The World Wildlife Fund Second International Congress, 1970

 

 

HW’s involvment in, and attendance at,

 

The World Wildlife Fund Second International Congress

 

held in London on 16, 17 and 18 November 1970

 

 

by Anne Williamson

 

 

 

WWF 1 Quote King George VI

 

 

(As printed in the WWF Congress ‘Cabaret’ programme on a page all to itself.) It is not known when those words were spoken, or on what occasion, but it was at least 70 years ago.

 

 

WWF 2 cover congress booklet

The cover of the Congress booklet,

giving details of the various sessions

 

 

I am concentrating here on this single event as an example of HW’s involvement in conservation – but with a few asides.

 

The World Wildlife Fund (today it is officially known as The World Wide Fund for Nature, although most people still use its original name) was first promoted in April 1961 and officially founded in September 1961, with its headquarters in Switzerland. Its main aims were wilderness preservation and the reduction of human impact on the environment. The concept was the brainchild of Julian Huxley.1 Founder members were: Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands; Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh; Julian Huxley; Max Nicholson (Director General of English Nature Conservancy); Peter Scott; Guy Mountford, and Godfrey Rockefeller. The name was thought up by Max Nicholson, while Peter Scott designed the iconic giant panda logo ‒ the panda being known to be under threat. Prince Bernhard was the first president, while Prince Philip was the second – and at the time of his death on 9 April 2021 at the age of 99 was still President Emeritus. The first International Congress was held in Switzerland in 1963, and the main theme then was the first warning of global warming, based on the work of Frank Fraser Darling, which Julian Huxley helped to promote. That was nearly sixty years ago. Fraser Darling gave the BBC’s prestigious Reith Lectures for 1969, entitled ‘Wilderness and Plenty’, which received considerable attention; he was knighted in 1970.

 

The Second International Congress of the WWF was arranged to be convened in London in November 1970 as the finale for European Conservation Year, with the theme of the conservation of endangered species and the threat to their habitat. That was fifty years ago.

 

It is not clear how HW’s involvement in the WWF came about. The first mention about the project within his personal papers is early 1964 – and from its fairly casual mention there it is quite possible that he was involved from the very beginning, in 1961. He was of course very well known as a nature writer. But perhaps more importantly in this particular connection, he was also a friend of Peter Scott.2 Indeed, he had made a visit to Scott’s lighthouse abode on the Wash marshes as early as 1937.

 

 

WWF 3 Scott at lighthouse 1930a
Scott at his East Bank Lighthouse, Lincolnshire, late 1930s

 

 

HW ascribed Scott’s war service as a commander in motor torpedo boats to his central character, Peter Raleigh, in the ending of The Scandaroon. Due to its dilapidation and degradation during the war, Scott had given up the lighthouse at the end of the war. He had first visited Slimbridge when staying with a friend in 1945, where he saw the rare Lesser Whitefront geese. Greatly encouraged, he decided it was the place to establish a centre for the Severn Estuary for the study and conservation of wildfowl. He moved to Slimbridge in 1949, and set up the Wildfowl Trust. Scott was also in the 1960s a friend of HW’s son John. The pair were rivals in the British National Gliding Championship competitions – run by Ann Welch (née Edmonds), HW’s ‘Barleybright’ from the 1930s.

 

Now a small digression, though it forms part of the background to the main path.

 

At the end of February 1964 HW (who was renting a room in the London home of his first wife Loetitia’s cousin and one-time bridesmaid Mary Hewitt3) received a letter from Scott asking if he would make one of the after-dinner ‘Toasts’ for the Wildfowl Trust Annual Dinner to be held in London on 14 May. On 10 March he telephoned Scott accepting the invitation. There is a letter from Scott’s wife4 confirming this, and stating that HW was to propose the toast to the actual Trust.

