A Victorian travel desk presented to a military surveyor by Lord Kitchener could make up to £2,500 at auction this month (November).

The 41cm wide by 20 cm high and 26cm deep wooden desk, with hinged lid, is accompanied by a large quantity of ephemera charting the career and life of Sergeant Major Angus Sutherland of the Royal Engineers. His home was in Croydon.

It is being offered for sale by his great granddaughter who lives in Kendal as part of 1818 Auctioneers Militaria online sale – Thursday 12th to Sunday 29th November.

It was the job of Sergeant Major Sutherland to survey land in the late 1800s that was part of the British Empire. His service record shows that he served in Palestine, twice in Cyprus as well as working in The Straits Settlements and in Penang, Malaysia.

1818 Auctioneer’s valuer Ken Payne believes he received the box at the end of a six-year period in Cyprus in 1886 for which he was praised by the Governor of Cyprus. Kitchener was in charge of the work there. Inscribed on the lid is, ‘Sergeant Major A Sutherland RE from Lieut Colonel Kitchener RE Palestine – Cyprus’.

Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener was commissioned into the Royal Engineers in 1871. The epitome of the imperialist military general, commanding the British army in Egypt, the Sudan, India and in South Africa he built Britain’s first mass army. Kitchener is best known as the face of the First World War when he appeared on the, ‘Your Country Needs You’ recruitment poster.

Signed, hand-written letters from Kitchener to Sergeant Major Sutherland, and a signed photograph, are amongst the items in the desk. There’s also a Sutherlands Protractor, designed by Sergeant Major Sutherland, with instructions by scientific instrument maker Casella and a letter from Casella to A Sutherland taking about the Protractor.

Ken Payne, says travelling writing desks were the Victorian laptop equivalent. They were highly portable and, in this case, were a filing system too with lots of compartments.

As Ken Payne explains:

“The desk and its contents are an incredible time capsule of one man’s life. It’s a great insight into the career of a military surveyor who was well thought of and good at his job. We expect it will attract lots of attention and I estimate it will make between £1500 and £2500.”