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Papers of Sir Harold Brewer Hartley


Brigadier-General Sir Harold Hartley MC GCVO CH FRS (1878-1972) (hereafter HBH) was admitted to Balliol in 1897, and was elected a Fellow in 1901. In WWI he was a leading figure in gas warfare, and returned to his Balliol Fellowship as a Brigadier-General. He  was the dominant figure in the Balliol Trinity Laboratories (which were Oxford University’s  Department of Physical Chemistry) until about 1930. After WWI, he was prominent in British chemical warfare and defence planning, and became a leader in national transport, power and engineering. He was notorious for his use and knowledge of the Balliol network. See the Balliol College Register, 4th edn 1969, the ODNB, AG Ogston, Biog Memoirs FRS, 1973,19, 349) and LF Haber, The Poisonous Cloud , 1986.

This Collection comprises such papers of HBH as survive at Balliol. The vast majority of his papers, over 350 boxes, are at Churchill College Cambridge. The Balliol Collection occupies one box, and comprises material (mostly of 1925-1930) which was found in a College cellar in 1977, together with three modest later donations of material which is mostly post WWII.   Only a preliminary examination of the material salvaged in 1977 was made immediately following its discovery. The whole Collection was revisited in 2012, repacked, and listed as below.

See also the National Register of Archives for related collections held elsewhere.


Hartley 1. Chemistry Courses for Teachers.

Papers re Short Courses (a fortnight in duration) in Physical Chemistry for Schoolteachers. The Courses, which were Government sponsored, were held in the Balliol-Trinity Laboratories, in August, 1925-1929. The papers give details of the programme, experiments, lecturers and (1925 only) participants. HBH was organiser and principal lecturer.       

Hartley 2. Balliol-Trinity Laboratory.

Minor papers of 1925-1930 concerning supplies and equipment for the Balliol-Trinity Laboratory. Also a draft paper on the properties of nitromethane, with an ALS 27 April 1928 from RT Lattey, re the exact dielectric constant of nitromethane.

Hartley 3. Oxford University.

Hartley was Chairman of the Sub-Faculty of Chemistry in the 1920s, and E Hope of the Dyson Perrins Laboratory was Secretary. The Collection contains a number of items re University matters:-

  • Papers May-November 1925 re Professor Bowman’s proposals for revised regulations re Crystallography.
  • Draft, in HBH’s hand, 4 July 1925 supporting at length the candidacy of CGT Morison (Balliol 1899) for the Sibthorpian Chair.
  • Reports etc 1926-1930 to  the Examiners in Chemistry, Chairmen HR Raikes (ODNB) and TWJ Taylor(ODNB),  on Part II candidates R Wentworth (Balliol 1922), LW McLennan (Balliol 1922), Copley of St Johns, and J St L  Philpot (Balliol 1925).
  • Papers re a dinner in honour of HR Raikes, 1927, including  a list of the members of the Sub-Faculty of Chemistry.
  • Printed Lecture List, Faculty of Physical Sciences HT 1928.
  • Secretary of Faculties HM Margoliouth to E Hope, TLS 30 October 1929, re regulations for Chemistry in Responsions.
  • CED Peters, Secretary OU Appointments Committee, to HBH, re involving Oxford  students  in Industry via Vacation Work.
  • RV Southwell (ODNB) from the Engineering Laboratory, stencilled circular to Oxford Science Tutors 7 March 1930, re vacation experience for student engineers.
  • Oxford University  Enquiry Society, stencilled Minutes of a Meeting of the Society held in Balliol (the Master AD Lindsay in the Chair)  6 June 1930. Present were the Hon RH Brand, Professor JL  Brierly, HE Craster, L Curtis, AB Emden, Miss M Fry, Miss L Grier, and HV Hodson Secretary. EL Woodward had resigned “on the ground that its activities were too indefinite and general “.
  • HBH to “Sir William”, cc, 5th November 1930, re engineering at Oxford.
  • HBH to “My Dear Vice-Chancellor” (the VC at that time was AD Lindsay, Master of Balliol ),TLS from the office of the Vice-President of the London Midland and Scottish Railway Co Euston Station, 25 November 1937, re his Senior Research Fellowship.

Hartley 4. Administrative papers

  • Stencilled extracts from College Meeting Minutes, 1840, re Chapel Services etc for College Servants.
  • AG Church, General Secretary of the Union of Scientific Workers, to E Hilliard Senior Bursar, TLS, 15 December 1926 re an Appeal for Membership, with a list of distinguished signatories.
  • E Hilliard, stencilled memorandum re Holywell Lodge, 30 September 1926. Holywell Lodge was a big house near the corner of Jowett Walk and St Cross Road; it was nothing to do with Holywell Manor.
  • E Ryan (Balliol 1922) to Sir Arthur Pickard Cambridge (Balliol 1891) from New York 6 December 1927 re a Balliol Dinner held there “last week” mentioning inter alia Vincent Massey.
  • Unidentified to the Master, TLS 1 July 1930 with sketches, giving a detailed critique of G Kennedy’s Holywell Manor scheme and making alternative proposals.
  • Report on Mr VT Vaidyanathan’s Thesis for a Madras DSc,TS, signed NV Sidgwick (ODNB) annotated by HBH, together with an anonymous TS Report, 1930.
  • Report on Mr Krishnamurti’s Thesis for a Madras DSc, TS signed NV Sidgwick annotated by HBH, together with an anonymous TS Report, 1930.