 

On being sent a final draft of the programme for the dinner by a man whose designated position was ‘Controller’ (Brigadier C. E. H. Sparrow, CBE, MC), HW wrote on it an opening for his speech:

 

 

WWF 4 HW speech notes

 

 

Transcript:

 

The other morning a party of visitors from overseas were being 'guided' around and about Hampton Court. They were at one moment standing by the lake, on the verge of which mallard were quatting. One of the party of visitors pointed to the duck and announced to the rest of the party, “There you see something typically British – those birds are English pheasants.”

 

Who was I to correct them? I know next to nothing about wildfowl. Indeed I feel myself to be a fraud [then crossed out ‘at this dinner tonight’ – continuing] on the edge of this lake of faces before me. I am a dry as dust who has not watched a bird for over a quarter of a century.

 

Sadly I have not found a formal copy of this toast, so we will never know how it continued. On the morning of the dinner, 14 May 1964, HW, recently returned from a visit to the Western Front battlefields, was working on his First World War articles for the Evening Standard5, but his diary records:

 

Afraid of Wildfowl Trust dinner tonight; & my speech.

 

 

WWF 5B menu toast list

 

 

However, all went well as he recorded later:

 

Kerstin and Mary came with me.6 K. said speech good. Also P. Scott.

 

The next morning he got up

 

at 5.20 am & crept out of the flat with my baggage – left at 6.5 am, sunny drive to Chichester.

 

And so he arrived at his son Richard and his wife Anne's flat at 8.10 – in time for breakfast! He and Richard then went off to Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve for a day’s work.

 

 

************************

 

 

WWF 6A Slimbridge Research centre

 

 

On 23 April 1966 HW attended the ‘Inauguration of Phase 1 of the Research Centre at the Wildfowl Trust’ at Slimbridge by her Majesty the Queen, and was presented to the Queen on that occasion. He made a note on the programme:

 

 

WWF 6B HWs ms note

 

 

Returning to the actual World Wildlife Fund Trust trail, we find that HW was in fact on the Advisory Committee, one of quite a long list which included a still youngish David Attenborough (then Head of the Natural History Department of the BBC), the Duke of Bedford, Grahame Dangerfield, Arthur Koestler, Elspeth Huxley, Laurens van der Post, Keith Shackleton, David Shepherd, Philip Wayre, the Earl of Wemyss, Sir Solly Zuckerman, and Kenneth Allsop – all well-known names associated with conservation work – but also some slightly surprising ones including Bernard Delfont, the pop singer Adam Faith, Rex Harrison, and Spike Milligan.

 

There is an official World Wildlife Fund letter with a long list of names attached whom committee members were to approach for 'large' donations: well over 100 names of the great and the good possible donors. The striking letterhead is formed from the image of a cheetah:

 

 

WWF 7A WWF Appeal letterhead

 

 

At the end of which HW has written, in red marker ink:

 

 

WWF 7B HW ms note

 

 

This is what being on Advisory Panel involves one in!

 

On 1 December 1964 (his 69th birthday) HW was in London attending an evening of recital of Shakespeare’s poetry arranged by the Royal Society of Literature, of which he was a Fellow, attended by Her Majesty Elizabeth the Queen Mother, to whom he was presented by Lord (‘Rab’) Butler, President of the RSL:

 

 

WWF 8 HW Queen Mum

 

 

The following day HW’s diary records that he went to Buckingham Palace (with others) for a meeting chaired by Prince Philip to discuss a forthcoming World Wildlife Conservation meeting. He made a note about the timing arrangements on the back of a WWF compliments slip:

 

 

WWF 9A note on comps slip

 

 

While in his diary he wrote:

 

 

WWF 9B HW diary entry re meeting Buck House

 

 

Meeting at Buckingham Palace, Prince Philip, Wild Life World Conservation. I went in with John Rothenstein. Met Cyril Connolly, Eric Linklater, Lord Gladwyn (Mary Hewitt’s cousin) & others. Prince Phillip [sic] seems to me a ‘classless’ man.

