Gordon Osmaston

Brigadier Gordon Hutchinson Osmaston M.C.
(Born 1898, India. Died 1990, Westmorland, England.)
 
"After serving in Iraq during the 1939-45 war, and in Delhi before and after Partition, Gordon retired in 1948 to the Lake District in England and started a fresh career as a schoolmaster, teaching maths and geography at Huyton Hill School by Lake Windermere, till his second retirement at the still active age of 72. This term time job and a family to rear as well were not enough for him and June (his wife), so for thirteen years they also turned their house into a holiday home for children whose parents were working abroad, sometimes having as many as fourteen at once. I have often seen a photo of their house with children leaning out of every window and sitting all over the roof. With them they shared not only the skills, pleasures and disciplines of rock-climbing, fell-walking, sailing and other outdoor activities but also the ideals of Christian life. They themselves had been brought up in a staunchly Christian tradition, but in 1934 they were deeply influenced by their contact with the Oxford Group movement (later Moral Rearmament) which fundamentally renewed their faith. Partly as a consequence of this, Gordon tempered his high degree of professional competence and military efficiency with an exceptional generosity, unselfishness and modesty, which endeared him to all he met. Indeed the Grasmere rector in his funeral oration described him as soldier, surveyor, schoolmaster and saint. Gordon was one of my godfathers and I could not have had a better one. He was for many years churchwarden at Grasmere, where (as an engineer) he had the weekly task of winding up the massive weights of the church clock in the tower. One day he was doing this when the wire broke and the weight crashed through the floor beside him."
 
 Mathematics and Geography Teacher
Mathematics with Gordon Osmaston "Ozzy" in 1967.
"He often used his surveying experience to make learning Maths very practical and he would take us outside with some of his surveying instruments to survey the cricket field or measure the height of the school from the front lawn. He was always so kind and friendly to us, except for the odd occasion when misbehaviour was stopped with the exclamation “You blighter!” or a gentle and deserved boot up the backside."
"We all used to write our signatures inside the top flap of his leather briefcase and I wish I had a photograph of that!"
 
A Colleague and Friend
"As Brig.Osmaston and I were both teachers, we were necessarily at different locations at HH throughout the day, only having a chance to talk during coffee in the Reilly. However, this didn't prevent us becoming good friends, and I quickly realised what an exceptional man he was - sensible, learned, experienced in all walks of life, and above all friendly and humorous.
I was especially pleased that he and June invited me on many occasions to their Grasmere home to join in with their holiday house parties of family and students. We had superb meals, games outside, and expeditions onto the fells. One time the Brig asked me to lead a climb on Dow Crags, and I felt so honoured that he trusted me to do this. (It wasn't a very hard one!) My most vivid memory was of a skating trip to Tarn Hows. We were playing ice hockey with walking sticks and having a great time, when the Brig tripped over and lay prone on the ice. Of course, we all rushed forward, whereupon the ice gave out some mighty cracking sounds, and we all rushed away, leaving the poor man isolated! I think it was Tim who stayed with him and manoeuvered him onto a sledge. He needed some stitches to his forehead, but was otherwise OK, and we were able to laugh about it afterwards.
One thing I remember him teaching the boys at school was a version of scouts' pace; three steps running and 2 steps walking, making a sort of swaying movement, which you could keep up for hours.
The Brig gave me his army riding boots, and I wore them with pride when out on my pony, though they needed a bit chopping off the top of the legs. They still stand in my hall, forever known as The Brigadier's Boots!
I feel blessed to have known such an exceptionally nice and kind man, the sort of friend you would wish were immortal!"
 
MEMORIES OF SURVEYING IN INDIA
In 1988 Gordon Osmaston was persuaded by friends that he should publish an account of his work during his time with the Survey of India. These were published as a booklet "Memories of Surveying in India" by Timothy G. Osmaston in April 2005. The book was printed by Middletons Printers of Ambleside  with a limited run of 50 copies.
(Thanks to Timothy Osmaston for giving permission to reporduce text extracts and photographs from the book.)
 