Hartley 5. Chemical Warfare.

Letters to HBH from various correspondents on Chemical Warfare matters, listed below in date order:-

  • Editor, Encyclopaedia Britannica, TLS 9 October 1925 inviting HBH to contribute on Chemical Warfare.
  • Mrs Florence Chambers of Llanfoist Abergavenny, ALS 11 November 1925, pleading for help because her husband has had a mental breakdown following Army experience, probably as a Gas Instructor.
  • Academic Registrar University of London, TLS 14 May 1926, re the postponement of HBH’s lecture on Chemical Warfare.
  • BC Goss, ex-Lt-Col the Chemical Warfare Service, ALS from Cleveland Ohio 10 November 1926, seeking to renew acquaintance in 1927.
  • Lt Col Cuthbert M Headlam DSO OBE MP, an  Editor of The Army Quarterly, ALS 17 November 1926, re Hartley’s article on Chemical Warfare.
  • George Aston of Court House Woodford Salisbury, ALS 20 November 1926, re the above article etc.
  • Captain T Toyoda, Imperial Japanese Navy, Japanese Naval Attaché, TLS 26 November 1926 seeking the text of HBH’s lecture on Chemical Warfare given at Imperial College “yesterday evening “.Toyoda, anAdmiralin WWII,was known to be engaged in espionage.
  • JH James, Clerk to the Academic Registrar, University of London,TLS 6 December 1926: Captain Count Raineri-Biscia, Naval Attaché to the Royal Italian Navy also seeks the text of the Lecture.
  • PRC Groves of the Air League of the British Empire,TLS 3 December 1927: Robert Loraine the actor is to produce a play which deals with  a gas attack, and seeks expert advice from HBH.
  • Paul Murphy, ALS(2) 26 January and 29 February 1928, setting out in detail problems with the running of Porton Down Chemical Defence Establishment, of which he was the recently retired Director of Experiments.
  • Major General Amos A Fries, Chief of Chemical Warfare Service Washington, TLS 28 January 1928, congratulating HBH on his knighthood and commenting on the value of his war work.
  • CF Roundell (Balliol 1894),   from the Civil Commissioners Department 2 Whitehall Gardens SW1, ALS 5 May 1928, ”Hush!” and “SECRET”  enclosing a TS with a drawing for comment, of a detector truck which could be wheeled around by an unskilled operative to detect gases. The “Froth Blower Detector” comprised a large funnel collecting air (suction was driven by a fan geared to the wheels of the truck) which was passed through a detector device.
  • Professor AM Tyndall FRS of the University of Bristol, TLS 22 June 1929, re work on military aspects of Visibility.
    Unidentified [initials VL, perhaps V Lefebvre], from Sunbury West Heath Road Hampstead, TLS 14 February 1930 re technical disarmament, especially chemical disarmament, and mentioning Lord Robert Cecil and Professor Gilbert Murray.
  • Papers re the annual reunion dinner of WWI Chemical Advisers, invitations acceptances apologies etc 1925-1931; HBH was organiser, General Thullier  was often a guest.There is  a printed notice of the  11th annual dinner for officers who served in the Special Brigade and Gas Services to be  held in London 21 February  1931, HBH in the Chair.
  • Letters from  officials (WR Galwey, LB Turner, AT Sumner) of the Chemical Warfare Research Department of the War Office, mostly 1930, and HBH’s replies re results and Reports from Porton Down.

Hartley 6. Letters to HBH from Correspondents A-H.

