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)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map