Obituary: W. H. Saumarez Smith

William Hanbury Saumarez Smith, colonial civil servant and church administrator: born Sydney, Australia 31 December 1911; ICS 1934-47, Deputy Secretary to the Governor of Bengal 1946-47; OBE 1947; Diocesan Secretary, Salisbury 1947-57; Assistant Secretary, Central Board of Finance, Church of England 1958-62; Secretary, Central Advisory Council for the Ministry 1962-66; Archbishops' Secretary for Appointments 1966-75; author of A Young Man's Country 1977, A History of Baverstock 1984; married 1940 Betty Raven (three sons, one daughter); died Dorchester, Dorset 28 April 1994.

W. H. SAUMAREZ SMITH was one of those legendary administrators without whom the machinery of Governance would fall to pieces. Throughout the Civil Service at home, in the Colonies and most famously in India, a small cadre of immensely able and highly educated men strove to create a just, efficient and honourable system of government for vast tracts of land and millions of human beings. There were exceptions, of course, but the majority were motivated by the highest ideals of service. Like Bill Saumarez Smith many were deeply religious and felt their career to be a vocation. Like him, many were sons of the Rectory.

Saumarez Smith had all the qualities that often stereotype the breed. He was a Wykehamist and then at Trinity College, Cambridge, he learned the habits of meticulous scholarly attention to detail which never left him. In 1934 he joined the Indian Civil Service and was given a crash course in Bengali, in which he became fluent. He was posted to an appalling outpost of Empire in Bengal where a huge and desperately poor population struggled to survive in a vast delta. In his early twenties he found himself responsible for a region half the size of Wales. Communications and travel were almost entirely by boat, the system of justice and government dauntingly complex, his superiors erratic. The job was also dangerous; a number of officers had previously been assassinated. In A Young Man's Country (1977), subtitled 'Letters of a Subdivisional Officer of the Indian Civil Service 1936- 1937', he has left a vivid account of these later years of the ICS; a valuable contribution to the literature of the Empire.

On one of his periods of home leave he met and married Betty, the daughter of the formidable Canon Charles Raven, Master of Christ's College, Cambridge. Together they travelled back via the Cape to a new post on wartime secondment to the Central Government in Delhi, where he was an Under-Secretary to the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow. Finally he became Deputy Secretary to Sir Frederick Burrows, the last Governor of Bengal before Partition. Like many other ICS officials he returned home after the Partition in 1947 with an OBE.

At this point it seemed natural to him to find a new career in the service of the Church rather than to move into the Home or Colonial Civil Service. He became one of the post-war generation of able lay church administrators, first as Secretary to the Board of Finance in Salisbury, then in 1958 as Assistant Secretary to the Central Board of Finance in London and, from 1962, as General Secretary to the Central Advisory Council for the Training of the Ministry. In 1966 he became the first Appointments Secretary to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, as which he exercised an immense and benign influence on senior appointments of Bishops and Deans. He reckoned he had advised on the appointment of 39 Diocesan Bishops, 30 Deans and 52 Suffragans. In this period he also wrote a definitive Report on the Non-Stipendiary Ministry which largely moulded its future development.

During Saumarez Smith's time in Salisbury he had come to know and love the parishes and countryside of Dorset and Wiltshire: so it was within sight of Salisbury Cathedral that he made his retirement home. He was made one of the first Lay Canons of the Cathedral, sitting in on all Chapter Meetings as a lay adviser. In discussing cathedral finances or administration he never lost his eye for detail nor his keen sense of Christian values. His judgement was shrewd and humane, humorous and always generous. He hated cant and prejudice and could be famously indignant about thoughtless conservatism. His faith was private but profound and his stooped figure will be missed in the Canons' Stalls at services in the Cathedral. The Church has lost one of its most notable servants and his wide circle of friends an exceptionally dear man.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Chief Executive

£28, 700: Whiskey Whiskey Tango: Property Management Company is seeking a brig...

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?