After the first war GHO was ordered out to India in 1919, and after 2 years in the Third Sappers and Miners he joined the Geodetic Branch of the Survey of India in 1921 and after 2 seasons he was sent home to complete Engineer training with a year at Cambridge and a year at Chatham.
"While at Cambridge I made contact with the Cambridge Mountaineering Club and was initiated into rock climbing in the Lake District. Climbing high places had always been my ambition, so, encouraged by a lady who used to give lunch parties to engineering students, I climbed Kings College Chapel. Getting up the main part of the building was hard work made safe by the use of a friendly lightning conductor. This climb had to be done after dark, as it was said that the head porter took pot shots at climbers."
"At the end of my two years in England, I had the wonderful good fortune to marry June Archer, from the home of her grandmother in Ambleside, and we both returned to India together."
 
GORDON OSMASTON AND TENZING
(Brigadier G. H. Osmaston M.C. and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa G.M.)
(Thanks to the Himalayan Club for giving permission to reproduce extracts from the aricle.)
http://www.himalayanclub.org/journal/gordon-osmaston-and-tenzing/
 
GORDON OSMASTON, a founder member of the Himalayan Club and formerly a director of the Survey of India, died after a brief illness on 31 October 1990 aged 92. Only one year after Tilman and Shipton had discovered the route into the Nanda Devi Sanctuary, Gordon returned with Shipton to survey it, taking a young and unknown Sherpa, Tenzing. Subsequently they went on many expeditions together and Gordon had a great influence on Tenzing during those formative years which were later to take him to the summit of Everest.
 
The Survey team mapped the Almora region (Garhwal) in 1936-1937 under Gordon Osmaston (left kneeling).
Tenzing is second from left (kneeling). Surveyor Fazal Bahi is second from right (sitting).
 
Gordon was born at Chakrata, India, on 26 September 1898, the third son of B. B. Osmaston, later Chief Conservator of Forests in the Central Provinces and President of the Forest Research Institute, a well known shikari and ornithologist, who shot a notorious man-eating tiger within a few weeks of his arrival in India.12. Gordon went to St. George’s School, Harpenden, a coeducational prep school (a novel idea then but perhaps Influential in developing the ease with which he got on with all sorts of people), and then to Cheltenham College. At 18 he was commissioned Into the Royal Engineers, winning the M.C. on active service in France before he was 20, for laying and maintaining signal wires under very heavy shell and machine-gun fire with a complete disregard for his personal safety3 (an attitude which also coloured many of his later adventures).

Posted to India in 1919 he was involved for two years with the 3rd Sappers and Miners in fighting in Waziristan on the NW Frontier, but then transferred to the Survey of India which was staffed by the Sappers. After plane-table training in India he was sent back to Cambridge and Woolwich for advanced survey courses, and while at the former joined the University Mountaineering Club and accomplished the classic route up the outside wall of King’s College Chapel. This illegal climb had to be done under cover of darkness as it was said that the College porter was in the habit of taking pot-shots at climbers.

1. B. B. Osmaston, 1977, Wildlife and Adventures in Indian Forests. Diaries edited by G. H. Osmaston. Privately printed, p. 178. (Copies at FRI, Dehra Dun; OFI, Oxford).
2. H. A. Osmaston, 1989, “The Osmaston Family: foresters and Imperial servants’. Commonwealth Forestry Review 68, 1, 77-87.
3. London Gazette, Supplement, 4 October 1919, p. 112

Heaton Cooper, the mountaineer-artist (who is still alive), introduced Gordon and his future wife, June Archer, to rock-climbing in the Lake District. June came from a well known local family and all three had been accustomed from childhood to scrambling up rocks, but none had done any formal climbing. Heaton wrote:4
"I had heard of Gimmer Crag in Langdale from Jonathan Stables, a pioneer of routes there. I borrowed forty feet of cart-rope from a farmer and eventually we found the crag. An easy line, Ash Tree Ledge, ran diagonally half-way up, so we took it as far as it went, some 150 ft above the base, then started climbing from there. I was leading but came to an overhang which I failed to negotiate so I returned to the ‘pulpit’ where my friends were waiting. Gordon then had a try with the same result but he couldn’t get down. June sat on my legs while I hung out over space and fielded Gordon on to the pulpit as he jumped. Years later we learned that this route was not climbed till 1948, named Kipling Groove and rated as Very Severe. We did actually achieve a climb on Gimmer, Chimney Buttress, first climbed in the same year and rated as Severe. Needless to say this was just about the worst way to start rock climbing."