 

No actual details are given about this meeting, but presumably it was to discuss initial proposals about arrangements for the Second International Congress that was subsequently held in November 1970. Prince Philip headed what was known as ‘The British National Appeal of the WWF’, and the aim of this Second International Congress was primarily to raise both the WWF’s profile and some much needed funds. The choice of date was no doubt to some extent influenced by the fact that 1970 was also designated ‘European Conservation Year’, and certainly Prince Bernhard saw the two events as part of one important whole, speaking at both venues on a single theme.

 

A large number of events took place in this country to celebrate and give prominence to the European Conservation Year. The Nature Conservancy (now known as Natural England) played a prominent part with events in various of the National Nature Reserves, and particularly with an exhibition at Alexandra Palace in London in February 1970, for which HW’s son Richard, as warden of Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve, with myself as ‘support’, was asked to set up a major part. This involved having a display of living chalk grassland with all attendant flower species – in the middle of winter – which had to be specially grown at great expense in a designated greenhouse, inevitably resulting in a chaotic French farce situation which we then had to cope with – but that is diverting from the subject.

 

 

*************************

 

 

We jump now to 7 July 1970, when HW’s diary reveals he received an official

 

Letter from WILDLIFE – wanting me to write Features Articles on ‘Threatened Animal Species’

 

These articles were to coincide with the WWF Congress that coming November. The letter was from the Director of Public Relations (Gerald Samson). On telephoning him HW learned ‘from a careful, Parliamentary voice’ that he would need to travel to Switzerland:

 

and examine the World Wildlife Records and write articles from therefore on threatened animals (in D. Express). I said I’d write to Express & proposed 4 articles.

 

Although HW agreed he was rather appalled. It was not good timing for him. He certainly had no wish to travel to Switzerland, nor to pore over complicated research material. He was already in the midst of the total turmoil of the difficulties involved in preparing the script for the proposed film The Vanishing Hedgerows (a pioneering documentary directed by David Cobham about conservation in farming practices); dealing with the equal turmoil engendered by a proposed biography of Field Marshal Earl Haig; AND was writing, or trying to get on with, The Scandaroon. He had also just sorted out his contribution ‘The Genesis of Tarka’ for the Lord Taverners’ birthday tribute book The Twelfth Man, published to celebrate Prince Philip’s 50th birthday in June 1971. Added to all this, he was also editing – in effect rewriting – the book written by one of his first wife Loetitia's Chichester cousins, 'A New Forest Child'7, which was to remain unpublished. (And throughout the period HW was also in a state of depressed emotional turmoil over yet another young woman, affecting his ability to free his mind to write as he wished.)

 

So, having agreed to approach the Daily Express, his diary shows how alarmed he felt (written in capital letters):

 

I DREAD THEM [and he itemises his work load as above]

 

I HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE of foreign wild animals.

 

By Sunday, 12 July his agitation had risen to a point where he telephoned Peter Scott about the proposed articles. Scott calmed him, mainly by saying it was quite unnecessary to visit Switzerland, and suggesting ‘Whales’ as a good subject for one of the articles. HW then added, as article ‘No. 2’:

 

I thought ‘Robin Redbreast in a cage’ theme for massacre of small birds in France & Italy during migration. The Turtle doves in spring – guns all along the fly-lines. Swallows over the Alps in bad weather.  

 

3) Otters.

 

On Tuesday 14 July HW travelled to London to see the Daily Express about the proposed articles. It was agreed he would do 4 articles for £100 each for autumn publication. He noted also that later that day he met (at a Royal Society Literature lecture):

 

Ld Clark’s son Alan, a historian, who has praised my Chronicle Gt War novels.

 

It seems a great deal of ‘data’ in one form or another was now sent to HW as he refers to it more than once:

 

I can’t face the data.

 

During the first week in August his sons mustered at the Field in Georgeham for a ‘Working Week’ of felling trees, painting the caravan, and other maintenance. Son Richard was then able to help him form his ideas for the articles, and provided material for him to use.

 

On 14 August HW noted:

 

Tackled the form of application for the November World Congress of Wildlife,

 

and noting the various tickets for which he had applied, which would ensure entry to Buckingham Palace and the Talk of the Town Gala Dinner (the latter at £50 each) for himself, Richard and John; and for Richard and himself for lectures and a coach outing to a Norfolk Nature Reserve (Welney Marsh). The total cost was £187/10/-.

