellington: the seventh Duke became in 1952 the first Chancellor of the new University of Southampton, the fruition of a campaign supported by his family for a university of Wessex. Further significant acquisitions of manuscripts ensued, the Broadlands archive in 1985-7 (including the Palmerston and Mountbatten papers), followed by accessions of supporting collections. The conversion of a part of the University Library in 1982-3 to provide appropriate accommodation for the Wellington Papers was followed in 1987 by the provision of new archive strongrooms and an enlarged reading room.

The official opening of the Wellington Suite, 14 May 1983. Dr Chris Woolgar shows a bound volume of the papers to the Duke and Duchess of Wellington.

The official opening of the Wellington Suite, 14 May 1983. Dr Chris Woolgar shows a bound volume of the papers to the Duke and Duchess of Wellington.

The development of the Anglo-Jewish collections
The University has had through the collections of C.G.Montefiore, a former President of the University College, and through the library of Dr James Parkes, a special interest in papers concerning the relations of the Jewish people with other peoples; since 1989 this has been developed with a particular focus on the records of Anglo-Jewry, of national organisations and of individuals, and in 1990 many of the collections of the Anglo-Jewish Archives were transferred to the Library. The principal genealogical holdings of the Anglo-Jewish Archives, the Montefiore-Hyamson, D’Arcy Hart and Colyer-Fergusson collections were transferred at this date to the Society of Genealogists in London. In the range of these materials, the University and researchers have good reason to thank those individuals who, since 1963, had worked through Anglo-Jewish Archives towards the preservation of the records of the Anglo-Jewish community. A considerable number of major accessions relating to Anglo-Jewry has been received since 1990 and this continues to be an area where collecting is most active.

Expanded accommodation
As part of a major building project in the Hartley Library in 2002-4, the Special Collections accommodation was greatly enlarged. This included an additional strongroom and a new reading room, which doubled reader spaces. The extension also provided an opportunity to incorporate public exhibition space as an integral part of the library environment. This space includes the Special Collections Exhibition Gallery and the Level 4 Gallery.

Visitors to the Wellington and Waterloo exhibition in the Special Collections Gallery

Visitors to the Wellington and Waterloo exhibition in the Special Collections Gallery

The Special Collections Gallery was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund primarily for the display of material from the collections to encourage public awareness and access. The exhibition programme focuses on themes within the collection and links in with University academic activity including celebrations of research, conferences and contributions to national and international events and commemorations.

Recent developments
The range of collections continues to expand and develop with recent acquisitions including papers relating to Basque child refugees (MS 370 and MS 404), the papers of Ian Herman Karten (MS 409), and new collection of Wellington related material (MS 351/6). Meanwhile our first group of digitised collections are available to access online through the Virtual Reading Room, with other recent developments including the establishment of our social media channels, including our WordPress blog and Facebook page.

For updates on other developments and how the building project will impact on our services please visit our website at:
http://www.southampton.ac.uk/archives/.

Battle of Taranto, 11-12th November 1940

The 11th November 2015 is the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Taranto, the most significant Royal Naval air victory of World War II. On that date in November 1940 twenty Swordfish planes made the 170 mile flight across the Mediterranean, at night, from the aircraft carrier Illustrious to Taranto harbour, an important Italian naval base in southern Italy. This courageous attack crippled half the Italian battle-fleet for the loss of two aircraft [MB1/M12]. It was ‘the Fleet Air Arm’s greatest ever triumph’.*

Front cover, and inside view, of the programme for the 12th Anniversary Taranto dinner, 11th November 1952, including a photo of a Swordfish plane [MB1/M12]

Front cover, and inside view, of the programme for the 12th Anniversary Taranto dinner, 11th November 1952, including a photo of a Swordfish plane [MB1/M12]

Earl Mountbatten of Burma took up the post of Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean (CINCMED) in May 1952, in charge of the British fleet in the Mediterranean and based at Malta. At the end of 1952, he was also created Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces Mediterranean (CINCAFMED). So it was appropriate that Mountbatten found himself attending the 12th Anniversary Taranto dinner.