The correspondents were:-

  • AJ Allmand FRS, ALS nd, written on and responding to a TLS of 9 April 1925 by HBH  about an electrochemical puzzle.
  • AJ Allmand FRS, ALS (2) 1926.
  • MP Appleby, Research Manger ICI Synthetic Ammonia and Nitrates Ltd. TLS(3) 1929.
  • Gregory Paul Baxter, Chairman Harvard University Division of Chemistry, ALS 25 Sept 1929.
  • Kenneth Bell (Balliol 1903), ALS 27 August 1925, re Balliol students and placing them in jobs; mentions Graham Greene at some length, and Cyril Connolly.
  • RP Bell FRS, ALS of 1925 (1) and 1929-1930(7).The 1929-1930 letters are all from Copenhagen, reporting in detail on his work in JN Brønsted’s laboratory.
  • Earl of Berkeley FRS, ALS(2) 1926.
  • R Bourdillon (Balliol 1908), ALS 14 June 1929.
  • EJ Bowen FRS, ALS 28 August 1925.
  • Constance Boyle, mother of E Boyle (Balliol 1896),TLS 29 October 1928.
  • JN Brønsted, ALS 1 August 1929 and TLS 9 November 1929, the latter re RP Bell, a “person of high promise as a future scientist”.
  • PR Cadell (Balliol 1889), ALS(2) and enclosure, 1929 re the Holywell Manor Appeal.
  • V Murray Coutts-Trotter (Balliol 1893), ALS from Madras 3 January 1929 asking HBH to keep an eye on his second son Paul Coutts-Trotter (Balliol 1928), with a cc note nd by HBH on one of the Coutts-Trotters.Two brothers were at Balliol at almost the same time.
  • Gerard Craig Sellar (Balliol 1889), ALS (2) 1927 and 1929.
  • Henry de Laszlo ALS, from MIT 16 March 1928.Three de Laszlo brothers were at Balliol but not Henry, who was writing to HBH at the suggestion of his Balliol brother Patrick (Balliol 1927).
  • Robert L Douglas, TLS 26 December 1929 re his son “Roddy”.  
  • Roderick L Douglas (Balliol 1927), ALS 25 July 1929, from Munich describing his experiences there with Hönigschmid.
    DSIR officials, TLS(2) 1925 and 1929; the former re G Nonhebel  (Balliol 1920) and WFK Wynne Jones (Balliol 1923), the latter about HBH’s membership of  the Fuel Research  Board.
  • JCB Gamlen (Balliol 1903), TLS 21 June 1930 about a drawing of Holywell Manor by EH New he would like to buy and present.
  • Oliver Gatty (Balliol 1926), ALS 1926(1) and 1930(3), the 1930 letters from Germany give accounts of his work and travels there.
  • Ronald G Hatton (Balliol 1906), ALS from, and about, at length, the East Malling Research Station Kent.
  • Professor Otto Hönigschmid, TLS from Munich 19 June 1929, in German.
  • HBH cc of a report re CA Humphrey ( Balliol 1923) 12 May 1926, made at Humphrey’s request .
  • Julian Huxley FRS, ALS from New College 11 July 1925; he has been appointed Professor at Kings College London.

