[Reprinted by kind permission of the editor, Alpine Journal]
Lt. Gen. Sir Harold Williams, known as Bill Williams to all his many friends, died at Mussoorie, India, on 17 October 1971 and was buried at Roorkee with full military honours.
Bill Williams joined the Indian Army in 1915 and served with King George's Own Bengal Sappers and Miners of which he was Adjutant from 1929 to 1933. He remained with the Bengal Sappers until the Second World War when he moved to Delhi as Brigadier Engineering Staff A.H.Q., India. He held a number of senior appointments and shortly after independence was appointed Engineer in Chief of the Indian Army, a post which he held until he retired in 1955. Among his many outdoor interests mountaineering took pride of place and whenever he could he got away to the Himalayas to climb, trek and shoot. He was also the mainstay of the bird-watching society in Delhi.
Bill Williams joined the Alpine Club in 1953. He had been on a number of minor Himalayan expeditions including Trisul and Banderpunch. In 1952 when he was over 55, he was joint leader with Gurdial Singh of a Bengal Sappers' expedition to Kamet and climbed to Camp 5 at 23,000 feet. He was for many years the guiding light of the Indian Army Mountaineering Association and did more than most to encourage mountaineering among the officers and men of the Indian Army. He was President of the Himalayan Club from 1960 to 1963 during which time he was responsible for important liaison between the Club and demi-Government bodies such as the Indian Mountaineering Foundation.
After retiring from the Army, Bill Williams was appointed Director of the Central Building Research Institute at Roorkee, a post which he held for seven years. He then became Adviser to the Council of Scientific and Technical Research. He contributed several papers to scientific and technical journals.
He came back to England in 1968 with a view to settling in this country but the call of India, where he had lived and worked for over 50 years, proved too strong and he kept on returning there. I think he would have wished to die, as he did, in the foothills of the Himalayas.
V. S. Risoe
Lt Gen. Sir Harold Williams, K.B.E., C.B., C.B.E., MICE, MIS (Ind), M.I.E., passed away in Mussoorie on the evening of 17 October 1971. Earlier the same day he had been viewing the Bunder Punch and Gangotri ranges from Camel's Back and remineseing with a friend about his last visits to these particular mountains. On 18 October he was buried within sight of the Himalaya at his beloved Roorkee, where he had spent so many happy and rewarding years. He was President of the Himalayan Club during 1960-63 and had previously served on its Committee in other capacities. It is estimated that he was personally known to more than 300 of the 650 odd members of the Club, spread over 40 different countries.
From his own anecdotes, supplemented by exchanges with his friends, it is clear that Gen. Williams spent a great deal of his Indian leaves enjoying treks in the Himalaya and also an appreciable number of his duty tours, particularly after 1950, among the higher hills. The surveys and the construction of many of the first lines of jeepable roads that replaced old bridle paths, going over passes into the "inner circle', were his 'babies' while he was E.-in-C. His leadership of a Kamet expedition is described in the Journal, as are several others of his Himalayan journeys. He is estimated to have visited these mountains on about a hundred occasions and this made him fairly familiar with the entire range, between the Indus and the Brahmaputra, as well as with most of its fauna in which he was always interested.
Gen. Williams, known as 'Bill' to his thousands of friends in three continents, was more than a dedicated mountaineer. He appeared to have a mission to help young men in different walks of life to appreciate and visit various parts of the Himalaya. Even after retirement, when nearing the three score years mark, he accompanied parties to base camps, and sometimes higher. Another strong link between him and Indian youth during the post-war period was his very keen interest in bird watching and in the study of wild life. The writer observed him, in the early 1950s, provide the guiding force behind the formation of the Delhi Bird Watching Society and later organized its field excursions and personally arranged for the publication of field check lists that would appeal to the largest number of young naturalists.
He donated generously to such activities and provided hospitality to visiting experts invited to give illustrated talks in Delhi to beginners. Along with me, he represented the Bombay Natural History Society in Delhi for several years and fought its battles with persistence and knowledge. A leading Indian naturalist once referred to him as an outstanding specimen of the genus Homo Sapiens—a very apt tribute.
Those not familiar with Gen. Williams' long and meritorious service as a Sapper will be interested in a resume of his professional career. He was born in 1897 and, after leaving school, duly entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich during World War I. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers in 1917 and was posted a year later to the Bengal Sappers and Miners at Roorkee. Along with some other selected R.E. Officers, Lt. Williams then spent a couple of years at Cambridge (Gonville and Caius College), in the early 1920's, where I first met him. In 1929 he became Adjutant of the Bengal Sappers and Miners, with whom he served for the next four years.