 

(I have deduced that tickets for the Gala Dinner were on a sliding scale – if members wanted to sit with the higher echelons of Society (especially Royalty) the tickets cost much more: a newspaper report notes prices up to £500!)

 

On 16 August HW recorded:

 

Wrote to Peter Scott about the forthcoming book The Living World of Animals to be published 12 Nov. 1970 at 6.30 at London Zoo in presence of Prince of Wales. He wants me to give a pre-publication boost of it. I must attend thereto.

 

He continues about his frustration over writing the four articles, having been sent information about whales written by an American researcher:

 

That’s enough to drive me away from the subject.

 

But he obviously buckled down to the task, as we find on 26 August:

 

I wrote more on Whales – article one, 1100 words – far too much for the D. Express. Then I tackled the subject of small migratory birds being shot & netted on the fly-line across the Landes in France & again as they go over the passes of the Pyrenees. Ditto in Italy. A horrifying, barbarous procedure.

 

And in 28 August:

 

Struggled with revision of No 3 essay.

 

On 2 September HW noted that he had revised the articles and they were ready to send to his typist Liz Cummins. But on trying to contact her he discovered she was away on holiday. So, typically, HW, the following day:

 

Struggled miserably with the World Wildlife articles suggested by Peter Scott.

 

And the next day, 4 September:

 

. . . went on with the articles which are far too long. I can’t see how to shorten them.

 

That weekend he attended the wedding of Bryony Duncan, daughter of his friend the poet Ronald Duncan, at St Nectan’s Church, Hartland, and then at Speke’s Mill, their home in the Marsland Valley on the Devon/Cornwall border. On his return, he continued work on the articles. He made good use of his weekend at Speke's Mill, as the diary entry for 21 September reveals:

 

I wrote a good D. Express article today called WILL A BUTTERFLY SAVE A VALLEY. (the Large Blue at Speke’s Mill where it breeds on heather etc) & posted it off to the paper.

 

And on Saturday, 26 September:

 

My Blue Butterfly article, much cut, in Express today. Why do I always send too long an article? Features Editor has specially asked me not to exceed 600 words, for which I get £100, or ¾d a word!

 

The article appeared with the title ‘When a rare beauty comes out of her shell’.8 Although not at all apparent, this is actually one of the four articles he had originally agreed to do.

 

There is a cutting in his archive from The Times of 17 September 1970, reporting a speech made by Jacques Cousteau, at that time widely known for his undersea explorations, on returning from a three-year survey of the oceans in his oceanographic ship, the Calypso, a converted British minesweeper:

 

 

WWF 10 Cousteau cutting re sea copy

 

HW evidently marked this for his own forthcoming article.

 

That was in 1970, and  fifty years have passed since Commander Cousteau's words and their dire warning, and still the same cries are being made today.

 

That HW was worrying about the book review he was to write and had contacted Peter Scott is shown by his diary entry for 19 October, when time was getting very close to the publication and prestigious launch of the book:

 

A kind letter from Peter Scott. He said of the Reader’s Digest publication (of his The Living World of Animals): “. . . careless stupidity is quite characteristic”. The proofs were “all too late to be corrected now”, even when sent back “by return”. He wrote ‘You are not ‘small beer’. You are a writer of great distinction & originality & [written in caps] A MOST IMPORTANT MAN!’ . . . I replied suitably praising his forthcoming book.

 

I did some work today. Read & condensed the 3 articles for London congress week – 17, 18, 19 November of W.W. & sent copies for typing to Liz Cummins, Cornwall.

 

On October 28 he was staying with his son Richard and his wife near Chichester, having, with others of his family, just seen his first wife Loetitia off from Southampton by liner to visit their eldest son Bill and family in Canada. There was considerable discussion about the articles.

 

Very tired, & the articles, with errors & omissions here & there, typed by Liz Cummins worried me.

