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Letter from Alexis Orlof Davidoff

 Single Item
MSS. Afr. r. 262

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Letter written from the Marlborough Club, Pall Mall by Alexis Orlof[f] Davidoff to George Sceales who was about to leave for the war in South Africa, extending him good wishes.


  • 1899


1 item

Language of Materials


Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MSS. Afr. r. 262].
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MSS. Afr. r. 262

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 1490

Biographical / Historical

Alexis Orloff Davidoff was a native of St. Petersburg residing in rooms at St. James's, London after visiting Paris, Oban and Edinburgh, c1899.

Colonel George Adinston M'Laren Sceales (1878-1956) was educated at Charterhouse and Sandhurst, joining the Princess Louise's 91st Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 1898 and serving with them in both the South African War, 1899-1902 and at the start of World War One. He commanded the 4th and 4/5th Black Watch, 1916-1917, 14th Battalion Tank Corps, 1917-1918 and 1st Tank Brigade, 1918-1919. He raised and commanded the 5th Battalion Tank Corps, 1919-1921 and retired in 1921. He was re-employed as Assistant Records Officer, 1940-1945. The holder of several awards and service medals, he was Captain of the Royal St. George's Golf Club, 1938-1939, President of the Army Golfing Society, 1947-1950 and Captain of the Senior Golfers' Society, 1950.

The South African War, 1899-1902 had its origins in the rivalry between Dutch Afrikaner (Boer) and British settlers in southern Africa which led by the middle of the 19th century to the emergence of four separate colonial territories - Cape Colony and Natal, under British rule, and Orange Free State and the South African Republic (later Transvaal), under Afrikaner control. Despite British refusal to officially recognise the Boer states, and the Boers' unwillingness to join a wider, Cape-governed Federation of South Africa, the four states managed an uneasy co-existence, though it was this basic difference of outlook and politics which was the eventual cause of the war. From the outset, the co-existence of the two sides was often threatened. A British annexation of the Transvaal in 1877 led to their decisive defeat at the hands of Boer forces at the Battle of Majuba Hill in 1881. There were minor conflicts in the 1880s and 1890s over neighbouring Bechuanaland, and influence over the Ndebele to the north. Gold was discovered in both the Boer republics, increasing their a ttraction to the British; and it was the perceived mistreatment of British residents in the Transvaal (many of them goldminers) which led to the ill-fated Jameson Raid on the Transvaal in 1897. It was an increasing nationalism on both sides, though, which helped spark a declaration of war on 11th October 1899. It was the Boers who launched the initial offensives - against Mafeking, Kimberley, Natal and Eastern Cape, using Bloemfontein as a focal point, but, after lengthy sieges of Ladysmith, Mafeking, etc., they eventually surrendered their advantage. The British relieved the besieged towns, then took Bloemfontein on 13th March 1900, and Pretoria in June. At this point, the British themselves allowed the Boers to regroup and change tactics, mounting an effective guerilla war. This the British countered by the use of a scorched earth policy, the initiation of a concentration camp system, etc.. Eventually, the Boers were forced to concede defeat and on 31st May 1902 a peace treaty was signed at Vereeniging, removing the independence of the Boer territories.

Other Finding Aids

The library holds a card index of all manuscript collections in its reading room.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The letter was donated to the library by John Pinfold on 1st February 1999.

Related Materials

For other South African War records see under South African War and Boer War on the Hub's search facilities.
Letter from Alexis Orlof Davidoff
Paul Davidson
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom