Guide to the Papers of Edward Jacomb (as filmed by the AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2019

Collection Summary

Jacomb, Edward
Papers of Edward Jacomb (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
1 November 1755 - 1958
Collection Number
13 items
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

Autobiography and miscellaneous papers relate to Jacomb's early life in England and his years in Australia and the New Hebrides. The main correspondent is R.J. Fletcher of Makatea.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the Senate House Library, University of London.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the Senate House Library, University of London and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Press cuttings from London newspapers re. the proposed colonial tour, 1905, Senate House Library, University of London. (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Material selectively filmed at the London University Library as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1988 (AJCP Reel: M2338). Original microfilm digitised as part of the AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

Senate House Library, University of London. Malet Street, London, England.

For more information see Edward Jacomb diaries and papers (

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

Finding-aid Notes

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2019. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Australia; Fletcher, R.J.; Great Britain; Jacomb, Edward; Makatea, New Hebrides; New Hebrides


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 252, p94.

Biographical / Historical

Edward Jacomb (1881 - 1960) was born into a prosperous middle class family. After Oxford, he read for the bar and also studied French law in Paris. He failed to secure a post in the Egyptian Judicial Service, but after a trip to a family property in Australia saw how qualified he was to serve in a legal capacity in the newly formed Anglo - French condominium of New Hebrides. After service in the First World War he returned to the New Hebrides in 1919 but finallyleft the Pacific area in 1920 and returned to England to qualify as a doctor.

He attended medical schools in Birmingham and Bristol University in the early twenties, finally securing his LMSSA registration on 27 June 1932 while working at Charing Cross Hospital. From 1935-1939 he was resident in Jersy, returning to London in 1941. During the War he was employed as a temporary phyician and medical officer at Runwell Mental Hospital in Essex and Kent County Mental Hospital in Maidstone. According to the 1953 Medical Directory he finally retired as a doctor in 1953 and he died in 1960.

While in the New Hebrides Jacomb kept diaries, which on his death he bequeathed to London University on the proviso they were closed for fifty years. In 1956 he wrote a volume of family and personal biography which his literary executor also deposited at London University. The nine typescript volumes of this history comprise this collection.

Jacomb initially entitled his biographical manuscript Successful Failure , but at a later date crossed this out and retitled it Family Portrait. However in some places it is still called Successful Failure . He used not only his own diaries, but also verbatim extracts from his mothers diaries, family letters and other letters to himself from settlers in the New Hebrides.

Many of these family letters were from his brother Charles Ernest Jacomb (b. 1888) who at one time ran the family fruit farm at Mildura. Charles Jacomb was the author of Gods own country: an appreciation of Australia, London Max Goshen, 1914 and Torment: a study in patriotism, London, Andrew Melrose, 1920. In the first chapter of Torment…Charles Jacomb mentions his life in the New Hebrides where he and his wife briefly joined Edward in his legal partnership.

Edward Jacomb also wrote two books on his service in the New Hebrides: France and England in the New Hebrides: the Anglo-French Condominium. Melb. George Robertson, 1914 and The future of the Kanaka, London, P.S. King and Son, 1919. Both provide essential background to Family Portrait.

Also quoted in Family Portrait are letters to Jacomb from R.J. Fletcher, employed by Zeither and Hagen at Ringdove Bay, New Hebrides. Other letters from Fletcher to Bohun Lynch were published as Isles of Illusion by Asterisk, London, Constable, 1923.

Item Descriptions

Series Ms 894. Edward Jacomb, Family Portrait, 1899 - 1923

9 items

Volume 1, Part 1, f.VII, 1 - 141, [? - 1899] (File 894/1)

Comprises: Father's years in Indian Civil Service. E.J's early life in England at school

Volume 1, Part 2, f.142 - 341, 1899 - 1906 (File 894/2)

Comprises: E.J'S education at Oxford in 1899; visits to Victoria, B.C.; brother Charles' visit to Australia in 1905 for his health; extracts from Charles' letters to his parents: life on board Illawarwa, from Adelaide 1 May, from Melbourne 4 June and 29 May, with descriptions of the journey, includes hurricane, meeting Amy Lea in Adelaide and other social excursions, visit to Mildura, Braybrook Fruit Farm E.J.'s study of law in Paris; sailing to Australia in Ortona with Charles and parents, 1906; appendix f. 314-6 gives details of the Australian branch of the family descendants of Commander Robert Jacomb R.N. (1788-1853) who migrated to Tasmania in 1832 with wife and three children, includes quotations of letters from W.G. de Renzy, Melbourne, 1853-5 re. Robert Elwall Jacomb. Family tree of Australasian Jacombs on f.333-4.

