Himalayan Journal vol.16
The Himalayan Journal

Publication year:

H. W. Tobin
    (W. H. MURRAY)
    (H. R. A. STREATHER)
    (T. H. BRAHAM)
  7. SIR JOSEPH HOOKER, K.G.S.I., M.D., D.C.L., F.R.S,
  10. NOTES


W. W. M. YEATTS, C.S.I., C.I.E.

Our late President, William Walter Murray Yeatts, died at Edin burgh on 4th August last year at the age of 55.

Educated in Edinburgh, he took his degree there, and shortly afterwards, in 1914, joined the Royal Artillery and served with them in France and Flanders. When the war ended he joined the Civil Service in Madras, and from 1932 to 1946 he held various appointments in the Government of India, the last being that of Census Commissioner.

Owing to the war the Himalayan Club was, of course, somewhat dormant during his tenure, and Yeatts had little scope for his many talents and active tastes. Comparatively few members had the good fortune to meet him; he was also rather reserved, which is to be regretted, for he was a fine all-round sportsman and a keen naturalist. In a letter to The Times one of his more intimate friends wrote of his 'innumerable unrecorded acts of kindness, wisdom, and generosity. If the world somewhat misjudged his aloofness, children-and animals too-were never deceived: they adored him.5
He was decorated with the C.I.E. in 1938 and became a C.S.I, in 1946.

H. W. T.


Bertrand Evelyn Mellish Gurdon was of the vintage of Bruce, Manners-Smith, and Younghusband, the makers of the old North- West Frontier of India and the Keeper of the Marches. He came to his career by inheritance on both sides, for his father was a general in the old Indian Staff (lorps and his mother a daughter of General Sandeman, so celebrated in early Frontier history.

From I Iailcybury and Sandhurst he joined the Indian Army and was soon transferred to the Foreign and Political Department for frontier duty. He served through the siege of Chitral in 1895, when he was mentioned in dispatches and was awarded the D.S.O. In 1900 he was given the C.I.E., and in 1903 he was appointed Political Agent in Gilgit, where, as at Fort Gupis, the writer of this notice heard his name on the lips of every chief and notable fifteen years later. He was given the very responsible post of the Khyber in 1908. Next he was transferred to Rajputana and was promoted Lieut- Colonel in 1912. Finally he was appointed Resident to the Phulkian States from 1913 to 1916.

His great influence with the tribes was due to a combination of his fighting record and the courtesy of his manners, the latter a quality even more essential in dealing with Orientals than with Europeans. Despite his high reputation he never tried to push himself forward nor sought honours; indeed, being quite certain of himself and of his own standing, he seemed to be rather of a retiring and modest disposition.

He was elected to the Alpine Club in 1917 on his record of travel and exploration in the least-known parts of the Frontier ranges. He prized his membership and in later years, when reasons of health prevented him from coming up to town from his home in Sussex, he wrote to me several times expressing his regret that he was unable to attend our meetings: I believe ours was the only club membership which he kept up to the end of his life. He can hardly have been known to the present generation, but in Gurdon we have lost an historic figure who was an ornament to the club as well as a most charming and entertaining companion.

T. G. Longstaff [By courtesy of the Alpine Club)

Colonel Gurdon, who died at his home in Crowborough on 6th October 1949 at the age of 82, was one of the last- if not the very last-of the gallant company who took part in the defence of Chitral in 1895: a company whose exploits brought peace for over half a century to a part of the Indian Frontier whose previous history was a monotonous tale of murder and perfidy-the murder of brother by brother, of son by father.

At that time Gurdon was a young officer of the Political Department of India and, both as a political officer and as a soldier, during the bitter fighting in the defence of Chitral he displayed those qualities of dauntless courage, tenacity of purpose, sang-froid, temperate and thoughtful judgement which with his courteous manner, placid voice, and kindly smile characterized him throughout his distinguished career and made him the ideal Political Officer. For his military services in the field in the defence of Chitral he was awarded the D.S.O. (1895) and mentioned in dispatches; his political services were subsequently recognized by the award of the C.I.E. (1900). Gurdon remained in Chitral after the pacification of the country as Assistant Political Officer until the autumn of 1902 when, following a period of leave, he became Political Agent in Gilgit. He left there in 1906 and thereafter held important political posts in Peshawar, Patiala, and Rajputana, until failing health-a legacy from the Chitral campaign-obliged him to retire from the Service at a time when the highest appointments in the Political Department of the Government of India were open to him.

Gurdon was the most lovable of chiefs, the most steadfast of friends; all who served with him or under him gained from their association with him an enrichment of spirit and a sense of selfless service which time did not dull nor distance impair; he was a gentleman in whom they built an absolute trust.

Robert MgCarrison


A brief note earlier in the Journal tells of their tragic death while the three of us were making a winter reconnaissance of Nanga Par- bat. We were the closest of friends, and as they died together perhaps it is fitting to write an appreciation under a joint heading.

A boyhood spent tramping the lonely Norfolk marshes was the seed from which Bill Grace's enjoyment of the open air grew into a deep love for mountains. He was educated at Oundle, and in 1944 left to join the 3rd/8th Gurkha Rifles. In Kashmir he was introduced to his first mountain, Kolahoi; and a little later, when he met Jim Thornley, the two of them spent their spare time climbing the hills near Quetta.

Jim had been an outstanding schoolboy both at work and games. He too joined the Army and was eventually posted to the 3rd/8th Gurkhas, where he became Adjutant. On leave in the Zemu valley he climbed alone above 22,500 feet, searching for a man who had been lost some months before.

In 1947 the three of us made an attempt on Kabru. At 20,000 feet our head Sherpa fell 70 feet into a crevasse. Jim at once climbed down after him, and Bill then spent several days alone there with the injured Sherpa, while we went down for help.

In July 1950 we again sailed for India with plans for spending a year surveying and climbing in the Karakoram. After we had been in the field three weeks the Pakistan Government withdrew the permission they had given us. Rather than return to England at once with everything lost we decided to make a recce of Nanga Parbat, and it was on this mountain that they lost their lives.

Bill's kindness, fine courage, and easy-going temperament made him an ideal travelling companion. He would happily have spent his life in exploration, and there can be few people more suited both in disposition and physique for such a career.

In Wales, Switzerland, or the Himalayas Jim was always in his element; he was ever the leader, no matter who was in the party and he would gain that position by a combination of competence tremendous powers of endurance, and an extraordinary strength of character.

They were very fine friends and it is indeed tragic that their lives, which were so full of promise, should have ended while both were in their middle twenties; but I am sure that the manner of their death they would not have changed.

R. M. W. Marsh