Entity Type:
Hunt, Henry Cecil John, (1910-1998), Baron Hunt of Llanfairwaterdine
Hunt, Henry Cecil John, (1910-1998), Baron Hunt of Llanfairwaterdine
Born in the Raj, Hunt was the eldest son of an Indian Army Officer who was killed in the Great War when the young Hunt was still only four-years old. Undeterred, Hunt followed in his late father's military footsteps to Sandhurst where he was a high-flier, and was he nick-named 'Thruster John' in later life. During a period of anti-colonial agitation against the British he voluntarily got seconded to the Indian Police as an undercover agent, squatting in the Chittagong bazaar disguised in lunghi and skull-cap as a human listening-post. Thanks to his undercover suveillance he received the Indian Police Medal. During this time, Hunt had been introduced to skiing and mountaineering in the Alps, although he didn't do his first guideless rock climbing until he was 23. Back in india, he put his new found passion to good use with an attempt on Saltoro Kangri in 1935, reaching the respectable height of 24,500 ft. But he got turned down for the 1936 Everest Expedition on the grounds of a medical examination, which suggested he had a weak heart. He was advised to take care going up stairs. So, instead, he reconnoitred the eastern slopes of Kangchenjunga, climbed the SW summit of Nepal Peak and made the third ascent of the Zemu La where they found some Yeti tracks. With the outbreak of World War II Hunt was called from the heat of the sub-continental plain and swapped Shalwar Kameez for Kilt to to become chief Instructor at the Commando Mountain and Snow Warfare School in frigid Braemar. In 1943 he was on the Italian front, winning a DSO during desperate action against the Italians, followed by service in liberated Greece. By 1952 Hunt was part of the planning staff of Allied Headquarters in France. Then a call came from London to take command of the 1953 British & Commonwealth Everest Expedition. The British had permission from the Nepalese to try the mountain in 1953, but should they fail, French and Swiss teams were lining up to have a go. A feeling close to high anxiety appeared to have gripped the decision-makers in London. In their eyes there was more than climbing a mountain at stake, national prestige depended on it. In a series of political manoeuvrings, they ousted the popular, but laid-back civilian Eric Shipton from leadership of the 1953 expedition, and replaced him with a ‘thruster’; the no-nonsense logistics expert Colonel John Hunt. The ‘last chance’ to plant the Union Flag on the highest point on the Earth had been felt to be too important to leave to an ‘amateur’. The British were determined not to fail this time and John Hunt’s revered organisational ability lived up to expectations: the mountain was duly climbed. Hunt found himself in great demand for various worthy public offices after his success directing the Everest show; he served on myriad worthy committees and was responsible for founding the Duke of Edinburgh award. He finally ended up in the Lords representing the Liberal Demorcrats. Lord Hunt died 7th November 1998.
Further reading: Life is Meeting, John Hunt.

Biographical information is kindly supplied by Colin Wells.
2006-08-06 00:00:00
Maxine Willett
Access Points:
Hunt, Henry Cecil John, (1910-1998), Baron Hunt of Llanfairwaterdine
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