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Collection Level Description: Papers of Richard Meinertzhagen

Reference: GB 0162 MSS. Meinertzhagen
Title: Papers of Richard Meinertzhagen
Dates of Creation: 1899-1965
Extent: 76 volumes

Language of Material: English

Administrative/Biographical History

Richard Meinertzhagen (1878-1967), naturalist and intelligence officer, spent much of his childhood near Romsey, Hampshire, where he began his lifelong interest in birds. After an education at Harrow and a few months at his father's City office, he spent a term in Göttlingen, learning German. He gained a subaltern's commission in the Hampshire Yeomanry, 1897-1898 and in 1899 was comissioned into the Royal Fusiliers. From 1902 to 1906 he was attached to the King's African Rifles, serving in Kenya, where he discovered the Giant Forest Hog (Hylochoeros meinertzhageni), was wounded, mentioned in dispatches and promoted captain. He passed the Staff College in Quetta, Baluchistan and in 1914 was made Intelligence Officer to the Tanga expeditionary force, gaining promotion in 1916 to the DSO. He then served as Chief Intelligence Officer to the Egyptian expeditionary force into Palestine. After a short period at the War Office, he was seconded to the intelligence branch of GHQ in France, though an attempt to see the battle front in person led to severe wounds. He recovered in time to join A.J. Balfour's staff at the Paris Peace Conference, then worked as Chief Political Officer in Palestine and Syria. From 1921 to 1924 he was Military Adviser to the Colonial Office, sharing a room with his friend T.E. Lawrence. He resigned from the Army in 1925, spending most of the rest of his life travelling (chiefly in western and central Asia) and studying birds - partly as cover for observing international politics. He returned to the War Office 1939-1940, was wounded aiding in the rescues from Dunkirk, and spent the remainder of World War Two in the Home Guard. A convinced Zionist, he was an active eyewitness in the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. His published works include his journals, Kenya Diary 1902-1906 (London, Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd, 1957), Middle East Diary 1917-1956 (London, Cresset Press, 1959), Army Diary 1899-1926 (London, Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd, 1960) and Diary of a Black Sheep (London, Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd, 1964), as well as Nicoll's Birds of Egypt (London, Hugh Rees, 1930), Birds of Arabia (London, Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd, 1954) and Pirates and Predators. The piratical and predatory habits of birds (London, Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd, 1959). In 1951 he received the Goodman Salvin medal of the British Ornithologists' Union and was appointed CBE in 1957 for services to ornithology. He was married twice, to Armorel le Roy-Lewis in 1911, and in 1921 to Anne Constance Jackson, with whom he had a daughter and two sons (the elder of which was killed in action in World War Two).

Scope and Content

Diaries as Military Adviser, Colonial Office, concerning India, Mauritius, East Africa and Palestine, 1899-1965; with index and ten volumes of intelligence reports, despatches and memoranda, 1902-1924, four ornithological note books, 1891-1895, and photographic material.

The diaries contain references to personal acquaintances and members of the Meinertzhagen family, as well as ornithology and botany, aviation [1911-1940s], Winston Churchill [1921-1945], Colonial Office [1920s], War Office 1907-[1942], Communism 1918-[1952], World War One and the East Africa Campaign 1914-1918, The Paris Peace Conference c1919, World War Two, London and the Home Guard 1939-1945, Israel and Zionism 1917-[1953], Army lists, life and training [20th century], the Royal Fusiliers [1899]-1956, politics and the TUC 1909-[1954], General Jan Christian Smuts 1907-[1949], as well as the USA, India, Egypt, Palestine and the Middle East, and various European states.

Administrative Information

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The diaries were donated to the library on 17th February 1965.


Typescript copy of a letter from Meinertzhagen to Lloyd George, 1919, concerning the political situation in Palestine and recommending the annexation of Sinai, privately donated, 12th February 1997.

Access Conditions

Bodleian reader's ticket required. Access to papers is subject to the permission of the Meinertzhagen family trustees until 18th June 2037. Diary entries of a personal nature have been removed and are closed until 18th June 2037. Contact the library in the first instance.

Reproduction Restrictions

Reproduction or publication of papers is subject to the permission of the Meinertzhagen family trustees until 18th June 2037. Contact the library in the first instance.

Further Information

Finding Aids

Listed as No. 88 and 228 in Manuscript Collections of Africana in Rhodes House Library, Oxford, compiled by Louis B. Frewer (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1968), and as No. 271 and 400 in Manuscript Collections (excluding Africana) in Rhodes House Library, Oxford, compiled by Louis B. Frewer (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1970).

Publication Note

Duty, honour, empire: the life and times of Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, by John Lord (London, Hutchinson, 1971); Warriors. the legend of Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen C.B.E., D.S.O., by Peter Hathaway Capstick (New York, St. Martin's Press, 1998)

Access Points

Meinertzhagen | Richard | 1878-1967 | colonial administrator ornithologist



Aeronautics | History | Personal narratives

Communism | History | 20th century

World War, 1914-1918 | Africa, East

World War, 1914-1918

World War, 1939-1945 | Great Britain | London

World War, 1939-1945

Zionism | History | 20th century

Paris Peace Conference (1919-1920)

Labor unions | Great Britain | Congresses

Great Britain | Army | Royal Fusiliers

Israel | History | 1948-1967

Great Britain | Politics and government | 20th century

Great Britain | Armed Forces | 20th century

Great Britain. Colonial Office

Great Britain. War Office

Churchill | Winston Leonard Spencer | 1874-1965 | Sir | Knight Statesman and Historian

Smuts | Jan Christian | 1870-1950 | Statesman

Europe | History | 20th century

Asia | History | 20th century

Africa | History | 20th century

United States | History | 20th century

Transformation from XML to HTML by Lawrence Mielniczuk
29 February 2012