Roorkee seems to have exercised a magnetic influence on Bill's career and while here he rose steadily from Adjutant to assume Command. Later, he was chosen as the first R.E. Instructor at the newly formed Indian Military Academy at Dehra Doon, where most of the present 'top brass' of the Indian Army passed through his hands at one time or another. His next assignment was a return to Roorkee again, this time as Professor of Civil Engineering at the Thomson College, where he stayed from 1936 to 1938.
The Second World War moved him to France as the C.R.E. of the 1st Armoured Division in early 1940. When Japan entered the war, he was sent back to India and his value was recognized by his posting as Chief Engineer No. 4 Corps which was then operating in Burma and Assam. After the war Roorkee called to him again and he became the Commandant of the New College of Military Engineering there in 1945, a post he held until his appointment as Engineer-in-Chief of the Indian Army in 1948. Bill was E.-in-C. for seven crucial years, until 1955, and his tenure in this key post will long be remembered.
On retirement from Military service, Bill had no desire to leave India and he took over as the first Director of the Central Building Research Institute (C.B.R.I.) at Roorkee, having been associated with its formation earlier as the Chairman of the Building Research Committee. During the next six years, as Director C.B.R.I., he extended the scope of Building Research m several practical directions with such excellent results that the government was reluctant to lose his experience. When his tenure with the C.B.R.I. expired he was intensively used by both the C.S.I.R. and the Planning Commission, from 1962 to 1967, as a top level consultant and left his mark on many projects.
In addition to his official career, Bill's tireless energy and wide ranges of interests were also connected with a number of engineering organizations to whose advancement he contributed much throughout the post-war period. He rendered devoted service to the Institution of Civil Engineers (London), the Institution of Surveyors (India), of which he was a founder member and later President, and the Institution of Military Engineers (India), of which he was the President. He was President for two years of the Institution of Engineers (India), which is the Premier body of its kind in the country. Bill Williams was closely associated with technical education and was connected with several universities in India in addition to being a member of many scientific committees. He was a prominent member of the Fortescue Committee, which initiated the need for creating an Engineering University of Roorkee, and for several years served as a member of the Board of Governors of the Doon School. He was also a keen Freemason and made several all India tours, between 1968 and 1971, in connection with furthering its activities. His outstanding efforts were widely appreciated and he was awarded a C.B.E. in 1946, followed by a C.B. in 1962.
Bill loved nature in all its several manifestations and was full of the milk of human kindness in his understanding and sympathy with other naturalists, specially of the younger generation. He could always be counted upon by mountaineers, ornithologists, and lovers of wild life for encouragement and wholehearted support.
He read a great deal in spite of other demands on his time and was most generous in donating his books to libraries. To us, who knew him over half a century, Bill Williams represented a vintage that is getting rare. There was more than physical achievement in the results he obtained; there was a mellowness in his dealings with organizations and a warmth in his contacts with individuals that will linger while memories last.
F. C. Bhadwar
When Freddie Spencer Chapman first came to climb in the Himalaya, he had already had a thorough grounding in mountaineering, exploration and Polar travel. His boyhood in the Lake District and the fells and dales around Sedbergh School instilled in him an enduring love of the hills and wide open spaces. His horizons were widened at Cambridge, when, with other members of the C.U.M.C., he was initiated into rock- climbing and mountaineering and was much influenced by Geoffrey Winthrop Young.
Chapman became a highly proficient skier and he joined the British Arctic Air Route Expedition of 1930-31 as ski expert and naturalist. He returned to Greenland again in 1933 on a similar expedition on which Gino Watkins tragically lost his life. These two seasons in Greenland are described in Chapman's two books, Northern Lights and Watkins' Last Expedition.
Chapman had settled down to being a schoolmaster at Ays- garth School, Bedale, when in 1936 came the invitation from Marco Pallis to join an expedition to the Himalaya, which he could not resist. The object of the expedition was to visit the Zemu glacier in the Kangchenjunga distrist of Northern Sikkim and from there to attempt Simvu and Siniolchu, both over 22,000 ft. While on this expedition he was asked by Basil Gould, the Political Officer in Sikkim, if he would be interested in accompanying Gould to Tibet.