 

Then, leaving his car at Petersfield (the local railway station), he went by train to Walton-on-Thames for the dinner and annual general meeting of ‘The Ghosts Club’ on Hallowe’en – where Wentworth Day spoke and HW read a piece from ‘Richard Jefferies’ Story’. The next day it was back to Petersfield to collect his car and return to our little rented ‘two up & two down’ cottage in Chilgrove (he complained about the food – he had arrived too late for lunch – and the accommodation: he had to sleep on the sitting room floor!).

 

On 2 November he drove to Swindon for a meeting of the Richard Jefferies Society, of which he was President, where Rolf Gardiner gave the evening talk:

 

First class lecturer; ditto subject of conservation.

 

A photograph was taken of the occasion, of which there is only a photocopy in the Archive:

 

 

WWF 11 HW Rolf Gardiner RJ Soc

 

 

After this typical frantic burst he finally returned to Devon on 3 November. His ‘writing worry’ was then transferred to lack of progress on the script for The Vanishing Hedgerows and The Scandaroon.

 

On about 5 November he received a copy of what he quite wrongly called throughout –

 

Peter Scott’s book, The Living World of Animals.

 

There are no details about HW’s subsequent review, and I have been unable to track it down.

 

On 11 November he travelled back to our cottage, arriving ‘after tea in Petersfield’ (just ten miles short of his destination!), and the following day again took the train to London and settled himself in at the Savage Club. After dealing with various business matters he went on to the offices of the Daily Express in Fleet Street:

 

To look at proofs of my 3 articles for next week. I found a serious fault in No. 1 essay as pointed out by Alison, Features Editor. It did not FLOW. So I recast it and was happy to be told ‘It’s all right’. I had mixed up autobiography with my theme of the decadence of farming (soil conservation).

 

(This became article No. 3 when printed.)

 

That evening he attended the launch of The Living World of Animals at a ‘Wildlife’ party held at the Elephant House of London Zoo (Regent’s Park).

 

Prince Charles could not be present, had been in Paris for De Gaulle’s funeral yesterday ‒ so Princess Anne deputised. I was presented by Peter Scott. She is beautiful.

 

The Readers Digest book The Living World of Animals was published on 14 October, and was actually written, not by Peter Scott as HW states in his diary entries, but by Dr L. Harrison Matthews, FRS, with others. Dr Matthews (1901‒1986) was a very well-known zoologist, with several books and learned papers on mammals to his name.

 

The next day HW again visited the Daily Express office

 

to be sure of no errors in the 3 articles.

 

(One can see how worried he was about these articles, to which he understandably attached great importance.) He then returned to our cottage near Chichester (again having had tea in Petersfield) and in his diary once more complains of the sleeping arrangement – on the floor with a sleeping bag. He spent a day working with Richard, destroying invasive brambles on the Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve.

 

On Monday 16 November HW again drove to Petersfield and then by train to London, and after settling in at the Savage Club,

 

By No 9 bus to Royal Garden Hotel. [Headquarters for the WWF Congress.]

 

(The first article, about small birds being shot in Italy & France, well set up on page of Express today.) . . .

 

 

WWF 12 HW article 1

 

 

I got my tickets & attended the opening meeting, presided over by Princes Philip & Bernhardt of the Netherlands.

 

Met Barry Driscoll9 who attached himself to me . . .

 

The booklet contains outline details of all the meetings, lectures and social events, and has profiles of all those taking an active part in the proceedings. There was also published afterwards the official Transactions of all the proceedings, which makes an interesting historical record of the state of, and thinking about, conservation at that time.

 

The following day HW met up with Richard, who had travelled up to London by an early train, and they attended at the Royal Garden Hotel Palace Suite for that day’s lectures. HW noted in his diary:

 

Article No 2 – on Whales – prominent on an inside page of Express, also cartoon of Peter Scott & the young women (in the news) who objected to being sex-symbols. I met Phillipa Scott (who objected to the cartoon).

