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Ninian John Frederick Hanbury-TracyA
(7 Dec 1910 – 25 Jun 1971)


July 1935, Sangachö Dzong, Zayul, Tibet

Extract from Bibliography of Natural History Travel Narratives, by Anne S Troelstra, published by KNNV Publishing, 1 Jun 2017, p189.

The British explorer and natural history collector Ninian John Frederick Hanbury-Tracy was born in Midlothian, Scotland, on 7 December 1910 and died at Chippenham, Wiltshire, England on 25 June 1971. He was the grandson of Charles Douglas Richard Hanbury-Tracy, 4th Baron Sudeley (1840-1922), a Fellow of The Royal Society, Liberal politician and Member of Parliament from 1863 to 1877.

In 1935 he married Blanche Mary Arundell (1908-1993), whom he divorced in 1954 to marry Daphne Farquhar née Henry (1928-1983) in the same year. Hanbury-Tracy served as an official in the Sudan, mountaineered in the Alps, navigated by canoe over the Danube to the Black Sea, and walked across part of Lapland.

In 1935-1936 he joined Ronald Kaulback on an expedition to Tibet with the goal of mapping a part of south-eastern Tibet and discovering the sources of the Salween. In order to cover more ground, they went their separate ways on this expedition part of the time. On this expedition they also did some collecting, in particular insects and spiders. Kaulback and Hanbury-Tracy each wrote a book about the expedition, respectively entitled Salween and Black River of Tibet.

In 1938-1939 Hanbury-Tracy and his first wife went on a plant-collecting expedition for The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in the Venezuelan and Columbian Andes.

Hanbury-Tracy served during WWE II, first (1940-1942) with the Scots Guards, and later (1944-1946) with Force 136 (as a Special Operations Executive) in India, Burma and French Indo-China. In 1946-1947 he was appointed to the Far Eastern Information Department, Foreign Office, at Singapore.

The High Himalayas

To quote verbatim from Admiral Sir William Goodenough's introduction to Black River of Tibet cited below, "Hanbury-Tracy was no newcomer to travel when he set out with Kaulback ... [He] knew his surveying work well, and that part of the work, especially when for some weeks he was separated from Kaulback and working on his own, is of great value to the geographer. The Sudan had seen him as a junior offiicial, he had climbed in the Alps, navigated the Danube by canoeB to the Black Sea, worked his [sea] passage from Constanza to Liverpool, and walked across part of Lappland."

And of course Hanbury-Tracy was more of an age with Kaulback than Kingdon-Ward had been, and one might well expect that it was a more comfortable relationship. JHT and his second wife Daphne were always most welcome visitors to Ardnagashel, the hotel established on the shores of Bantry Bay by Kaulback after WWII, and he was very popular with the young Kaulback daughters, whom he christened The Nugglies.


"Riding in Tibet is a doubtful pleasure" (JHT)


"My bath in a Monastery tea-kettle" (JHT)

JHT's own fascinating narrative of the expedition was published as

Black River of Tibet, John Hanbury-Tracy, Foreword by Admiral Sir William Goodenough GCB, Fredk Muller & Co, London, 1938

(click here for some of the original images)C

and a full scientific account of the entomological aspects appeared (very much later) as

Some Tipulidae from Tibet and Upper Burma in The British Museum (Natural History) (Diptera), Charles P Alexander, Bulletin of The British Museum (Natural History) Entomology, Vol 14, No 7, London 1963

devoted to the expeditions of Kingdon-Ward, Kaulback and Hanbury-Tracy, as outlined in its Introduction

Tipulidae snippet

Those who would like to know their Tipulidae from their Tipulinae should click here for the complete account.

The Almost-as-high Andes

But this was by no means the end of JHT's explorations ... as recounted in the following botanical bulletin:

He and his (first) wife Blanche camped out in the Venezuelan and Colombian Andes for four months and very successfully collected a large number of outstanding botanical specimens for the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, as recounted in the following botanical bulletin:

Contributions to the Flora of Tropical America: XLV. New Plants from the Andes of Venezuela and Colombia, N Y Sandwith, Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information (Royal Gardens, Kew), Vol 1941, No 3 (1941), pp 218-228. Published by: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

the first page of which is reproduced below ....

First page

But then came WWII. However, his detailed and profusely-illustrated account of the expedition was published just a few years later.

Journeys in the Northern Andes
1944, the Geographical Journal, Royal Geographical Society, London,
Vol CIV, Nos 5-6, pp 145-165 (read to the Society by his wife Blanche)

(click here for some of the original images)


A Grandson of Charles Hanbury-Tracy, John Hanbury-Tracy was twice-married, firstly (11 Jan 1935) to the Hon. Blanche Mary Arundell and secondly (10 Aug 1954) to Daphne Farquhar née Henry
#IndividualSpouse / PartnerFamily
‑1Ninian John Frederick Hanbury-Tracy
(1910 –

gson of 4th Baron Sudely
Blanche Mary Arundell
(1908 –
(m 11 Jan 1935)

d of 15th Baron Arundell
Jennifer Avril Mary Hanbury-Tracy
(24 May 1941 –
11 Sep 2018)
Daphne Farquhar (née Henry)
(m 10 Aug 1954)
Peter Farquhar
0Jennifer Avril Mary Hanbury-Tracy
(1941 –
11 Sep 2018)
Martin Robert Morland
(b 1933)
(m 6 Jun 1964)

s of Sir Oscar Charles Morland
(23 Mar 1904 –
20 May 1980)
and Alice Lindley
(1905 –


B As also did Kaulback, so they may well have been on the same trip. And perhaps they both got thrown into gaol, as Kaulback certainly did at one point, for entering Hungary illegally! Money had to be telegraphed from England to pay the substantial fine imposed by the authorities (the regime of Admiral Horthy at that time would have been particularly paranoid about possible British espionage).
C It's interesting to note that of the forty-one JHT images displayed by this website, only a handful are exactly as appear amongst the seventeen JHT illustrations to Black River of Tibet, suggesting that a good many more JHT images from this expedition are 'out there' awaiting discovery."