Journal Archive - The 1920s

The Committee have wanted to make our Journals available to all members, past and present and climbers in general. Although copies of all our Journals are archived in the Alpine Club library in London they are not readily available for review. It was thought that the easiest way to access the Journals was to digitise them.

The work to digitise all the Journals was started following a legacy from Alasdair Andrews, who died in 2011. The Committee decided to start from the current year and work backwards so to include the majority of the time that Alasdair was a member. The Journals from 2013 going back to 1975 were copied as PDF files and were put on the website.

Late in 2019 the Committee agreed to continue with the work and complete the digitising of the Journals from the founding year, 1909, to 1974. This work was completed in February 2020. The PDF files are being loaded onto the website in batches.

After the war a Complimentary Dinner was held to those members who had served in the War, speeches are in the 1920 Journal. There was a Roll of Honour of all members who had joined the Army or Navy, giving their names, rank and regiment. They numbered 158 in all of whom 30 had died.

Over the Great War there was just a 10% drop in membership. Alpine climbing was resumed and a summer dinner was held at Saas Fee in August 1920 combined with a visit to the Britannia Hut. In 1921 on the anniversary of the inauguration of the hut, 17 August, a bronze memorial to those who fell in the Great War was unveiled there, the gift of the Geneva Section. The Geneva Section was represented by M. D'Arcis and the Association by Brigadier General C.G. Bruce. The Association erected a memorial in the Club Room in London.

At home the former pattern of activity was resumed, with an annual formal dinner in November or December, a half yearly informal dinner in June and regular informal dinners on the fourth Wednesday of each month followed by a slide show. Ladies nights were increased from two a year to three.

In 1921 a grant of £5- 5s was made to an expedition to Spitzbergen, in which N.E. Odell took part. He was a member of the Association and later Secretary of it. On his return he gave a slide show to members and their ladies. George Leigh Mallory, another member, had joined the 1921 reconnaissance expedition to Everest and was chosen for the 1922 expedition led by General Bruce, in which he reached 27,000 ft. Mallory was given honorary membership of the Geneva Section of the SAC in 1923. Bruce, Mallory and Odell all took part in the 1924 Everest expedition, in which Mallory and Andrew Irvine came close to reaching the summit, if they did not actually do so. They were lost on the mountain, Odell being the last person to see them alive. The committee of the Association sent Odell a telegram of congratulation on his climbing achievement on 23 July. A short obituary for George Mallory is in the 1925 Journal.

1926 saw the beginning of a new SAC publication Die Alpen/Les Alpes, which has continued to the present day, as the definitive record of the activities of the SAC and which has been notable for some superb mountain photography. British members received it and continue to do so.

In 1924 it was proposed for a uniform subscription to the SAC for all members of the Association, whatever Section they belong to, but no progress had been made by 1926. In the last few years the changes in the subscriptions to the various Sections had been a very difficult one for the Hon. Treasurer; what with alterations in the value of the franc, the raising of subscriptions by the sections and so on (This issue was never resolved!). There were 550 Members, 350 attached to the Geneva Section.

In 1925 the regulations for the upkeep and management of all mountain huts belonging to the S.A.C. were overhauled and presented in the May edition of Die Alpen. The regulations are somewhat stricter than before in favour of the mountaineer and of the members of the S.A.C. Comments from the Committee – “As before, the S.A.C. had priority in the allotment of places, but it is interesting to find that members of that new and flourishing Club—the Ladies’ SAC - comes before the members of the kindred clubs. It is also laid down that those who intend to climb are to have priority over the non-climbing tourist in the same category as themselves. The great question of the sale of alcoholic liquors was debated at length and its prohibition approved. We are thankful to hear that loudspeakers may not be installed in any hut.”

In the 1926 Journal it was reported the greatest difficulty the Association had to face during the year was caused by the fact that Gatti’s, in a re-organisation, found that they were unable to house The Association anymore. They received notice of this in the summer, and were only able to hold one dinner there after the summer holidays, but found it impossible to hold the usual autumn Ladies’ Dinner. After much search and negotiation a home was found at the Comedy Restaurant. A room was open on Wednesday evenings for the use of members and the Library is now housed there.

In 1927 Stybarrow and Glencoyne Wood, by Ullswater, came on the market; the National Trust appealed for £3,000. The Committee voted to send £2-2s, which now seems a rather niggardly sum, especially in the light of the Association's subsequent long link with Ullswater.

A happier step the next year was to make J.A.B. Bruce, who had been a Vice President since 1919, an honorary member, a richly deserved honour.

By 1927 the Geneva Section, which administered the Britannia Hut, had come to feel that it was necessary to make a substantial enlargement to the hut as well as other major works, and wrote to the Association to that effect. The hut 24 had become very popular and often became overcrowded. The proposals were: enlargement; the new part to be stone wood-lined for warmth; modification of the old hut enlarging the dining room giving 86 places in the summer and 44 in the winter. From the first the committee of the Association hoped to raise at least a large part of the money needed but the cost was heavy, estimated at approximately £1,470. The Central Committee of the SAC voted £320 but that still left £1,150 to raise and it soon became clear that that was more than could be found from the British members. In the event £800 was sent to the Central Committee; £650 had been donated and the balance was made up from the Association's accumulated funds.

By early 1929 the repair, extension and re-conditioning of the hut had been almost carried through. The formal re-opening took place on 25th August that year. The Geneva President and M. D'Arcis represented the SAC and General Bruce the Association. Even after this fundraising continued and a donation of 1,000 francs was made as a contribution to the Betemps Hut and a further 400 francs to the Concordia Hut.

A remarkable achievement was the climbing of all the Alpine four Thousanders by a member, Eustace Thomas, the first Briton to do so, that was not to be repeated until 1981. By 1929 the membership of the Association had reached 673.

The activities of the Association widened during the 1930's. An important development was an Easter meet held at Dolgellau in 1931. More of that later……

Journals from 1920 to 1929: 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929

This series of Journals gives an interesting insight into a bygone age. I hope that you enjoy dipping into them.

Mike Goodyer, Hon. Editor, updated 12 April 2020

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