 

 

WWF 14 HW article 2 Whales

 

 

Richard Williamson remembers his father buying a large number of copies of the paper and distributing them around the lecture hall, but little notice was taken of them. Most of those attending would have been serious scientists, and would not necessarily have appreciated HW’s emotional approach. However, Peter Scott thanked and praised him very sincerely for his efforts.

 

Richard also kept the lunch menu as a souvenir: evidently nothing was stinted!

 

 

WWF 15 lunch menu

 

 

The speeches at the Congress were widely covered in the national and local press, and HW received a number of mentions as one of those attending. A small selection of the cuttings in the Archive is given below:

 

Express & Star, Wolverhampton, 17 November:

 

 

WWF 15a ExpressStar 17Nov70

 

 

Evening News & Dispatch, Edinburgh, 17 November:

 

 

WWF 15b eveningnewsdispatch edinburgh 17Nov70

 

 

Daily Express, 18 November:

 

 

WWF 15c Express 18Nov70

 

 

Morning Star, 18 November:

 

 

WWF 15d Morning Star 18Nov70

 

 

Wednesday, 18 November was the third and last day of the Congress. One of the speakers was R. E. Boote, then Vice-Chair of the Nature Conservancy (and so one of Richard’s superiors); he was also Chair of the Committee for the European Conservation Year. At question time HW stood up and began:

 

‘As the oldest person present . . .’

 

A year or so later Bob Boote was on an official visit to the Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve, and Richard reminded him of the occasion: Boote remembered that opening phrase very well, but not the ensuing question – and neither can Richard! However, the Transactions that emanated from the Congress gives HW’s statement in full; but this official version does not begin with the words that Richard and Bob Boote remember!

 

Mr Henry Williamson: I am an optimist. I have seen Life and the ideas of Truth, and although there are tremendous opposing forces, they are coming into being. And from what I have heard today and yesterday at this meeting, I feel it is a great triumph for Truth and that the world is aware of it, and may I say that a situation has to get very bad indeed, as a wound in battle – all your hurt flesh has to rot away under great pain before new growth can come. My observation and feeling is that the new growth has come, and that this society and many others are the pioneers of it and all their ideas will be accepted in due course.

 

Among the speakers was Neil Armstrong, who met and was interested in Henry’s glider-pilot son John (as a fellow ‘flyer’).

 

From the Congress programme:

 

 

WWF 15e Neil Armstrong

 

WWF 15f Armstrong lecture notice

 

 

WWF 15g1970 WWF Congress 6 Armstrong speaking

Left to right: unknown, Prof. Sir Bernard Lovell, Dr Thor Heyerdahl, Dr Fritz Vollmar,

with Neil Armstrong speaking at the podium on the right

 

 

The title of his talk was subsequently used, of course, for David Attenborough’s celebrated television series. HW did not record Neil Armstrong’s lecture, but Richard scribbled some notes in the back of his Congress programme, and they are worth noting:

 

The earth is a deep blue with lacework of clouds and with tans and browns of the continents beneath showing through. The moon surface is dead and dreary. But it shows evidence of continuous evolution. Craters are rolled and eroded, sharp edged, once a molten state. What I saw was a single snap from a motion picture of planetary life.

 

Planet and stars are in continuous evolution.

 

Life of man is as the single visible spectrum change. The Earth high overhead when standing on the surface of the Moon is very remote and very small. You might dismiss the Earth as very unimportant. But the Earth is the only island for Man. Protecting the Earth from its own population is of the greatest importance. Removing remote areas will occur this century.

 

So how can the technology we have now acquired be used to help the earth? Tracking animal movements to understand their ecology will help to understand how creatures fit into the pattern of life on Earth.

 

Fossil fuels will be used to the end of the century but atomic fusion power thereafter together with hydro-electric and harnessing other natural powers.

 

Among the other world authorities and personalities giving suggestions as to how life on Earth could continue were Sir Bernard Lovell, Jacques Cousteau, Prince Philip, Prince Bernhard, Guy Mountfort, David Attenborough, Sir Julian Huxley, and Sir Peter Scott.

