Himalayan Journal vol.21
The Himalayan Journal

Publication year:

T.H. Braham
  2. MASHERBRUM, 1957
    (By J. WALMSLEY)
    (By K. J. MILLER)
    (H. ROISS)
  9. MRIGTHUNI, 1958
    (J. P. OF. LYNAM)
    (F. SOLARI)




frank Kingdon-Ward died on April 8, 1958, suddenly, as he would have wished, while contemplating, at the age of 72, one more expedition to South-east Asia. He was a great explorer and naturalist, a true pioneer of plant ecology and plant discovery in the great ranges which enclose the gorges of the Brahmaputra, Salween and Mekong.

Born on November 6, 1885, the son of Harry Marshall Ward, F.R.S., Professor of Botany at Cambridge, he was educated at St. Paul's and Christ's College, Cambridge, where he took honours in Natural Science in 1906. The following year, he went as a schoolmaster to Shanghai and in 1909 explored the interior of China with Malcolm Anderson. He was on two more journeys on the frontiers of Burma and China before 1914, and after serving in Ihe First World War as a Captain returned to a life of exploration in the same chosen field.[1]
I first met him in the early twenties; and when Sir Geoffrey Corbett and I were enlisting the support of Himalayan travellers to found our Club, we naturally turned to Kingdon-Ward, F. M. Bailey and H. T. Morshead as the acknowledged experts of the eastern Himalaya. All three became founder members and in those early days we relied on them for advice and information. The first volume of the Himalayan Journal contains a brief but important classification of the vegetation of the Mishmi hills. There, as always, Kingdon-Ward gives due credit to the pioneers in exploration, but adds: ‘If then the pioneer has had his day, for the specialist it is only the breaking of the dawn.' This was the impulse that drove him on to fresh discoveries, not only in the plant world but in physical geography, for his horizon was wide and he used the distribution of species as a factor in his ideas of the continuity of the Himalayan ranges east of the Tsangpo.

Born, bred and educated as a naturalist, exotic plants were his great joy in life. He sought new species in their natural habitat, and, often subsidized by wealthy owners of gardens in England (for he was never well off), he specialized in rhododendrons, primulas, gentians, lilies and poppies and introduced them to British gardens. He never spared himself in his search for particular plants and seeds; and because of his meticulous field-notes and 6 bump of locality' would return a second time to the exact spot for the seed of a special favourite. As a traveller he had great endurance and nothing daunted him, extremes of temperature, pathless tropical jungle, or shortage of food. He was not an alpinist in the accepted sense of the term and worked mainly below the snowline, but he would climb a high point or short-cut over a high pass if there was something to be gained. I used to look on him as more or less indestructible ! I did not believe a wire received in Calcutta in 1929 that he was dying in Laos ; nor that the great earthquake of August 15, 1950, had knocked him out. He was then at Rima, less than ten miles from the epicentre, but he and his wife emerged unscathed after a hazardous journey over the shattered mountains back to Sadiya. One of his most recent papers suggests practical measures for restoring vegetation to these mountains which had been stripped of forest and soil by landslides, and for preventing floods in the plains. 2
In all, Kingdon-Ward made 25 journeys of exploration to Southeastern Tibet, the unadministered tracts of North-eastern Assam, and the Sino-Burmese frontier over a period of about 45 years. He generally preferred to travel unaccompanied by other British companions or collectors. He wrote many books and contributed many papers to geographical and other scientific journals. Among many awards, he received the Founders' Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1930, and the Livingstone Medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in 1936. He was married twice. His second wife, Jean, the daughter of Sir Sortain Macklin, whom he married in 1947, and who was with him on his last few expeditions, survives him.

Kenneth Mason.



Eighteen years ago, while sitting at a luncheon table, as their new house-master, with a group of thirteen-year-olds, the writer found himself being interrogated by one most intelligently- far more intelligently than by much more senior people on previous occasions-about the Kamet expedition of 1931. He learned that the boy's name was Narendra Dhar Jayal, and that he came from a Garhwali family.

N.D. Jayal.

N.D. Jayal.