Volume 2, Part 1-2, f.1-124, 1906 - 1909 (File 894/3)

Comprises: Journey to Melbourne 1906; visits to cousins; prospects of joining New Hebrides Civil Service; journey to Mildura and description of the area; visit to ostrich farm, journey down Murray River on Trafalgar; description of the Braybrook fruit farm; E.J. leaves for New Hebrides (1907) from Sydney; visits Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island; arrival at Vila on 12 April; description of Vila and of local society; visits to other islands and return to Vila on 14 July 1907; journey to Noumea and on to Fiji; court cases in Suva; meeting with Sir Everard Thurnand employment offer in New Hebrides as assistant to the Resident Commissioner; description of office duties; visits to the interior and other islands; details of land disputes, problems of getting water; murder at Port Vato; visit from parents; Charles' activities at Mildura fruit farm; parents visit to Tasmania, January 1909; personality clashes in Vila with Commissioner M.King; E.J. leaves Vila.

Volume 2, Part 3, f. 125-287, 1910 - 1911 (File 894/4)

Comprises: E.J. goes to Sydney and on to Melbourne; journey back to Vila with Charles; life in Vila; Charles returns to Braybrook, his problems there; court cases in Vila, problems with French officials; parents return and journey in Europe; E.J. visits Noumea; problems between French and natives in Tanna; E.J.'s second leave in Sydney and return to Vila with parents (December 1910); complaints by missionaries of sale by French settlers to natives of arms and alcohol-complaints ignored by French Resident; medical conditions in New Hebrides; parents visit Norfolk Island (February 1911)-description of inhabitants; problems with Braybrook fruit harvest and floods; E.J. appointed Acting Native Advocate to Joint Court, (April 1911) description of the court and its procedures; illegal native labour recruitment by French; expulsion of French Resident Commissioner Martin; E.J. resigns;E.J. and parents leave for Europe (23 October 1911).

Volume 3, Part 1, f.1 - 192, [VI], November 1911 - October 1913 (File 894/5)

Comprises: Journey to Europe; Charles' life at Braybrook Farm, Mildura; E.J. visits Colonial Office and Aborigines Protection Society and discusses situation in New Hebrides; return voyage to Australia (Feb - March 1912); news from New Hebrides, letters from Harrowell, EA G Seagoe (30 November 1911); return' to Vila and private practice; details of first case; social life in Vila; farming problems in Mildura; E.J's trip to Northern Islands; selling of the fruit farm at Braybrook; Charles return to England (April 1913); court cases in Vila; disagreements with French over labour problems; court proceedings against E.J.; Charles and wife Dorothy travel to Vila to join E.J. in legal partnership.

Volume 3, Part 2-3, f. 193 - 380, 1913 - 1916 (File 894/6)

Comprises: Charles and Dorothy's life in Vila; meeting of French settlers on 2 December 1913 at Doutrelean Hall, Vila that they have no confidence in Joint Court; cases before the court; correspondence with R.J.Fletcher, Surveyor, Undine Bay, September 1913 - June 1914; problems living with Charles and Dorothy-they dislike the natives; E.J. sails to England on Niagra (July 1914) via America, journey across Canada; declaration of War - no one at Colonial Office interested in New Hebrides affairs; news from Charles in Vila; E.J. returns to Australia in Demosthenes (24 Oct, 1914) and to Vila, Charles and Dorothy leave after much trouble with natives; Charles joins War Office; E.J's journey in New Hebrides; War news from England; details of court cases in Vila; further correspondence with R.J.Fletcher; Lamaru (June - November) hurricane damage June 1916; visit to Norfolk Islands (March); Charles enlists and is sent to France; problems in Vila, and E.J. migrates to Norfolk Island. (October 1916) for his health.

Volume 4, Part 1-2, f.1-145, 1916 - 1919 (File 894/7)

Comprises: Life on Norfolk Island; letters from R.J. Fletcher, Lamaru, Epi, with news from New Hebrides; family news from London and France; E.J. leaves for Sydney and England via Canada and USA (1917); family problems; E.J. employed at Admiralty; letters from R.J. Fletcher, Lamaru, Epi (1917-18) with news of New Hebrides-problems with food supplies; critical remarks re. the missionaries; labour problems of the natives; the scandal of 'Plantation marriages' and the lot of native women on the plantations; bringing up his half caste child; native customs; for the sake of the natives hopes the Islands will not be handed over to the French; illegal sale of alcohol; local language and pidgin.

Volume 4, Part 3, f. 146 - 200, 1919 - 1920 (File 894/8)

Comprises:E.J. visits Australia House and tells Ellison and Sir Robert Garran about the situations in New Hebrides; E.J. sails for Australia (July 1919) on Aeneas and after several days in Sydney travels on to Vila; since Joint Court is no longer sitting E.J. winds up his business in Vila; exchange of letters with R.J. Fletcher, Lamaru, Epi September-October 1919-problems of isolation at Lamaru and bringing up his half caste child; E.J. travels round northern Islands and leaves for Sydney on 22 November 1919; social life in Sydney and Melbourne; sailing for England on Aeneas (January 1920).

