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Charles Granville Bruce, 1866-1939

CHARLES GRANVILLE BRUCE

1866–1939

The death in London last July at the age of seventy-three of Brigadier-General The Hon. C. G. Bruce takes away another of the outstanding figures of our day in the alpine world. General Bruce had a great love for the mountains which began as a boy in his own Welsh hills. For Switzerland and the Swiss people he had a lifelong devotion, and that feeling was wholeheartedly reciprocated by the Swiss themselves. They considered him one of their best friends. He was an Honorary Member of the Swiss Alpine Club and also of the American Alpine Club. At the meetings of the Alpine Club in London he was always a central figure. To meet “the General” was an experience in itself as I was once lucky enough to learn. He was in “good form” that night, they said, which soon became evident as half the room gravitated about him.

He was the second son of the first Lord Aberdare, an uncle of the present peer, the famous “ball” player. Choosing the army as a career, he was commissioned a lieutenant at twenty-one and went to India the next year, where he joined the Gurkha Rifles. For the next ten years he took part in various local campaigns. The famous Gurkha Scouts he was the first to raise and train as units specializing in mountain warfare, and he eventually commanded a regiment of them in the Dardanelles campaign in 1915 until severely wounded in both legs. Later he again served on the Indian frontier, and in the Afghan war, and in 1920 retired from active service. He was awarded C. B., M. V. O., and frequently mentioned in dispatches.

Service in India included leaves which he frequently used to gratify his yearnings for the high mountains. In 1892 he was with Martin Conway on a scientific expedition in the Karakoram. In 1895 he went with Mummery and Collie to Nanga Parbat, when the former with a Gurkha porter was lost on the mountain. In 1905 he had suggested to Francis Younghusband an expedition to Mt. Everest and was actually in Nepal making preparations when permission to approach the mountain was refused. In 1907 he went to the Garwhal with T. G. Longstaff and Mumm but an abscess on the knee prevented him from taking part in the first ascent of Trisul. At the age of fifty-six he led the second expedition to Mt. Everest, and was leading the 1924 expedition when illness on the way across Tibet forced him to drop out. He helped to organize the 1933 expedition as well. At this same time he was President of the Alpine Club, 1923–1925. In 1927–1930 he was President of the Association of British Members of the Swiss Alpine Club. In 1921 he took part in the opening of the Britannia Hut which was dedicated to the British members of the S. A. C. who died in the war of 1914–1918, and in 1930 as President of the “British Members” he again attended the inauguration of the enlarged hut.

On his mountain experiences he wrote four books: Twenty Years in the Himalaya (1910) ; Kulu and Lahoul (1914) ; Assault on Mt. Everest (1922) ; Himalayan Wanderer (1934).

In 1915 he received the Gill Memorial and in 1922 the Founders Medal (one of two highest awards) from the Royal Geographical Society, and also the Gold Medal of the Société de Géographie, Paris, in 1922.

The General was a mountaineer of the old school. He made some fifty ascents in the Himalayas. He loved the mountains for their own sake, and enjoyed expeditions to new country and new peaks. He had not had the opportunities nor perhaps the desire to indulge in the more modern feats of acrobatic climbing. His devotion to and understanding of the hill tribes made him a particular inspiration to the now famous, elite high mountain porters, the Sherpas, so invaluable to all recent Himalayan expeditions. He possessed qualities which all men, European and native, admired. His abounding sense of humor and good nature earned him the name of “Grand Sahib” among the mountain tribes throughout the Himalaya. Altogether the General was one of the cheering personalities of his generation among mountaineers.

H. S. H., Jr.