It was a custom then at the Doon School for masters to take parties of boys-now the boys go without masters on much more enterprising expeditions-during the three or four days' mid-term break, both in the autumn and spring, to explore the Mussoorie and Chakrata highlands. I found that ‘Nandu' had attached himself to my party which was to cross a tract of his own Tehri- Garhwal hills. It was a pioneering expedition and we returned half a day late, to be forgiven by Mr. Foot, our Headmaster, and a member of the Alpine Club, who had planned in a spirit of optimism what was rather an arduous expedition. Thereafter Nandu never failed to accompany me on those trips and became, in fact, my chief assistant in their execution.

The summer after this, when he was still the right side of fourteen, Nandu and a friend of his of about sixteen got permission from home for a trek in Kashmir. After a preliminary training exercise to the top of A1 Patar-not by the pony route-in company with myself and Mr. Martyn, they accomplished-with one ponyman- cum-cook-cum-guide and one Meade tent, the trek from Pahalgam over the Kolahoi glacier, over into the Sind valley from Baltal to the Amarnath cave and back, and then over, by the Yishen Sar lake, and the Wangat Nala to the lower Sind valley-not a bad performance for under fourteen.

Nandu's school career was not exactly placid. He had an adventurous spirit, and a tumultuous and passionate nature. This brought him up, from time to time, against the strong arm of the law. But I felt that, if only he could be kept approximately within the usual public school rules, he would make his mark somewhere-I was not sure where. He got into many scrapes, but, somehow, he got out of them, and emerged none the worse, in fact often the better. He was in many subjects a brilliant student, but he was undoubtedly lazy. He read widely, and if he was engrossed in a Meredith novel, or a travel story when his ' home-work' had to be done, the 'home-work' invariably lost. I think, however, that he got out of his education at the Doon School a lot more than many who were far more successful in examinations.

In 1942, with two other boys, all three just about fifteen, lie accompanied me and J. A. K. Martyn to the Arwa valley glacici s above Badrinath to a camp at 19,000 ft., which had been used by the 1931 Kamet expedition. Here we met misfortune. One of the boys developed pneumonia and was evacuated with difficulty from the high camp. Nandu and the other boy and I stayed on for a day in the hope of climbing a peak of over 20,000 ft. It was monsoon weather, and conditions for what was an easy snow and rock climb were terrible. We had to turn back, and Nandu was feeling the height very badly. I felt it might quench all his ardour for mountaineering, but I was quite wrong. As soon as he was off the glacier he recovered his form, and became his usual high-spirited self. Nandu and I, after a visit to the South-east ridge of Nilkanta, returned, in pouring rain most of the way, by the Kuari Pass, where he was initiated into the delights of a leech- infested forest, to Ranikhet. Here our dishevelled condition was such that I was arrested as an escaped Italian prisoner, and he as my guilty accomplice.

In 1944, he got an emergency commission in the army and joined the Bengal Sappers and Miners. He passed out very creditably from the Military College, as it is now called; it was then an officer cadets' training college. Later, when he appeared for the conversion of his temporary commission into a permanent one he was awarded a very high grade by the Selection Board.

On leaving the Military College, Nandu was posted first to Kirkee and then to Roorkee. It was from here that in 1946 he joined J. T. M. Gibson's first party to Bandarpunch, and where he first climbed with Tenzing who led our little party of three Sherpas. This expedition had to take place during the monsoon, in July. The South-east ridge of the mountain had previously been reconnoitred by Gibson and Martyn in 1938, who reached a height of approximately 17,800 ft. on the ridge and decided that it might go. A further attempt had been made by A. R. Leyden of Bombay. Owing to shortage of porters we could not get our mattresses up to our highest camp on the ridge at about 18,000 ft., and so we passed a damp and uncomfortable night and four sahibs and two Sherpas on two ropes made a late start for the peak in very dubious weather. Half-way up the easy rocky section of the ridge. Gibson decided that he must take Captain Munro back to camp, since he was suffering from the usual effects of high-altitude. Tenzing and another Sherpa with Nandu and myself surmounted the rocks, and climbed a short but very steep and exposed ice ridge to a point about 19,400 ft. The summit was shrouded in falling snow and the weather was obviously deteriorating. We might have reached the summit at the cost of a bivouac in bad weather but it was an unjustifiable risk, and greatly to Nandu's disappointment I gave the order for retreat. He had gone very well, though he had a nasty slip descending the ice-slope, which might have been fatal.