4. W. Heaton Cooper, 1984, Mountain painter. Frank Peters, Kendal, U.K.

Back in India Gordon’s first assignment was a geophysical traverse under Glennie, across the Himalaya from the Vale of Kashmir to the Deosai Plains. Next he was posted to Burma (then still part of the Indian Empire) to complete a Principal Triangulation Line across the Pegu Yomas Hills north of Rangoon, using an antique 12-inch theodolite which required six coolies to carry it. The hills were covered with dense jungle, so transport was mainly by elephant along Karen paths or river-beds. Observations often had to be made from a 60 ft high scaffolding tower and once from the top of a 100 ft pagoda where Gordon remained for two days to complete his observations, thus avoiding argument with the disapproving monks below.

Gordon’s accounts of these adventures throw an interesting light on both himself and Tenzing. Clearly they came to rely closely on each other’s strengths and abilities. They both learned mountaineering the hard way. on the job, gaining experience from their own mistakes and successes as they went along; tackling routes that may not have led to many summits hill which involved long, difficult and often dangerous journeys across unknown mountains and glaciers. Dependent entirely on their own resources and on the confidence and trust which they inspired in their men, they had no helicopter to be called up by radio to extract them from awkward predicaments; no special high altitude rations, no special clothing or boots, no anti-biotics and no effective anti-malarial drugs.

After serving in Iraq during the 1939-45 war, and in Delhi before and after Partition, Gordon retired in 1948 to the Lake District in England and started a fresh career as a schoolmaster, teaching maths and geography at Huyton Hill School by Lake Windermere, till his second retirement at the still active age of 72. This term time job and a family to rear as well were not enough for him and June, so for thirteen years they also turned their house into a holiday home for children whose parents were working abroad, sometimes having as many as fourteen at once. I have often seen a photo of their house with children leaning out of every window and sitting all over the roof. With them they shared not only the skills, pleasures and disciplines of rock-climbing, fell-walking, sailing and other outdoor activities but also the ideals of Christian life. They themselves had been brought up in a staunchly Christian tradition, but in 1934 they were deeply influenced by their contact with the Oxford Group movement (later Moral Rearmament) which fundamentally renewed their faith. Partly as a consequence of this, Gordon tempered his high degree of professional competence and military efficiency with an exceptional generosity, unselfishness and modesty, which endeared him to all he met. Indeed the Grasmere rector in his funeral oration described him as soldier, surveyor, schoolmaster and saint. Gordon was one of my godfathers and I could not have had a better one. He was for many years churchwarden at Grasmere, where (as an engineer) he had the weekly task of winding up the massive weights of the church clock in the tower. One day he was doing this when the wire broke and the weight crashed through the floor beside him.

In the family newsletter Koi Hai which he started and edited for many years, Gordon, by then 88, wrote. ‘In July we toured England, visiting many relatives and friends, mostly ex-Survey of India. It was amazing to find how ancient they had become!’ The really amazing thing was that Gordon himself never became ‘ancient’. Till the last he stood straight as a ramrod and remained mentally alert, always unperturbed, always interested in people, always amused by mathematical puzzles. He had led a very full and active life and leaves behind him a generation in his debt, from the many children whom he introduced to the hills to the many mountaineers’ who have used his maps.
 

Brigadier Gordon Hutchinson Osmaston1

From: http://thepeerage.com/p46078.htm#i460779

Last Edited=12 Dec 2010
Brigadier Gordon Hutchinson Osmaston was born on 26 September 1898.1 He was the son of Bertram Beresford Osmaston and Catherine Mary Hutchinson.1 He married June Archer, daughter of Francis William Archer, on 8 August 1924.2
Brigadier Gordon Hutchinson Osmaston was educated at
Cheltenham College, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England.1 He fought in the First World War, in France and Waziristan.1 He was educated at Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, Berkshire, England.1 He was decorated with the award of Military Cross (M.C.) in 1918.1 He was with the Survey of India between 1921 and 1948.1 He fought in the Second World War between 1940 and 1941, in Iraq.1 He lived in 1952 at Eller Close, Grasmere, Westmorland, England.1 He gained the rank of Brigadier in the service of the Royal Engineers.1

Children of Brigadier Gordon Hutchinson Osmaston and June Archer

Citations

  1. [S40] L. G. Pine, editor, Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, 17th edition, (London, England: Burke's Peerage Ltd, 1952), page 1938. Hereinafter cited as Burke's Landed Gentry, 17th ed.
  2. [S40] L. G. Pine, Burke's Landed Gentry, 17th ed., page 1939.
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