Bruce, Charles Granville 1866-1939, soldier, mountaineer, and traveller, was born in London 7 April 1866, the younger son of Henry Austin Bruce, afterwards first Baron Aberdare [qv.], by his second wife, Norah Creina Blanche, youngest daughter of Lieutenant-General Sir William Napier [qv.]. He was educated at Harrow and Repton, and was commissioned, through the militia, in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in 1887. He first saw active service with the Military Police in Burma and in 1889 transferred to the 5th Gurkha Rifles, the regiment with which he served for most of his career. Stationed with it at Abbottabad, he saw much service on the North-West Frontier of India: in Black Mountain (Hazara), 1891, Miranzai, 1891, Chitral, 1893, Waziristan, 1894-1895, and Tirah, 1897-1898, receiving in all six clasps to his two frontier medals, three mentions in dispatches, and a brevet-majority in 1898. After being adjutant and second-in-command of the 5th Gurkha Rifles he was promoted lieutenant-colonel in May 1913, and appointed in May 1914 to command the 6th, the friendly rivals of his old regiment; it was with the 6th that he went to Egypt for the defence of the Suez Canal on the outbreak of war in 1914. For his services there and later in Gallipoli, where he commanded the depleted battalions of the 29th Indian brigade, including the 5th and 6th Gurkhas at Gurkha Bluff, he was thrice mentioned in dispatches and promoted brevet-colonel in November 1915. Severely wounded in the leg, he was evacuated before the withdrawal, and on discharge from hospital was appointed general officer commanding the Independent Frontier brigade at Bannu (1916-1919). He commanded the North Waziristan Field Force in 1917, and served in the Afghan war of 1919. In these operations he was mentioned twice in dispatches. No longer young, his health was at last undermined by strenuous work during these hot-weather seasons on the frontier, and he was invalided out of the service with the honorary rank of brigadier-general in 1920, after thirty-two years of distinguished service
Bruce had all the qualities of a great traveller and fine soldier. From the moment he joined the Gurkhas he studied their language and became the foremost authority on their customs and ways of life. Having learnt to get behind their thoughts, he taught them how to make the best of their qualities and personally evolved their system of training for mountain warfare. It was Bruce who originated and trained the Frontier Scouts, and incidentally it was largely due to him that shorts were introduced into the Indian army, after he had tried them and proved them useful with the Scouts. Bruce's mountaineering travels covered the whole extent of the Himalaya from end to end. On all his journeys he took and trained Gurkhas from his own regiment, and on all he studied and made friends with the natives of the districts through which he travelled. He was on the expedition of Martin Conway (later Lord Conway of Allington) [qv.] to the Hispar and Biafo glaciers in the Karakoram in 1892, and with A. F. Mummery [qv.] and John Norman Collie on the first ill-fated attempt to climb Nanga Parbat in 1895 when Mummery was killed. He explored and climbed many lesser known summits in Khagan, Kashmir, Kulu, and Lahoul, and prepared plans for the exploration of Mount Everest in both 1907 and 1910, although both projects had to be abandoned for political reasons. It was not until after the war of 1914-1918, when he had been invalided out of the army, that, at the age of nearly fifty-six, he was able to carry out this ambition. He was the organizer and leader of both the 1922 and 1924 Mount Everest expeditions, and although he was then too old to attempt the final assaults, his remarkable knowledge of Gurkhas, Sherpas, and Tibetans, and his own qualities of cheerfulness and joviality, were assets that contributed much to the success of these expeditions. This love of adventure and fun and his command of Himalayan lore were the secret of his success among Himalayan folk, for his hearty laugh was known and mimicked in many parts. Many stories will be handed down of his phenomenal strength and endurance, and of the vast appetite of his early days; not all will be far from the truth. It is, for instance, a fact that he often wrestled with two Indian wrestlers at a time and on one occasion threw three opponents simultaneously; it is also true that in his early days, in order to keep fit, he would daily carry his orderly up the hills of the Khyber on his back
Bruce married in 1894 Finetta Madeline Julia (died 1932), third daughter of Colonel Sir Edward Fitzgerald Campbell, second baronet; their only child, a son, died in infancy. Mrs. Bruce accompanied her husband on his mountain expeditions and was the author of Kashmir (1911). Bruce was appointed M.V.O. in 1903, and C.B. in 1918. The Royal Geographical Society awarded him the Gill memorial prize in 1915 and the Founder's gold medal in 1925. He was president of the Alpine Club in 1923, an honorary member of the leading continental climbing clubs, and an enthusiastic founder member of the Himalayan Club. He was the author of four books relating his Himalayan experiences: Twenty Years in the Himalaya (1910); Kulu and Lahoul (1914); The Assault on Mount Everest, 1922 (1923); and Himalayan Wanderer (1934). He received the honorary degree of D.Sc. from the universities of Oxford and Wales, of Doctor of Civil Laws from Edinburgh, and of Doctor of Law from St. Andrews. In 1931 he was appointed colonel of the 5th Gurkha Rifles, to the delight of all ranks of his old regiment. Thereafter, almost until his death in London 12 July 1939, he regularly revisited India and his regiment and was always greeted with enthusiasm
A portrait of Bruce, by G. P. Jacomb-Hood, belongs to the Hon. Alice Bruce.
The Times, 13 July 1939
C. G. Bruce, Himalayan Wanderer, 1934
Geographical Journal, October 1940
Alpine Journal, May 1940
Contributor: Kenneth Mason.