Our next meeting was at Gulmarg in the winter of 1946-47, the last official meet of the Ski Club of India. He was a complete beginner, but thanks to his remarkable hill sense, he soon learnt an effective technique. I doubt whether any beginner on his first day h is, before or since, climbed to and descended from the Killan hni on skis as he did. When I say descended on skis it must be admitted that the descent was as much on the seat of his trousers as on his ski, but it was a unique effort. By the end of a fortnight he was not only a tireless climber but reasonably fast down-hill, and not merely on open slopes but in thick forest. Now stationed at Rawalpindi, he was detailed for clearing the snow-bound Gali road, and here again he made use of his ski.

In the winter of 1948-49, the Indian army embarked on its first winter warfare school at Gulmarg, and I was asked to help with the instruction of the first course. I was delighted to find that Nandu was one of my instructors, along with his successor as Principal of the Darjeeling Mountaineering Institute, Colonel Gyan Singh. Nandu stayed on to become chief instructor of the succeeding courses in 1949, which lasted well into April. He had now become a very strong skier-not a stylist, since he had never had the good fortune to be taught by the best continental experts- but undoubtedly fast, powerful, and safe on all kinds of snow. It was no surprise to learn that, on his recent visit to Austria, he had been awarded the coveted Austrian Ski Teacher's Certificate.

This was the last I saw of Nandu in the mountains. His later career as a mountaineer is public knowledge. All my information about it comes from accounts that have appeared in newspapers and mountain journals; for though he had a great gift for writing, he was a very bad correspondent.

In 1951, as Indian liaison officer, he accompanied the ill-fated French expedition to Nanda Devi, and climbed the great ridge of the main peak up to a camp at about 22,000 ft.

He took part in three expeditions to Kamet, on the last of which he was leader and was successful in making the second ascent of the 25,447-ft. peak by a variation of the original 1931 route. He selected the ridge from Meade's col in preference to the face, which Smythe had chosen thinking that the ridge would be covered by bare ice; and he found it a safe and, he says, a much more pleasant climb. This was in 1955, under the auspices of both the Bengal Sappers and the Darjeeling Institute. The previous two expeditions were both organized by the Bengal Sappers and Miners at Roorkee, the first in 1952 under the leadership of Lt.-General Sir H. Williams, K.B.E., the second in 1953. The first was defeated by very bad snow conditions above Meade's col, and the second by the dehydration of the party caused by a defect in the cooking apparatus; but still he led a party to the summit of Abi Gamin, 24,130 ft., the second ascent of this peak.

It was in 1954 that, with the generous assistance of the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research, the great project of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute came to fruition at Darjeeling, and Nandu was honoured by being selected as its first Principal, with Tenzing as his Director of field training. In the summer of that year before taking over his duties, he visited Switzerland at the invitation of the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research in company with Tenzing and a party of Sherpas, first to take part in a training ' course for Swiss Guides in the neighbourhood of the Aiguilles du Tour, and later to do a rock-climbing course at Rosenlaui. At the end of this, he was awarded the Guide's Certificate and Badge, an honour which the Swiss do not lightly bestow, and which I think he valued more than any other of his mortal possessions.

In the winter of 1957, after being elected a member of the Alpine Club, he went to England and gave a talk to that august body on the work of the Institute at Darjeeling. His visit to Austria for ski-ing in the same year has already been mentioned.

Two more of his expeditions with members of the Darjeeling Institute remain to be noted, his Karakoram climb in 1956 and his attempt on Nanda Devi in 1957. His expedition to the Karakoram, which was an all-Indian affair, had as its objective a difficult 25,000-ft. peak called Saser Kangri, which had been reconnoitred by Maj. J. O. M. Roberts in 1946. After a fighting reconnaissance he prudently withdrew, judging the peak to be beyond the strength of his party. He transferred his attention to and successfully climbed an unnamed peak, which from photographs looks equally formidable, and is on the right side of 24,000 ft., the highest first ascent up till then made by an all-Indian party. He was unsuccessful in his attempt on Nanda Devi, owing to the serious illness of one of his Sherpas when the peak was within his grasp. He got the sick man safely back to camp at over 22,000 ft., where the party were tent-bound for two days by a severe blizzard; and thence shepherded them safely off the mountain. Probably this was the finest bit of leadership in his career, and reveals his growing sense of judgement.

