Obituary: Douglas Warren
Thursday 07 October 1993
DOUGLAS WARREN, the last British Director of the Kenya Survey Department, and the last but one Director of Overseas Surveys in the British Overseas Development Administration, played a leading part in the mapping of developing countries, both before and after independence.
In Kenya he took over a department which was expanding to cater for the demand for individual land ownership. In the Directorate of Overseas Surveys (DOS) he did much to improve its mapping procedures and to delay the government's decision to dismember this fine organisation. In 35 years it mapped nearly 3 million square miles of 80 developing countries, in Africa, the Caribbean and the Far East. It also organised the training of many overseas surveyors and cartographers, in their own countries and in the UK.
Warren was born in 1918, the son of an Army officer. Very much a Yorkshireman, he was educated at High Storrs Grammar School and Sheffield University, where he obtained a First in Mathematics just as the Second World War started. Commissioned in the Royal Corps of Signals, he was posted to Singapore and spent virtually his whole service as a prisoner of the Japanese in Thailand.
He was remarkably little affected by this; although I remember his describing how he and others would risk punishment by pooling their prophylactic doses of anti-malaria drugs to save sick prisoners who would otherwise have died.
After the war he applied to join the Colonial Service, as administrator; but with his mathematical background and obvious ability he was persuaded by Col Humphries, who was recruiting survey staff, to become a surveyor instead; and after training he joined the Tanganyika Survey Department in 1946. He transferred to Kenya on promotion to Assistant Director; and took over as Director in 1961.
His predecessor had started the very great enlargement of the department to provide maps of the individual land parcels which were urgently required to implement the government's decision to proceed from tribal or family to individual land ownership. However, many of the technical problems and those of the extra staff and equipment required had still to be solved. In the event most of the mapping was done from aerial photographs, after the new landowners had been persuaded to grow hedges along their boundaries. In 1965 Warren handed over to a qualified Kenyan, Peter Anyumbai, and joined the Directorate of Overseas Surveys as the senior Deputy Director in charge of mapping.
Here he introduced modern cartographic techniques, and insistence on the establishment of ground control as specified by the cartographers mapping from air photographs, instead of what the surveyors thought adequate. He also organised the direct issue of town plans as plotted on the photogrammetric machines, thus cutting out the work of re-drawing them to a pictorial standard not required by the few actual users - mainly planners and engineers.
He was promoted Director, and Adviser to the Minister, in 1968, and continued to introduce up-to-date techniques, including the use of Doppler for positioning and the direct reproduction of satellite imagery for Antarctic maps. He was three times President of the Commonwealth Survey Conference held every four years at Cambridge. He fought a hard rearguard action to try to save DOS from dismemberment by the government which finally occurred in the early Eighties, with the rump added to the Ordnance Survey. He retired in 1980.
Douglas Warren was appointed CMG in 1973, was President of the Photogrammetric Society in 1969- 71 and was awarded the Patron's Medal of the RGS in 1982. He was probably the most effective and influential of the post-war land surveyors working for developing countries.
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