J L Davidson



Revised March 2015
James Lauder Davidson
National Library of Scotland
Manuscripts Division
George IV Bridge
Tel: 0131-623-3876
Fax: 0131-623-3866
E-mail: manuscripts@nls.uk
© National Library of Scotland
GB 233 Acc.13567
Diaries, photographs and papers of James Lauder Davidson
0.12 (15 files)

James Lauder Davidson (1916-1992), was born in Leicestershire to Richard
Davidson, a tea planter in India, and his wife Agnes. After his father retired from the
business, the family moved to Peebles where they owned a sheep farm. Davidson
read Forestry at Edinburgh University graduating in 1936 and winning the medal for
Advanced Forestry. He joined the Scottish firm T.D. Findlay & Son Ltd., East India
Merchants and co-founders of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, and was sent to
Burma to work.

During WWII and as a result of his knowledge of the local language, he became
chief liaison officer to the 147 regimental headquarters of the Chinese Army who
were fighting against the invading Japanese. Davidson helped to control the civil
population and purchase food. Eventually, he had to escape into China and then
India. Davidson then joined the British army in India and served as Captain with the
14th army in the intelligence corps returning to Burma and for this he was mentioned
in dispatches.

At the end of WWII he returned to Burma where he continued his work on the Mong
Nai Forest. After the conclusion of his work in Burma Davidson returned to Scotland
and joined the Forestry Commission working in Norfolk, Buckimghamshire and in the
head offices in London and Edinburgh. For his work he was awarded an OBE in
1976 prior to his retirement.

The collection comprises several manuscript and typescript diaries which illustrate
James Lauder Davidson’s experiences during his time in Burma, before and after
WWII, and his military involvement in the conflict. Of particular interest are the earlier
and later diaries, as well as the diary charting his escape into China. The collection
also includes two photographic albums. The first one (item 2 in the collection)
includes original photographs taken by Davidson. Most of them include captions and
dates. The images chiefly chart his forestry work. The second album contains copies
of the original photographs with additional notes that provide further background.
The order in which the photographs appear in each album is different, but it is
advisable to consult both simultaneously for a clearer picture of Davidson’s life and
experiences while working in Burma.

Most documents are in English, with some in Chinese.
Some printed items have been returned to the donor.
The papers of Richard Davidson, James Lauder Davidson’s father, can be found at
Acc. 9024.
Presented, 2014.
1. Typescript diary of James L. Davidson concerning his work in Burma, 1
January 1938-3 April 1942.
81 ff.
2. Photographic album showing views of Burma, 1938-1947.
85 items.
3. Photographic album containing copies of photographs in item 2, undated. The
images are arranged in a different order and include extended captions and
other contextual information.
54 items.
4. Manuscript diary of James L. Davidson concerning his escape from Burma to
China following the Japanese occupation. The diary includes several
sketches, 21 April-28 July 1942.
19 ff.
5. Typescript diary of James L. Davidson concerning his escape from Burma to
China following the Japanese occupation, with an incomplete photocopy of
the diary, 21 April-28 July 1942. Some entries are longer than those in item 4.
24 ff. & 14 ff.
6. Manuscript standing orders (SS. Escape Club), 30 April 1942.
7 ff.
7. Typescript diary of James L. Davidson concerning his involvement in military
action during WWII, 1943-1944.
19 ff.
8. Several documents in Chinese script.
(i) Receipt of a pistol with the pistol number and bullets, undated.
(ii) A certification of identity of two British political liaison officers: James
Lauder Davidson and Simpson, entitling them to travel to conflict areas,
(iii) A certification of identity of British political liaison officer James Lauder
Davidson, entitling him to travel to conflict areas, 1943.
(iv) Official military pass allowing James Lauder Davidson movement
between conflict areas, 1943.
4 ff.
9. Brief account of Meiktila operations, 18 February-5 March 1945.
6 ff.
10. Brief account of the 17 Indian Division operations, 5 March-6 May 1945.
12 ff.
11. Souvenir issues of ‘A South-East Asia Command Account of the Burma
Front’, 1945.
16 pp. & 20 pp.
12. Typescript reports of Mong Nai Forest elephants, 1 September, and 4 and 7
September 1946.
5 ff.
13. Typescript diary of James L. Davidson during his time at Mong Nai Forest, 1
September-28 February 1947.
34 ff.
14. Typescript notes of Mong Nai Forest’s handover, March 1947.
9 ff.
15. Part of a manuscript letter of James L. Davidson discussing his work and
experiences in Burma, with a pencil and ink map of the Mong Nai area,
1 f.
16. Glass and film negatives, undated.