After the attempt on Simvu, Chapman raced back to Gangtok. This was when he made his famous marathon run in gym shoes of the four stages from Lachen to Gangtok in one day. There the arrangements for him to join the British Diplomatic Mission to Lhasa, due to leave on 31 July, were completed. As he had a few weeks to spare, Chapman returned to Lhonak where, in several weeks of climbing with J. B. Harrison, attempts were made on the Pyramid and the Fluted Peak.
The mission to Lhasa has been well described by Chapman in his book Lhasa; the Holy City.
On his way to and from Lhasa, Chapman had opportunities to study Chomolhari, the sacred mountain, and felt an irresist- able urge to try and climb it. He managed to obtain permission from both Lhasa and Bhutan and in May 1937 a small party consisting of Chapman, Charles Crawford and three Sherpas set off for Chomolhari. Chapman reached the summit with Pasang Dawa Lama in barely a week out from Phari. This epic of mountaineering is described in Vol. X of the Himalayan Journal as well as in Chapman's book Helvellyn to Himalaya. The difficulties and sufferings on the descent were quite appalling, and their safe return was described by General Bruce as the Eighth Wonder of the World.
Chapman became a Life Member of the Club before the war but, unfortunately, he never again had the opportunity of visiting the Himalaya. When war came he was commissioned in the Scots Guards. At the time of the Japanese invasion of Malaya, Chapman was in command of Special Operations group, based in Singapore. After causing havoc among the Japanese behind their lines, he was captured, but escaped and spent three years alone in the Malayan jungle, fighting starvation mid disease, and avoiding recapture. The full story of his survival has been vividly told in his book The Jungle is Neutral.
After his escape to Ceylon in a submarine he met his future wile, Faith Townson, who had been at the receiving end of his signals from Malaya.
After the war and demobilization came a spell as development officer for Outward Bound, after which he returned to i hool mastering and spent some years as Headmaster of Si Andrew's College, Grahamstown. He returned to England in 1962 and spent four years as Warden of the Pestalozzi settle- m. in for Tibetan refugee children in Sussex, and then was appointed Warden of Wantage Hall at Reading University. In recent years he was a regular attender at Himalayan Club reunions in London, and in 1969 gave a talk on his climbs in Sikkim.
In addition to his D.S.O. and bar, Chapman was honoured by the R.G.S., the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and the Royal Central Asian Society. He was also awarded the Polar Medal in 1931. He had great qualities of determination which, together with phenomenal powers of endurance, enabled him to overcome the most daunting obstacles in the achievement of a set purpose. He will long remain an example to all young climbers and explorers who wish to follow in his footsteps.
His untimely end is a sad loss to us all; our sympathies go out to his widow and his three sons.
V. S. Risoe
On 23 April 1972 the Himalayan Club lost one of its stalwarts in Ashoka Madgavkar.
Born in 1912, he passed his Matric from St. Xavier's High School in 1927-having studied earlier in a public school in l ngland for a few years. In 1928 he returned to England to study Economics and Law and on his return from England, in 1931, joined the Bank of India. In 1939 his services were loaned to the Government of India and during the war years, he was deployed in the Textile Commissioner's Office. He rejoined the Bank of India in 1947, but resigned from Government service altogether soon after. Since then he has devoted his time to social activities and study. The bulk of his effort being devoted to the translation of the Gita into English—this has yet to be published.
The above catalogue gives no idea of the man that was Ashoka Madgavkar. I, who made his acquaintance in 1952, at once came under his spell and from him I learnt the art of clear thinking and gained a deep insight into his philosophy of life and the sense of values which are so important to hold on to, in these times of stress and strain. He could talk and discuss on any subject with considerable knowledge ; he could as easily pick the brain of his companion on subjects of which he knew less, but his main interest was in, what we know today as, behavioural science and the interaction of one person with another. His other hobbies included mountaineering, plants, dogs and was a particular authority on roses. His love for the mountains contributed greatly to the establishment of firstly the Mountaineering Committee in Bombay which sponsored the first series of rock-climbing courses in and around Bombay, and which developed into the Climbers' Club, Bombay. He had already become a Life Member of the Himalayan Club since 1946, and played an important role as a senior adviser to both the Clubs.
All, in Bombay particularly, shall miss him greatly and to the Himalayan Club his loss is great.
Soli S. Mehta