Addiscombe Military College and the Cadets who Forged an Empire


Title: Hardback
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Much has been written over the years about the careers of British officers during the Victorian period.  Some would become household names due to their heroic exploits, achievements and battlefield endeavours.  Others, after leading long and steady careers, would retire with a good pension and eventually pass away quietly in a bath chair to the gentle ticking of a parlour clock. Sadly though, many would end their days at an early age in a sweat-soaked bed, dying of terrible diseases, infections and wounds. However, they all shared a common bond, and that was the military institutions in which they trained. Many of these plain and spartan buildings still stand and, though no longer fulfilling their original purpose, their history is still evident and celebrated. 

However, there was one military institution that trained thousands of British officers during its 52-year history that now lies forgotten. Addiscombe Military Seminary, or College as it was later known, was established in 1809 to train engineer, artillery and infantry officers for the East India Company’s army.  

 These ‘Indian’ officers would go on to take part in virtually every Victorian military campaign. From the dusty plains of South Africa and Afghanistan, to the steaming jungles of Burma and the windswept deserts of the Sudan they marched, fought and died. Addiscombe’s engineer officers mapped many parts of the world as well as India, and also built railways, irrigation projects, churches, libraries and schools, many of which are still in use today. 

The terrible events of the Indian Mutiny led to the East India Company losing control of its vast empire, and its regiments, including the officers, were incorporated into the British Army. Addiscombe College was now deemed surplus to requirements, and its doors closed for the final time in 1861. Following its closure, almost the entire College was immediately demolished and the land turned into a posh Victorian suburb. Thankfully though, the subject of photography was introduced in 1855 and was eagerly embraced by the cadets. The results of their endeavours were pasted into decorative albums and initially treasured, though with the passage of time they too have gradually been forgotten ending up lying in attics and dusty archives. Until now. 

Published for the first time in this unique 633-page hard back book, their photographs give us a fascinating insight into a world long since gone. Containing over 650 rare photographs of the college, its staff and cadets it also includes more than 400 individual narratives exploring their lives both at Addiscombe and their careers beyond its austere iron gates.  Careers that would span the globe and forge an Empire

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Publisher - Kate Birbeck

Author(s) - Kate Birbeck


Published Date - March 31 2023

ISBN - 9781999958770

Dimensions - 29.7 x 21 x 4 cm

Page Count - 648

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