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Horace Westmorland

Horace "Rusty" Westmorland was born in Penrith, England in 1886 and educated at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School. He worked in the families tannery and leather business until the death of his father in 1909 then he decided to immigrate to Canada. Upon arrival in Vancouver in 1911 he met Arthur O. Wheeler, for whom he had a letter of introduction, and asked to spend the summer working on one of the mountain survey parties. He spent the next six months working with the surveyors around Tetachuck Lake as part of the Alberta/British Columbia Interprovincial Boundary Commission. He continued working throughout the summers of 1912 to 1914 as a mountaineer for the surveyors and made several first ascents, some with the well-known climber/guide Conrad Kain.

In 1912 Westmorland was invited to take a commission in a Canadian ?Territorial? Highland Regiment. He qualified at Military School and was transferred to the Canadian ?Regular? Army where he served in Belgium and France from 1915 to 1919. Lieutenant-Colonel Westmorland remained in the Service until invalided out in October 1944. He then returned to his family roots in the Lakes District for his remaining years.

"Rusty" Westmorland began his climbing career in 1901 at the age of fifteen when he climbed Pillar Rock in the Wasdale region of the Lakes District with George Abraham (author of British Mountain Climbs) and in later years celebrated by repeating the climb on his 65th, 75th and lastly his 85th birthdays.

In Canada he was a member of the Alpine Club of Canada and attended their camps in 1912, 1913, 1919 and 1944. As well as the numerous ascents in the Rockies he visited Vancouver Island in 1922 and climbed Mount Arrowsmith with the local Victoria Section of the A.C.C. and Mount Maxwell (Baynes Peak) on Saltspring Island. He was awarded, in recognition for Mountain services, the "Silver Rope" badge by the A.C.C. and received a Testimony of Appreciation by the British Mountain Rescue Committee. In Europe he climbed and skiied throughout the Bernese Oberland and the Dolomites and with Edward Feuz Jr. he climbed the Hornli Ridge on the Matterhorn.

In 1946 he founded what was originally called "The Borrowdale Mountain Rescue Team" but was switched to the Keswick Mountain Rescue in 1951. This rescue team came about when Wilfred Noyce, who later became a key member of John Hunt?s successful 1953 Everest team, fell while climbing Shark?s Fin on Tophet Bastion, Great Gable. A gust of wind blew Noyce off his holds and he fell onto a ledge breaking one of his legs. Noyce?s climbing partner went for help and a scratch group of six was collected and, after a complicated and gruelling rescue lasting all night, Noyce was safely taken to Wasdale Head. One of the rescuers, "Rusty" Westmorland, was disturbed by the lack of any organisation, trained and willing to help injured climbers and fell walkers. Legally, the responsibility lay with the police, as it still does, but they were neither trained nor equipped for mountain rescues at the time. "Rusty" decided there was an urgent need for a team of volunteers. An appeal in the Keswick Reminder produced an encouraging response; some thirty men were recruited to form the initial team.

Initially there was some scepticism in the valley about the motives and effectiveness of the team, however, this was dispelled when it became obvious that here was a group prepared to go out at any time in all kinds of weather to help anyone in trouble on the fells. In 1965 Horace "Rusty" Westmorland was awarded the O.B.E. by the Queen for his services to mountain rescue.

In 1964 "Rusty" Westmorland wrote a book as part of a series for Pelham Adventure Library entitled Adventures In Climbing, which gives information and advice on the techniques of climbing illustrated by incidents from his own life. The last chapter, entitled "Mountain Life," relates some of his adventures in the Canadian Rockies.

[Courtesy Lindsay Elms)


Lt.-Col. H. Westmorland, a letter to Mr. Randow, April 9, 1970. Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Banff.

Capt. H. Westmorland "Climbing Face of Maxwell Mountain." The Daily Colonist [Victoria, BC] (Sept. 10, 1922)

"Mountain Climbing Proves Attractive." The Daily Colonist, Sunday Magazine [Victoria, BC] (August 8, 1922)

Westmorland, Rusty. 1964. Adventures In Climbing. London. Pelham Books LTD.