The papers of Earl Mountbatten held in Special Collections at the Hartley Library include a commemorative programme for the dinner, his notes for his speech on that occasion, and related papers. Ten of the forty pilots and navigators who had flown the mission were present at the celebrations. By 1952, sixteen had been killed in action or on active service; nine had retired; but thirteen remained in the Service and details of their subsequent careers survive in the file. Mountbatten used his speech to recall the story of the great battle. He quoted Admiral A. B. Cunningham (CINCMED 1939-42) who had overseen the operation, on its significance:

“Taranto and the night of November 11th/12th 1940 should be remembered forever as having shown once and for all that in the Fleet Air Arm the Navy has its most devastating weapon.

In a total flying time of about 6 ½ hours – carrier to carrier – 20 aircraft had inflicted more damage upon the Italian fleet than was inflicted upon the German high sea fleet in the daylight action of the Battle of Jutland.”  [MB1/M12]

Looking to the future, Mountbatten exhorted his men to show “Taranto spirit” that “Bold, offensive spirit in planning and execution; [the] same spirit which I as Commander in Chief require today. I want you to fly fearlessly and boldly in all weathers, by day and night – in the hope that by being known to be strong we may avoid a Third World War.” [MB1/M12]

Photo of the Short S.27 biplane in which Mountbatten, his parents and sister took a trip in July 1911. [MB2/C7/142]

Photo of the Short S.27 biplane in which Mountbatten, his parents and sister took a trip in July 1911. [MB2/C7/142]

The annual ‘Taranto Night’ dinner, become an established event in the naval calendar, and Mountbatten attended on several occasions. His papers demonstrate the historic significance of the battle and his affection for the Fleet Air Arm. His interest in flight perhaps sprang from an early personal experience at Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppey; in July 1911 he had been taken up in a Short S.27 biplane by Lieutenant Longmore, a pioneer of naval aviation (and later, Air Chief Marshal). The plane was a flimsy wooden structure, covered with fabric – not a ride for the faint hearted!

*Michael Simpson, Oxford DNB ‘Cunningham, Andrew Browne, Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope 1883-1963’

User perspectives: Researching international dimensions of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan from 1947 to 1966

In this week’s post PhD student Rakesh Ankit looks back over his time researching the Mountbatten Papers among “the jewels in the crown of the University of Southampton.”

“When, in the winter of 2010, I was gathering information and collecting material to make a successful application to start a PhD in the United Kingdom, Southampton was among the 3-4 universities I applied to. It quickly emerged as my first choice for three reasons: an opportunity to work under Prof Ian Talbot, the possibility of a fully-funded bursary and archival studentship and the presence of the Mountbatten and related papers at the Hartley Library. I was, therefore, delighted when, in the spring of 2011, I was informed of the successful outcome of my application. Today, in the autumn of 2014 as I await my viva – having submitted my thesis – I look back on three very pleasant and productive academic years.

Lord Mountbatten being received by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan at Palam airport, Delhi, 22 March 1947

Lord Mountbatten being received by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan at Palam airport, Delhi, 22 March 1947

A key reason for this lies on the shelves of the strong room and the desks of the reading room of the Special Collections on Level 4 of the Hartley Library, where I have probably spent maximum time when in campus. My PhD thesis is on the international dimensions of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan from 1947 to 1966. This was also roughly the period during which Louis Mountbatten (along with his wife Edwina) was at his most involved and most influential, with diminishing returns as the years went, in Indian affairs. To state the obvious, therefore, his papers, those of his wife and his Press Officer, Alan Campbell-Johnson, have been the foundational source for my enquiry. Indeed, it would not be an exaggeration to say that it was Mountbatten who was responsible for any international dimensions accruing to the Kashmir dispute by his successful suggestion to his close friend and the first Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to take the matter to the United Nations in December 1947. Otherwise, it might well have remained a subcontinental or a Commonwealth affair.