Hartley 7. Letters to HBH from Correspondents I-Z and Unidentified

Correspondents were:-

  • JE Lennard-Jones FRS, TLS 11 Dec 1929.
  • TM Lowry FRS, 9 July 1930 from Ohio State University, with  draft paper on Strong and Weak Electrolytes.  
  • K Matsudaira (Balliol 1905), ALS 22 November 1925 from Kenry House Kingston Hill Surrey re HIH’s visit to Oxford and seeing the Master; Baron Hayahsi would accompany the Prince.
  • RB Merriman (Balliol 1897), ALS 7 December 1927 from Cambridge Mass reporting on the Balliol Dinner.
  • Leonard G Montefiore (Balliol 1898), ALS 19 December 1925; Walter Monckton has been dilatory about the picture of Sligger (FF Urquhart).
  • D Murray-Rust (Balliol 1923), ALS 16 or 17 October no year re a problem getting  a paper published.
  • H McCombie, ALS 5 August 1925 re “the Ozone experiment “.
  • Gordon Nonhebel, ALS(4) from Leeds, one dated 1926 ,no year for the others.
  • WH Ogston, TLS 27 January 1930 re his son AG Ogston FRS.
  • Payne & Son, ALS 1929 re a silver tankard.
  • TE Peppercorn (Balliol 1923), ALS nd re rowing in Norway and lunch with the King [Haakon] and Queen.
  • Emily  Peto, ALS from Italy 17 November 1929, re Holywell Manor (she had lived in St Cross Road and sold her house to Balliol). She mentioned first meeting JL Strachan Davidson “sixty years ago” and enquired after  a recent Balliol Dinner attended by two Archbishops.
  • HR Raikes, ALS(4) from South Africa 1928-1930. Raikes was Principal of the University of Witwatersrand.The 1928 letter is about the politics of a Fellow being elected at Exeter College; expecting “Wolf” to be elected. 
  • ACD Rivett FRS , ALS 7 April 1926 from Melbourne, congratulating HBH on his FRS.  
  • Noel L Ross Kane (Balliol 1925), ALS (7) 1929-1930, mostly from Copenhagen.
  • CF Roundell, ALS 30 June 1926, “Confidential” with a “SECRET” TS enclosure re Governmemt plans, consulting about the use of undergraduate labour in the General Strike.
  • Royal Society, FATowle Assistant Secretary,TLS 30 October 1930, re HBH’s membership of the Royal Society  Council.
  • Sir Ernest Rutherford FRS, TLS July  [secretarial  correction to  Aug 10th ] 1925, enclosing a portrait photo of Moseley taken in the Balliol-Trinity Laboratory by Garrod Thomas. A secretarial PS states that ”Sir Ernest Rutherford  left for Australia and New Zealand on July 25th.” It appears therefore that Rutherford signed this letter before departure, but its posting was delayed. 
  • Hubert Secretan (Balliol 1911), ALS 26 January 1926, re the Balliol Boys Club, enclosing AW Vallance, ALS 24 January 1925 from Manchester College.
  • E Stenhouse, ALS(2) 1926 and 1928 from The Laboratory Foxcombe Nr Oxford.
  • Arthur Steel-Maitland (ODNB), ALS 13 July 1926 from the Ministry of Labour.
  • JM Stuart (Balliol 1911), ALS(2) 1925 and 1929.
  • Jack Sturgis (JB Sturgis Balliol 1899), ALS 23 April 1929 seeking clarification of the Holywell Manor scheme.
  • TWJ Taylor, ALS 20 June 193- from the Dyson Perrins Laboratory  re “the indene question” . Enclosure missing.
  • HT Tizard FRS ALS and TLS both September 1929.
  • A Ummack, TLS 23 October 1927 from Copenhagen.
  • H Ulich, ALS 1 November 1926 from Rostock, in German.
  • FF Urquhart (ODNB) ALS 12 July 1926 from the Chalet des Mélèzes mentioning "the business of the Holywell land” and Miss Inge.
  • AC Waddy, a very long (12pp) ALS 12 February 1923 from Roxana Petroleum Corporation  Illinois.
  • Rudolph Wegscheider,TLS 22 March 1929 from Vienna in German re RL Douglas “in meinem Laboratorium “.
  • Andrew F West,TLS 13 January 1925, from the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School Princeton University, re JH Wolfenden who has ”won our very high esteem”.
  • JHJ Wolfenden (Balliol 1919) ,TLS 14 June 1924 ,a long letter from Princeton.
  • James W Woolcock (Balliol 1923), ALS(7) 1925-1928, all except one of 1926 from Germany.
  • WFK Wynne-Jones (Balliol 1923), postcard nd, an ALS 14 April 1927 and an incomplete letter nd .
  • Unidentified, ALS 15 January 1926 from Winchester.
  • Unidentified, ALS 14 October 1927 from 9 Oakwell Road Norton-on-Tees Durham.
  • Unidentified, TLS 4 April 1929 from ETH Zurich re Mr Douglas.
  • Unidentified [Philip], ALS(2) 1930 and nd.

Hartley 8. McLennan Donation ( Letters from HBH 1949-1972).

Lester W McLennan (Balliol 1922) presented the following in 1973 and 1974:-

  • Thirteen personal letters, all ALS on Air Mail Letter forms, from HBH to McLennan, 1949-1972.
  • Two Christmas Cards, nd, with Hartley family group photographs. One is captioned in HBH’s hand “3 Generations. Chris(Balliol)is now K.C.B” and shows HBH and his son standing behind Gertrude Hartley with dog and  a schoolboy seated.The other is captioned “Four Generations!” and shows HBH standing with a middle aged woman beside him behind Gertrude Hartley with dog seated with  young woman and baby beside her.
  • Sir Cyril Hinshelwood (Balliol 1919) to McLennan 31 December 1963,TLS on an Airmail  Letter form.
  • McLennan’s covering letters of 1973 and 1974 from Fullerton California to Vincent ( EV Quinn , Librarian) are with the above.

Hartley 9. Williams Donation (mostly Letters from HBH 1952-1972).

Sir Edgar [Bill] Williams [ETW] presented the following on 27 February 1984:-

  • Order of Service of Thanksgiving for HBH Westminster Abbey 17 October 1971.
  • Offprint Notes and Records RSoc,1969,24,146-155: speeches at  a dinner for HBH’s 90th Birthday, including one by HBH himself at length about his life.
  • Letters by HBH (ca 20) to ETW, ALS and TLS with two cc replies,1952-1972.The two were on intimate terms; the letters concern DNB articles ( ETW was Editor), Balliol and family news.”Cub”, = Air Marshall Sir Christopher Hartley ( Balliol 1932), is mentioned from time to time .

Hartley 10. Paton Donation ( Sketchbook).

Sir William [Bill] Paton FRS presented, via BS Blumberg,  Master,  a sketchbook which had belonged to HBH, on 16 December 1972. With it are Paton’s  letter and a note by the Master .The contents are pencil notes and rough sketches made on holiday (Ravenna appears several times); there are also a few very elegant small watercolour sketches, perhaps the work of Gertrude Hartley.


- Listed by Dr JH Jones, 20 September  2012

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