Guide to the Papers of General Sir Cecil James East [MSS 145]

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Manuscript Name Papers of General Sir Cecil James East
Manuscript Number MSS 145
Last Updated August 2021
Extent 10 cm (1 box)
Location Special Collections, UNSW Canberra
Abstract This collection comprises three bound manuscript journals written by General Sir Cecil James East, KCB. The journals cover East's military career from 1854-1898, including accounts of service in the Crimea, the Indian Mutiny and his career as a staff officer in India. Material relating to the Chittagong Column on the Lushai Expeditionary Force in 1871-1872, the Zulu War, 1879, and the Third Burma War, 1886-1887 are detailed in volumes not held by the Academy Library.

Collection Type


Scope and Contents

This description was kindly provided by the eminent military historian Professor Ian Beckett who used the collection for research in 2018 and read each of the journals (which have a difficult hand to decipher).

Journals of General Sir Cecil James East (1837-1908)

There are three journals covering East’s military career from April 1854 to December 1898. They are varied in detail with some years having fairly full entries and others only sparse detail. It would appear that the journals were compiled from diaries and written up probably after East’s retirement in 1898. Thus, there is mention of three campaign journals that are not included relating to East’s participation in the Lushai Expedition on the North East Frontier of India (1871-72), the Anglo-Zulu War (1879), and the Third Burma War (1886). These are presumably now lost although East lectured on the Lushai expedition at the Royal United Service Institution. [ C. J. East, ‘An Account of the Proceedings of the Chittagong Column of the Lushaie [sic] Expeditionary Force, 1871-72’, JRUSI 17, 71(1873-74), pp. 113-56.]

Volume 1 (1854-72)

The journal begins on 4 April 1854 and varies in detail. East’s regiment, the 82nd Foot, reached the Crimea in September 1855 so there is little on the Crimean War but East makes some interesting observations on Corfu through which the regiment was routed. There are similar good descriptions of South Africa and Singapore while East was en route to India, where the 82nd arrived in October 1857. Details of the latter stages of the Indian Mutiny are fuller, especially the action on 26 November 1857 during the advance from Lucknow to Cawnpore, in which East was wounded in the foot. Entries are relatively sparse thereafter although fuller for 1866 and 1867, East having transferred to the 41st Foot as Captain in 1866.

Volume 2 (1872-88)

The journal is a mixture of travel journal, note of family affairs, and more useful military details. As indicated above, mention is made of a separate journal for the Lushai expedition. East travelled on leave through Italy and Switzerland in 1872, for example, while also visiting Germany and attending Austro-Hungarian military parades in 1873. There is some detail on East’s frustrating attempts to gain promotion to a majority in 1874 and on his attachment to the Intelligence Department at the War Office in 1875. An indication of his departmental work is given such as attending German manoeuvres, work on French troops in Algeria, and work on the Discipline Bill in 1879. East was busy in preparing reinforcements for Zululand following the disaster at Isandlwana and was then sent to South Africa himself in May 1879. As indicated above, East’s service in Zululand was detailed in a separate journal, which is mentioned and now presumed lost covering the period from 3 June to 17 October 1879. Returning to the Intelligence Department, East again gives details of his work such as appearing before the Alison and Airey Committees and working on memoranda on the Second Afghan War. Interestingly, East suggests the Duke of Cambridge commended him for a paper on Afghanistan in March 1880. He does not mention the Duke’s condemnation of a subsequent paper East contributed in August 1880 recommending withdrawal from Kandahar. [HCPP 1881 [C. 2811], pp. 42-46, C. J. East, ‘Memorandum, on Our Future Policy in Afghanistan’, 16 Aug. 1880. See Ian F. W. Beckett, ‘The Road from Kandahar: The Politics of Retention and Withdrawal in Afghanistan, 1880-81’, Journal of Military History 78 (2014), pp. 1263-94.] East notes that he declined the appointment of Commandant General of Colonial Forces at the Cape in January 1880. There is a little detail on East’s work on choosing positions in East Anglia for the defence of Britain against invasion. East’s appointment to the brigade command at Sialkot in Bengal in 1883 results in entries thereafter that - while brief - give a good impression of the daily military and social duties of a brigade commander, including camps of exercise. There is also a copy of a pamphlet, ‘Judging Distance by Sound’ issued by East to his brigade in October 1884. East was temporarily seconded to a brigade command in Burma but again as previously indicated, there is mention of a separate journal now lost covering the period from 5 September 1886 to 23 May 1887. East returned to England at the end of his brigade command in August 1888.

Volume 3 (1888-98)  

Rather as in the case of the last sections of the previous volume, East’s entries for his period commanding the Secunderabad Division in Madras from April 1889 until December 1893 give a good indication of routine military and social duties. There is a particularly extended description of a visit to the Maharajah of Mysore in October 1893. East’s last appointment as Commandant of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst from January1894 to December 1898 is somewhat less useful other than recording the primary social duties. East does mention attending a meeting of the Promotion Board in March 1896 but there are no details. Sandhurst was East’s last employment and the journal ends on 31 December 1898. He did not actually officially retire until December 1903, dying in 1908.