Volume 5, Part 1, f.1-139, 1920 - 1923 (File 894/9)

12 items

Section includes: E.J's return to England; family affairs; E.J. gets news from Fletcher, Sydney, Crombie at Cohunna, Victoria and Minto McCoy, Sydney and some others; Fletcher gets a job in Pa peete; description of his life there; E.J. trains as a doctor at Birmingham University Aut. 1921; futher family problems; E.J. transfers to Bristol University for second MB; problems with rental on E.J's house in Vila; Publication of Isles of Illusion by Asterick; constable 1923 which comprises of letters written by R.J. Fletcher to Bohun Lynch and published by him without RJF's permission; Charles financial problems; death of father.

Letters of note include:

Henry Piermont, Vila to E.J, 5 Nov 1920: re the Joint Court; cost of living

F.E. Johnson, Talagi B.S.I to E.J, 23 Nov 1920, 29 Oct (1921?): problems of living in BSI

Maurice Frater, Paama to E.J. 15 Dec 1920: includes statement he had presented to the Prime Minister in Melbourne on the state of affairs in N.H.

Kaltanak, Vila to E.J. 5 Jan 1921

Stanley McCoy, Vila to E.J. 13 Feb, 13 April, 23 July 1921.

Greenland, Papua, 31 March 1921: re Sir Hubert Murray

Reverend Thomson Macmillian, Tanna to E.J. 20 June (1921?) re French intentions.

R.J. Fletcher, Makatea to E.J. 4 March 1921, 6 July 1921: re life on Tahiti and difference between Tahitians and New Herbridians.

R.J. Fletcher, Makatea to E.J. 30Nov. 1921

Minto McCoy to E.J: sailing to Norfolk Island and Vila

Major Edwin Harrowell, Auckland to E.J. 13 Sept 1923: re his retirement in New Zealand

Dr. David Crombie, Toeumwal NSW, to E.J. 26 Sept (1923?): re settlement at Toeumwal

F.E. Johnson, Talagi BSI to E.J. 24 August 1923: re work in BSI administration

Series 894/10. Miscellaneous, 1 November 1755 - 1958

4 items

Filmed selectively.

Personal papers of Jacomb family, 23 December 1823 - 3 January 1937 (File)

8 items
Marriage certificate of Joseph Rich and Charlotte Brabook, 25 December 1823 (Item 10/1)
Baptism registration of Mary Rich, 24 February 1860 (Item 10/2)

Extract from register book of Baptisms, Christ Church, Byculla.

Marriage registration of Herbert Jacomb and Mary Rich, 12 April 1877 (Item 10/3)

Extract from Register Books of Marriages.

Baptism certificate of Edward Jacomb, Bombay, 12 April 1881 (Item 10/4)
Death certificate of William H. Jacomb, 4 January 1913 (Item 10/5)
Copy of Baptism certificate of Herbert Jacomb on 2 November 1837, Dated 1916-04-18 (Item 10/6)
Death registration of Mary Rich, 3 January 1937 (Item 10/7)
Letter to Jacombs from [Fletcher?], 1 August 1913 (Item 10/8)

Resolutions passed by a conference of the Protestant Churches held at Paama, New Hebrides 7p. (printed), 24 June 1913 (File 10/9)

Re deplorable conditions for the natives and lack of action by the Joint Court.

Miscellaneous, notes, poems and correspondence, 1 November 1755 - 1958 (File)

10 items
J.Groseley(?), Judges Chambers, Vila to E.J., 11 March 1914 (Item 10/10)

Re incident in John's case.

Letter from the Bishop of Worcester to Aunt Amy, 15 September 1913 (Item 10/11)

Concerning Stockton Mortage and Bishop's schedule.

Story about the Bishop (Item 10/12)

A written story about the history of a piece of silver used as a chalice at Holy Communion.

'A Thought' by Edward Jacomb, 26 February 1913 (Item 10/13)
Londinium Desertum, 1944 (Item 10/14)

A poem by E. Jacomb about London streets during the Second World War.

A poem, 'On Re-reading 'Kim'', by E. Jacomb, 1958 (Item 10/15)
February 11 calendar page (Item 10/16)

Page with the times for the Sun and Moon rises on 11 February with short comment by Jacomb.

Poem (Item 10/17)

Short verse, possibly by [Hugo Lejeceue?], beginning "My letters completed".

Cartoon: Ambiguous echoes of an official visit in the group. Alan F. Reid, 1917 (Item 10/18)
Account of earthquake in Lisbon, Portugal, 1 November 1755 (Item 10/19)

Photographs, c. 1877-1913 (File 10/20-47)


Personal family photos and portraits.

Photo of Oxford University with accompanying poem.

Photo of a soldier in uniform.

Photos of New Hebrides scenery; group attending Synod; native group going fishing.