As befits a rich and enduringly relevant set of papers, MB files have been used by scholars ever since they were first put together in their present form almost two decades ago. Thus far, the chief focus has been Mountbatten’s role in the end of Britain’s India Empire with increasingly a look at his anomalous position as independent India’s first Governor-General from August 1947 to June 1948. Of course, as a contentious historical figure, Mountbatten has been subject to laudatory or condemnatory accounts from as early as early-1950s with the high water marks of biographical history-writing on him being reached in the mid-1980s and subsequently.

From the start, therefore, I was conscious to avoid the trodden tracks and while I sifted through the material for my prime purpose – the international dimensions of the Kashmir dispute that simmered on Mountbatten’s watch as the last Viceory and boiled over during his tenure as Governor-General – I was perhaps keener to move away from the academic battles of 1947-48 involving Mountbatten. In this endeavour, I was encouraged by Prof Chris Woolgar. I can do no more than join the many researchers, who have benefitted from their interactions with the always generous, indeed indulgent, Head of Special Collections (1990-2013), in expressing my gratitude. And so, instead of starting with the MB1/D series as most if not all South Asia students do, I did everything else first: MB1/C, E, F, G, H, I, J, K et al. This research provided the basis for an article I wrote on Mountbatten and India, 1948-1964, which was published in The International History Review earlier this year in April.

When, after this detour, I turned to Mountbatten’s Viceroyalty, my attention was caught by the very first file, a rather thick one, in the MB1/D series, which contained the fortnightly personal letters that each of the last 11 provincial governors in British India wrote to the last Viceroy between March and August 1947. While the months leading up to the partition of British India has been looked at in perhaps every single detail now, at the national, provincial and local levels, one missing link in this story had been the provincial governors. One glance through the file made me embark upon a detailed plumbing of the letters, aimed at bringing these men to light. My supervisor, Prof Ian Talbot, gave me crucial confidence and support for this old-fashioned foray into personality politics of a period rather populated with personalities. It bore fruit recently (issue dated 2 August 2014) as an article in the journal Economic & Political Weekly titled The Last Sahibs: Governors in British India, March-August 1947.

While on the subject of provinces, yet another fruitful avenue of research that the Mountbatten files present is the situation in the non-partitioned seven provinces of British India at the cusp of independence and what that tells us about the continuities and linkages between the colonial and post-colonial state across the divide of 1947. Naturally, the historiography on Mountbatten and India in 1947 has been dominated by the plight of Punjab and Bengal, their partition and its aftermath. By shifting one’s gaze besides them to those other, sometimes bigger in size and population, provinces that escaped territorial division and communal calculations but wrestled with their own problems no less important for their imprint on the new dominions of India and Pakistan, aided by the files on them in the Mountbatten collection, one gets much food for thought.

Apart from the provinces, the other rich subject of enquiry for Mountbatten’s time in India is his treatment of the princely states – a much-written about subject. One princely state among the 550-odd that has escaped attention is the tiny western state of Junagadh, which was the first crisis of accession between India and Pakistan. As I worked on the biggest crisis – Kashmir – my attention came to the smallest – Junagadh. Once again, a set of four files in the MB1/D series made me realise the continuing potential of the Mountbatten collection to throw new light on many episodes of early independent Indian history, where there are still more assumptions than answers. Here, the Alan Campbell-Johnson files too registered a prominent presence.

These last two topics – the non-partitioned provinces and Junagadh – remain works in progress but how can one adequately express gratitude for the congenial research base provided for the PhD as well as the research possibilities pointed for a post-doc by this seemingly inexhaustible collection? Mountbatten was uniquely involved in the war and diplomacy around Kashmir in 1947-48 and then retained his influence to be brought out to India in the summer of 1963 to prevail upon his old friend Nehru to settle the dispute. Naturally, his papers have a range of material – from the official to the strictly personal. Among the galaxy of Britons who chose to stay back in India and Pakistan post-August 1947, none found himself in a more peculiar position than Mountbatten whose reputation as the imperial Crown Representative would give way to charges of partisanship in favour of India, not only in Pakistan but in the establishment circles in London too.

But before partition and charges of partisanship came, Mountbatten had gone to India to head a coalition government of the Congress and the Muslim League in March 1947 and, for the next two months, ran British India as the head of this council whose political and ideological incompatibility has overshadowed the complex collaborational governance exercise it was engaged in. Once again, those files in the Mountbatten collection, which contain the minutes of these Cabinet meetings, flag an interesting research topic, an enquiry into the nature and working of the last central government of British India that existed between September 1946 and August 1947.

There are many merits of the Mountbatten and related papers; first and foremost of which is that here one can find material that is still under lock and key in India (and Pakistan). Equally there are pitfalls in relying exclusively on this collection, like any other but especially so here given the personality and career of Mountbatten himself; the chief being the need to be wary of Mountbatten’s and his staff’s propensity to exaggerate his importance and centrality in the scheme of things as well as their production of contemporary records always keeping an eye on history-writing thereby at times taking liberty with facts and figures and sequences and sentiments.

It would be remiss to conclude without a mention of the very kind and helpful staff in the reading room. I have always felt at home and would rather be there than at any other place when on campus in Southampton. I will also remember fondly the behind-the-scenes view of the strong room that the Senior Archivist, Karen Robson personally handled for me and my parents. I write not only with a sense of attachment and affection, but also in praise of the personal touch and the professionalism with which the Special Collections are handled at the Hartley Library. Add the Wellington, Palmerston and the Anglo-Jewish Archives, and it is no exaggeration to say that the Special Collections are the jewels in the crown of the University of Southampton.”

10th Anniversary of the Special Collections Gallery

In the autumn of 2004 the University of Southampton welcomed visitors to the first exhibition to be held in the new Special Collections Gallery. The Gallery was created with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a major investment by the University in the remodelling and extension of the Hartley Library. Since then there have been three or four exhibitions on display each year based on manuscript and printed materials housed by the Special Collection Division.

The first exhibition, titled The Special Collections, sampled some of the main collections, to convey their range, importance and flavour. It was divided into five sections, reflecting the growth of the holdings and some of the principal themes that are to be found in them. These included materials relating to Hampshire; Prime Ministers’ papers of the first Duke of Wellington and the third Viscount Palmerston; Anglo-Jewish materials; materials relating to Lord Mountbatten and the transfer of power in India; as well as early materials from the Parkes Library.

Banners for exhibitions from 2007 to 2014

Banners for exhibitions from 2007 to 2014

Subsequent exhibitions have expanded on these themes. The exhibition Cecil Roth and Anglo-Jewish intellectuals in 2005 drew from the significant range of materials for Jewish individuals held by the Division. Focusing on the papers of five Anglo-Jewish intellectuals, the exhibition provided a snapshot of the overall holdings. The following year, to mark the 350th anniversary of the re-admission of the Jewish population into Britain, ‘In a style fitting to us Jewes’: Anglo-Jewish life from the Resettlement reflected more broadly on the Anglo-Jewish community and aspects of Jewish life in the UK.

A number of exhibitions have drawn on the official, diplomatic, military and political papers of the Duke of Wellington. Wellington and his papers in 2008 celebrated twenty-five years since the archive was allocated to the University under national heritage legislation in 1983. Showcasing the scale of the collection, the exhibition reflected the entire span of Wellington’s career from his first military commission to his political career. Meanwhile, exhibitions held in conjunction with the Wellington Congress have included The War against Napoleon in 2006, examining the impact of the Napoleonic War across Europe; and ‘Victory searches for her son’: defending Spain and Portugal against Napoleon, 1810 in 2010, focusing on two of the key moments in the Peninsular War – the Lines of Torres Vedras and the Battle of Buçaco – as well as Britain’s relationship with Spain and Portugal.

