John Ewart Marnham was born in Hampstead on 24 January 1916, the elder son of Col. Arthur Ewart Marnham, M.C., T.D., D.L., J.P. (1890-1976) of Foxley Grove, Holyport, Berkshire. After education at Mill Hill School he went to Jesus College, Cambridge : Exhibitioner : Maths Tripos Pt. 1, Modern Languages Tripos Pts 1 and 2 : M.A. In 1938 he was appointed an Assistant Principal in the Colonial Office and was commissioned as Second Lieutenant RA (Territorial Army). He served with the British Expeditionary Force in 1939-1940 and was promoted to Captain in the latter year and Major in 1942. He returned to Europe with the British Liberation Army in 1944, was mentioned in despatches, and awarded the Military Cross. In 1944, also, he married Susan, eldest daughter of Walter Foster (formerly Friedenstein) of Vienna; they had two sons, Brian and Nicholas. He returned to the Colonial Office after the war, was promoted to Principal in 1946 and after serving as Secretary to the British Guiana and British Honduras Settlement Commission in 1947-1948 was promoted to Assistant Secretary. In 1955 he was appointed C.M.G. He continued his military career) (T.D., 1949) and 1954-1957 was Lt-Col. Commanding 353 (London) Medium Regiment RA (TA): Defence College, a post in which he travelled widely. In 1964 he became Assistant Under-Secretary of State in the Colonial Office and from 1966-1967 in the Foreign Office. He then held three overseas posts as Consul-General in Johannesburg 1967-1970, British Government Representative in the West Indian Associated States in 1970-1973 and Ambassador to Tunisia, 1973-1975. From 1977-1981 he was Clerk in the Committee Office of the House of Commons. He died on 28 December 1985.
The slides: In his 'Who's who' entry Marnham refers to his recreations as reading, gardening and riding, surprisingly omitting photography, since he was clearly not only an enthusiastic but a skilled photographer. This collection records his travels, displaying a considerable interest in wildlife as well as in gardening.
The RCS originally received a collection of 3358 slides. Marnham appears in a few of them and some others may have been given to him, but he was the photographer of the vast majority of the collection. There are 1631 relating to the Commonwealth countries or those with Commonwealth connections. These begin with 68 on the West Indies taken in 1958, presumably on a holiday visit (A). There are four substantial collections from the early 1960s which appear to relate to official journeys, some possibly connected with his work at the Imperial Defence College. Though most depict scenery, there are a number showing officials whom he accompanied, or prominent local figures. From 1961 come 38 of Cyprus and 45 of Jordan, part of a much larger Middle East collection (see introduction to Marnham JJ). There are 136 of South America and the Falkland Islands from 1962 (Marnham B-C), 268 of the Pacific Islands including outward and return journeys in 1963 (Marnham D-M) and 66 of South Arabia in 1964 (Marnham N-P) with a 1966 slide of a visit of South Arabian ministers to Britain. He visited southern Africa, possibly on official business, towards the close of 1965 and 93 photographs form this period are to be found in Marnham Q-S and X. 569 photographs of various parts of southern Africa come from his time as Consul-General in Johannesburg and these include many wildlife scens (Marnham Q-Z). His appointment in the West Indies, 1970-1973 is represented by 329 photographs (Marnham AA-HH) and while in Tunisia he visited Malta in 1975 as shown in 17 photographs (Marnham II). Members of his family appear in some of these.
Organisation of the photographs: When received, the collection was housed in a series of boxes and small plastic containers. Some of it had become disordered and the whole collection has been sorted and checked. It is now housed in the order of the catalogue. The material has been divided into categories both by places and by subject, e.g. the wildlife photographs taken in South Africa have been separated from the more general scenes there. In most cases JEM has written a short caption on the frame; sometimes he has also given a date and his own serial number. At other times there is only the date stamped at the time of printing and the serial number given by the processor. Some frames have no date or information on them at all. Ideally, the entire collection should be renumbered, but for practical reasons this has not been attempted and the material has been divided up following Marnham's general arrangement and utilising his numbering where it exists and that of the processor where it does not, even though this system results in some gaps. For convenience numbers given by JEM are indicated by NM, those by the photographic processor as PN, and dates from the same source as PD. NPN and NPD indicate the absence of such information. Some of the boxes in which the slides were stored had numbered slots but the use of these would create further confusion if used and they have been ignored in the following list except for Marnham B, where the box contains a numerical list and the order has therefore been preserved. In general the captions given by JEM have been used though abbreviations have been expanded in many cases. Descriptive information on uncaptioned slides and additional material, e.g. identifying individuals shown have been added in brackets. A question mark in brackets has been added where an inscription is illegible or obscure; question marks without brackets are those of Marnham's captions and indicate his own uncertainties. The RCS Collection comprises: A West Indies 1958 (68); B South America and Falkland Islands 1962(102); C Birds of the Falkland Islands 1962 (34); D Outward journey to Pacific 1963; E Fiji 1963; F Fiji 1963; G Fiji 1963; H Copra 1963; I Fiji and Tonga 1963; Gilbert Islands 1963; K Fiji: Navua River 1963; L New Caledonia; Homeward journey from Pacific 1963; N Abyan 1964; O Radfan 1964; Seiyun and Hadramaut 1964: South Arabian Ministers 1966; Q Swaziland; R Bechuanaland; S Basutoland/Lesotho; T Johannesburg; U Traansvaal; V Mine dancing, Johannesburg; W Orange Free State; X Cape Province; Y South African animals; Z South African birds and flowers; AA St Lucia; BB Ciceron, St Lucia; CC Flora and Fauna, St Lucia; DD Dominica; EE St Vincent; FF Grenada; GG Leeward Islands; HH Guyana; II Malta; JJ Cyprus; KK Jordan.
The collection was presented by Marnham's widow in 1987.