 

HW, inevitably, became bored with the lectures, and recorded later in his diary:

 

Final day of the W.W.F. Congress.

 

My final article in Daily Express [and he then comments that they were all of the original length: that is as sent in by him, and not cut by editors as he had feared.10]

 

 

WWF 16 HW article 3

 

 

The three articles comprising ‘Save the Innocents’ are reprinted in Days of Wonder (HWS, 1986; e-book 2013).

 

HW then continues:

 

I was a little tired for the lectures . . . [and so left the hall]. Found myself talking to the young ladies who had temporary jobs as ‘usherettes’ for the Congress. Delightful audience, two kneeling by my chair, the third looking down, as I quoted Francis Thompson, John Donne, A. E. Housman etc & Shelley. . . .

 

He noted their names and addresses. One lissom lassie was:

 

Dark, energetic mind & talked much. She drove John, Richard & myself to the N.L. [National Liberal] Club in her Alfa Romeo motor. We had tea & then drinks.

 

That evening, both to mark the end the official proceedings and to raise funds, there was held ‘A Royal Gala Cabaret and Dinner at the Talk of the Town’.11

 

HW's invitation card:

 

 

WWF 17 invite card gala dinner

 

 

The programme, on gold-coloured paper:

 

 

WWF 17A cover gala programme

 

WWF 17B

 

WWF 17C cabaret list

 

 

HW recorded the event in his diary entry the following day:

 

Last night was the Party at Talk of the Town – dinner & cabaret – for which I had paid £150 for 3 tickets. Lacking dinner jackets (Richard & John) we all went in dark suits. Plenty of champagne before H.M. The Queen (with H.M. of Holland) etc etc arrived. We had a good table on the first balcony above the circular base of the restaurant which was once a theatre. Below us the Royal party. Cabaret was mixed: excellent were Nureyev & Antoinette Sibley, Bob Hope (more or less) & Millicent Martin’s dancing: but Humperdinck etcetera was bloody awful, bawling his 10 million pound song ‘Please let me go’ with microphone to lips & odd caperings about the little stage.12 Richard said he saw H.M. with hands shielding her ears.

 

Richard & I were due to go by coach to Cambridge & Norfolk Nature Reserves this A.M. – I thought 10 AM – he said after telephoning 8.15 AM. So tired out, I failed to go . . .

 

And so, after a lazy morning, they returned to Sussex. Richard was very disappointed at not going on the trip, which was to Welney Marsh National Nature Reserve, which he had never visited. In due course HW made his way back to Devon.

 

The Gala Party was given considerable coverage in the press, and HW kept one or two news cuttings. This one is probably from the Daily Express on 19 November:

 

 

WWF 15e unknown

 

 

It was not, however, without its own controversy, as the cuttings show: chiefly the gaffe of many of the foreign Royals with their unfortunate wearing of ‘fur’ for the dinner (then, as now, a subject of controversy), despite the earlier appeal of Princess Beatrix of Holland (who apparently ignored her own plea). William Hickey, society diarist for the Daily Express, wasted no time in lambasting the guilty ones:

 

 

WWF 18 cabaret

 

 

In the top row, named and shamed, are 'Queen Juliana in red fox; Beatrix of Holland, white mink; Margrethe of Denmark, light mink; Anne-Marie of Greece, white mink;Sonja of Norway, also in a white mink'. Hickey pointedly remarks, in the lower picture, that: 'The Queen and Princess Anne arrived furless – in fact coatless – at the Talk of the Town'.

 

So the Congress and the party were over. Most of those actively involved continued to work on behalf of conservation of wildlife, and so mankind. His part may have been very small within the conservation movement as a whole, but HW always lived his life according to its principles, and it was very definitely a large part of his personal ethos. As an early example, he was burning up abandoned rubbish on Putsborough and Croyde beaches and the Burrows in 1921 – now a century ago!

 

Fifty years on from that Congress we are still faced with the same dilemmas – only now the situation is even more desperate and urgent. I wonder if Jacques Cousteau would be as optimistic today. David Attenborough was upbeat for many years, but more recently has begun to issue dire warnings about man’s pollution of land and sea, although still with that note of hope.