In the spring of 1958, he handed over the Principalship of the Darjeeling Institute to Colonel Gyan Singh of the Indian Artillery. As its first Principal, he had done a fine job of work. He had organized and got the work going; and had personally conducted all its courses, including the major climbs already mentioned. But the call of the high places was not to be denied. He was asked to lead the climbing parties on K. F. Bunshah's Cho Oyu expedition, and of course he accepted. This would have been his first and an all-Indian expedition's first Acht Tausender. But time was short, and, to catch up with the expedition in Nepal after handing over the affairs of the Institute, he had to hurry through the low-lying and stifling valleys of Eastern Nepal by forced marches. In the course of this, he scribbled me one of his very rare letters in which he remarked with pathetic irony that it was strange to think that he was dying of heat here and that soon he would be dying of cold. His words were literally prophetic.

The Base Camp used on Cho Oyu is unusually high-over 18,000 ft.; but he was so keen to be 'in at the kill' that, after only a day's rest, he started for Camp I, on the glacier. His efforts to catch up with the party cost him his life. His will had asked too much of his body. High climbers are liable, it seems, to a form of pneumonia which does not react, like ordinary pneumonia, either to antibiotics or to oxygen, both of which were administered to Nandu without effect. He seems to have realized that the end was near, and to have asked, among other things, that the expedition should go on without him, and, foregoing the usual rites of cremation-a typical gesture-that his body should be buried at the Base Camp.

Thus died a very gallant soul. In his tragically short life he had really lived every minute, and had conquered more than the actual peaks he trod. His name will long remain in the Institute he helped to found, and in the hearts of his many friends.

R. L. Holdsworth



The passing of Bruce Bakewell is a severe loss to the Himalayan Club and also to the many other organizations with which he was closely associated. Among his very large circle of friends his loss is felt keenly. All who had the joy of his friendship or acquaintance appreciate his exceptional worth and words cannot do justice to his outlook and actions. He radiated happiness and sincerity and had a genius for making friends. His true love for mankind and his unbounded energy and enthusiasm encouraged others to follow his example. He loved nature and was seldom happier than when on a mountain or a hill; he was a true sportsman in every sense and in every sphere. Games came naturally to him and he played in a great variety of them. His organizing ability was remarkable and he inspired everyone by his character. He threw himself whole-heartedly and unselfishly into furthering any good cause which needed support and a helping hand. The results were always achieved quietly and unostentatiously.

He came to India as a very young man to serve as an army officer on the N.W. Frontier in the First World War and had an excellent war record. Thereafter, he spent many years in business in Kashmir and later in the Punjab before his years of work and service in Calcutta. All who came in contact with him benefitted greatly by his friendship and true love for India and its people. He was very fortunate in having an outstanding helper and inspiration in his wife, and their outlook and influence for good were known to all. He loved all outdoor activities and took part in them enthusiastically. He was a keen student of birds and animals, and can be described as having a sincere kinship with all living objects.

The Ski Club of India owes much of its success and achievements to his unstinted help over many years, and vocal tributes to him were paid repeatedly at many annual meetings in Kashmir. Similarly, his work for the Himalayan Club was noteworthy and greatly appreciated. One can see him clearly as an inspiration to all with whom he came in contact, and all of them are much the better for having seen and known him.

He was a devoted Freemason and a sincere Christian. No one ever appealed to him in vain and many who had not even asked for help benefitted from his thoughtfulness and generosity. To his wife and family we extend our sincerest sympathy and every good wish as well as our grateful thanks for all that they have done to help him in his life and actions and in the courage with which he faced many difficulties and hardships and overcame them.

K. C. Hadow

Capt. Bruce Bakewell, President of the Club, died on June 6, 1958, in London. He had been in poor health for some months and was flown home to England in May to undergo treatment. He was very well known in Calcutta's social and sporting circles, and was President for three spells of the Bengal United Services' Club, during which time he assisted greatly with the organization of many enjoyable Himalayan Club Meetings and Dinners held at that Club. He was associated for some time with the Ski Club of India in which he served as President and Treasurer, and as Editor of the Ski Club Annual. He joined the Committee of the Himalayan Club in 1956, and served as Hon. Treasurer for one year. In 1957, he was elected President, in which capacity he served until the time of his death the following year. He was very popular with his many friends, and we in the Club shall miss greatly his kindness, enthusiasm and willingness to assist in any cause. Our deepest sympathy goes out to his wife and daughter.

T. H. B.

[1] A brief summary of Kingdon-Ward's journeys up to 1929 appeared in H.J., III, pp. 120-121.