The Broadlands Archives in 2010 offered a look at the extensive range of materials in the Broadlands collection. Centred on the Temple (Palmerston), Ashley, Cassel and Mountbatten families, the documents in the collection cover major political, diplomatic, social and economic events of the 19th and 20th centuries. One such event was the focus of the exhibition The Independence of India and Pakistan, 1947 in 2007 which offered a fascinating perspective on the transfer of power from the British Raj to the newly-created states of India and Pakistan in 1947. Drawing largely on the Papers of Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the exhibition marked the sixtieth anniversary of this historic event.

In 2012 the University of Southampton celebrated its diamond jubilee as the first university to be created in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, receiving its royal charter on 29 April 1952. It also celebrated the foundation of the Hartley Institution, the University’s predecessor, which was opened on 15 October 1862. To mark the occasion the exhibition ‘To constitute and found a university …’: from Hartley Institution to the University of Southampton’s diamond jubilee set out to reflect development over 150 years, both in terms of the experience of students, from the nineteenth century onwards, and in the physical changes to the institution. The same year saw The Poetry of F.T.Prince (1912-2003) examining the life and work of one of the University’s first Professors of English and a significant poet of the twentieth century.

Visitors at the Special Collections Gallery

Visitors at the Special Collections Gallery

Other exhibitions have focused on a wide range of topics, including ‘Irreconcileable with the principles of humanity and justice’: the trade in slaves and its abolition in 2007; ‘A Most Laborious Undertaking’: The Art of Maps and Map-Making in 2008; Unreliable memories: documenting personal and official experience in 2009; Britain and South Asia, 1760–1960 in 2011; Here, look after him’: los niños, refugee children from the Spanish Civil War in 2012; and ‘When a traveller is in a strange place …’: perspectives on romanticism and revolution, 1790–1840 in 2013. Exhibitions offering perspectives on artistic subjects have included In the Loop: Highlights of the Montse Stanley Knitting Collection in 2008; Print Matters: A visual journey through the artist’s book in 2011; and The early modern image: patronage, kings and peoples in 2014.

As well as drawing on material held by the Special Collections Division, exhibitions have included materials from the Hampshire Records Office, the Southampton City Archives, the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Knitting Reference Library, and the University of Southampton School of Ocean and Earth Science.

Upcoming exhibitions in 2015 will focus on the role of music at the University, the Battle of Waterloo, and the Parkes library on Jewish/non-Jewish relations. The current exhibition ‘When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare’ will run until 12 December 2014.

Exhibition: ‘When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare’

Reflections on war and warfare flyer. Image by kind permission of the Southern Daily Echo.

The University of Southampton Special Collections is the home of important military archive collections from the late eighteenth century to the mid twentieth century and covering the Peninsular War and the battle of Waterloo, later nineteenth-century campaigns in Africa, Afghanistan, India, the Crimea as well as the two World Wars. One of the most significant collections at Southampton is the archive of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, who was considered by many to be the greatest general of his age. This archive contains extensive material for the Peninsular War as well as for Waterloo and for earlier campaigns in India. Papers of Earl Mountbatten of Burma, who was Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia during the Second World War, form part of the Broadlands Archives. Drawing on material from these and across a wide range of other collections at Southampton, the exhibition will offer differing insights and reflections on war and warfare. Starting with a reflection on patriotism and duty and those who chose to fight and those who did not, the exhibition also include material from the front line and from the home front, literary reflections and items on commemoration and remembrance.

The exhibition is open weekdays, 10am to 4pm, and runs from 13 October – 12 December 2014. A private view and drinks reception will take place on Thursday, 16 October, 5pm – 7pm. All are welcome.

Venue: Special Collections Gallery, Level 4, Hartley Library, University Road, Highfield, Southampton, SO17 1BJ.

The exhibition coincides with ‘Mark Anstee: Enchantment of Distance’ in the Level 4 Gallery.

These exhibitions form part of the University of Southampton’s Great War: Unknown War programme – a series of events, talks, workshops and conferences taking place in 2014-15 across campus, as part of the wider global WW1 commemoration. A full programme of events can be found at: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/greatwar_unknownwar