 

It is very encouraging that so many young people are now making their voices heard. Whether any more notice will be taken of their protests remains to be seen.

 

It is not so much ‘When will they ever learn’ (as the song goes) BUT ‒ simply ‒ Will they ever learn?

 

If not, then the future for our planet is dire indeed.

 

 

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Notes:

 

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  1. Sir Julian Huxley, FRS (1887‒1975), evolutionary biologist (brother of Aldous Huxley, author & poet).
  1. Peter Markham Scott (14 September 1909‒29 August 1989), artist, naturalist, author. Son of Captain Robert Falcon Scott (‘Scott of the Antarctic’) who died in March 1912 when returning from the South Pole. His mother Kathleen was a sculptress. She always pushed her son’s interests forward and was a very domineering parent: she subsequently remarried Edward Young (Lord Kennet). Scott was educated at Oundle and Cambridge, and then studied Art at Munich State Academy and the Royal Academy. In 1933 he moved into the East Bank Lighthouse at Sutton Bridge on the Wash, where he established a small collection of wildfowl and was able to paint. He also became an accomplished yachtsman and later became Chairman of the Olympic Yachting Team. During the Second World War Scott joined the Royal Navy and had an illustrious career, part of which was the invention of a camouflage scheme adopted by the Admiralty. In 1943 he married Elizabeth Jane Howard (novelist). She left him in 1947, when his mother also died. In 1945 he began to establish what is now the World Wildfowl Centre at Slimbridge on the Severn Estuary. Slimbridge has become the central focus for the study of various geese and duck. In 1961 the World Wildlife Fund was founded, and Scott became its first Chairman. Scott had also taken up competitive gliding, and in 1963 won the National Open Gliding Championship (beating HW’s son John Willie, as he was known, by a whisker!). Scott was knighted in 1973.
  2. Mary Hewitt, née Hibbert, was cousin of HW’s first wife Loetitia and bridesmaid at their wedding, with whom HW maintained a close relationship.
  1. Peter’s second wife, Philippa (his first wife Elizabeth Jane Howard later married Kingsley Amis and ended up living in Bungay just yards away from Lœtitia Williamson).
  1. ‘Return to Hell’: five articles in the Evening Standard, 29 June–3 July 1964. Reprinted in the Gliddon edition of The Wet Flanders Plain (Gliddon Books, 1987).
  1. Kerstin Lewes (later Hegarty), who had lived with HW briefly, acting as his secretary. See her contribution in the symposium Henry Williamson: The Man, the Writings, edited by Fr Brocard Sewell (Tabb House, 1980). Mary is Mary Hewitt, Loetitia's cousin.
  1. See the website entry ‘A New Forest Child’ for details on this item.
  1. The article is reprinted in Days of Wonder (HWS, 1987; e-book 2013), a collection of HW’s Daily Express articles from 1966 to 1971 which includes several important items, including the short series on ‘The Somme – Fifty Years After’.
  1. Barry Driscoll (1 December 1926–30 April 2006), wildlife artist. He had painted 3 large murals in the London Zoo in 1960, and had illustrated the inaugural brochure for the WWF in 1961. Driscoll illustrated an edition of Tarka the Otter in 1964.
  1. The series of articles ‘Save the Innocents’ are reprinted in Days of Wonder, op. cit., pp 92–98.
  1. This prestigious venue was originally the London Hippodrome. It was converted in 1969 by Bernard Delfont into a popular and successful nightclub. This became unfashionable in its turn, and closed in 1982. Today it is known once again as the London Hippodrome (with a casino).
  1. ‘Release me’ – as in ‘Please release me, let me go’ – by Engelbert Humperdinck was the best-selling record of 1967, topping the singles charts for six weeks and famously preventing The Beatles, then at the height of their fame, from achieving Number 1 with ‘Penny Lane’/‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. Many music fans would echo HW’s opinion of the singer!

 

 

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