Date Range of Content


Biographical Note

General Sir Cecil James East, KCB, was a senior British Army Officer. He was born on the 10 July 1837, and was privately educated. He joined the Army on 18 August 1854 as an ensign in the 82nd Regiment of Foot, and graduated on the 5 June 1855 as a Lieutenant (3rd ensign) in the Regiment serving at Edinburgh Castle. He graduated from the Staff College in 1862, and was promoted to Second Captain in the Regiment, 17 November 1863; Captain 13 August 1866 in the 41st Regiment of Foot; Brevet Major, 11 September 1872; Major, 29 September 1888 in the 57th Regiment of Foot; Lieutenant-Colonel, 17 May 1879; Brevet Colonel, 29 November 1879, Major-General, 23 January 1889, Lieutenant-General, 28 May 1896, and General, 27 August 1902.

He served in the Crimean War in 1855, at the siege and fall of Sevastopol, received a medal and clasp and Turkish medal. He arrived in India on 11 October 1857, and was involved in the Indian Mutiny at the battle of Pandoo Nuddee and was severely wounded, he received a medal. In 1863 he joined the 41st Regiment of Foot and served as A.Q.M. with the Chittagong Column on the Lushai Expeditionary Force in 1871-1872, mentioned in despatches, received a medal with clasp and thanked by the Government of India. In 1879 during the Zulu War he was Deputy Adjutant and Quartermaster-General, and was present at the battle of Ulundi, mentioned in despatches, thanked in general orders, received a medal and clasp. Served with the Burmese Expedition, 1886-1889, commanded the 1st Brigade after the capture of Mandalay, mentioned in despatches, thanked by the Government of India, received two clasps.

East's staff service included: D.A.Q.M.G., Bengal 15 November 1865 to 31 May 1868; A.Q.M.G., Bengal, 1 June 1868 to 5 January 1872; 1st A.Q.M.G., H.Q. of the Army, India, 6 January 1872 to 23 February 1875; D.A.Q.M.G., (Intelligence Branch), H.Q. of the Army, 1 April 1876 to 29 January 1879; A.Q.M.G., (Intelligence Branch), H.Q. of the Army, 30 January 1879 to 16 May 1879; D.A. and Q.M.G.C. of Good Hope, 17 May 1879 to 20 November 1879; A.Q.M.G. (Intelligence branch), H.Q. of Army, 21 November 1879 to 26 June 1873; Brigadier-General, Bengal, 30 July 1883 to 16 September 1886; Brigadier-General, Burmese Expedition, 17 September 1886 to 14 May 1887; Brigadier-General, Bengal, 15 May 1887 to 29 July 1888; Major-General, Madras, 23 April 1889 to 27 October 1893. In 1893 he returned to England and was Governor and Commandant of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst from 19 December 1893-1898. He retired from the Army on 19 December 1903.

East received a CB in 1887 and a KCB in 1897. He died at Winchester on the 14 March 1908, and was buried in Kingsworthy Church yard near Winchester.

The concise dictionary of national biography : from earliest times to 1985, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1992, vol. 1:A-F, p. 877
Great Britain Army list, January 1902 and April 1907
Who was who, 1897-1916.

Administrative Information

Access and Copying Conditions

Access: Open Access


Preferred Citation

[Manuscript Item], Papers of General Sir Cecil James East, Special Collections, UNSW Canberra, Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra, MSS 145, Box [Number], Folder [Number].


This collection was purchased by the Academy Library from Maggs Bros. in 1985

Access Terms

Personal Names

East, Cecil James, Sir, 1837-1908

Topical Subjects

Crimean War, 1853-1856

Corporate Names

Great Britain. Army. -- Regiment of Foot, 82nd

Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst -- Presidents -- Biography

Great Britain. Army -- Foreign service -- India

Geographical Names

Sevastopol (Ukraine) -- History -- Siege, 1854-1855

Kanpur (India) -- History -- Siege, 1857


Army officers

Container List

Box 1

Folder 1
Journal, 4 April 1854- 24 May 1872

Folder 2
Journal with tipped-in 'Map of the Austrian empire : showing the railway & steamboat communication & the most important roads (Western sheet)' and tipped-in printed article by Brigadier-General C.J. East entitled 'Judging distance by sound : explanation of system', 15 October 1884, Sialkot, 4 p., 25 May 1872-26 September 1888

Folder 3
Journal, 27 September 1888-31 December 1898, together with a menu card, Wustermarck 10 September 1872, and an invitation thank you to Mrs East from Alexander George of Teck, Royal Military College, Camberley, Surrey, 7 March 1894