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Rudolph Glossop and the Rise

of GeotechnoloGy
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise
of GeotechnoloGy
Selected JournalS, diarieS and letterS

EditEd by
Ronald E. Williams

Whittles Publishing
Published by
Whittles Publishing,
Caithness KW6 6EG,
Scotland, UK


© 2011
ISBN 978-184995-021-3

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted,
in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, recording or otherwise
without prior permission of the publishers.

Printed by
In memory of Ivan K. Nixon
Grateful thanks are due to the following sponsors
whose support helped make this book possible

Foreword ix
Introduction xi
Acknowledgements xiii
Selected journals 1
The Royal School of Mines 1
Introduction to civil engineering 9
The Gold Coast 16
The Second World War 52
Anti-tank defences 52
Airfield runways 58
Mulberry Harbour 67
Afterword 84
Later journals 87
Louis Leakey: a portrait 87
The Norwegian Geotechnical Institute 1955 94
Highways in Persia 1955–58 106
North America 1958 107
Selected diaries and letters 119
Diaries 1960/61 120
Selected letters 156
Selected writings 182
The development of geotechnology 182
Geotechnology and Géotechnique 182
Engineering Geology and Soil Mechanics 191
The Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology 196
Karl Terzaghi: memories and reflections 199
John Mowlem–Siemens Schuckert partnership 199
From Theory to Practice in Soil Mechanics: book review 205
Karl Terzaghi: a personal tribute 208
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

The place of site investigation in foundation engineering 211

The influence of Terzaghi on civil engineering practice in
England 219
Early technical papers 229
The construction of pavements on a clay foundation soil 230
Particle size in silts and sands 249
Directory of people mentioned in the Diary 277
Bibliography 280
References 282
Index of names 283


This book is not a biography but a story about the development of the art and
science of ground engineering in the United Kingdom during the 20th century. The
story is told in Rudolph Glossop’s own words by means of extracts from his Journals,
Diaries, Letters and key papers. The story he tells is compelling and written with
that style and clarity which is characteristic of Rudolph Glossop.
Rudolph Glossop studied mining engineering at the Royal School of Mines
(Imperial College London) graduating in 1924. At college he gained the nickname
‘Silas’ after Silas Q. Porter, the absent-minded professor in the novel Tarzan
of the Apes, and he retained the name throughout his life. Silas was no ordinary
engineering student focussing solely on the demands of his chosen subject relieved
by a hectic social life. It was altogether characteristic of him that he founded an arts
and humanities library that was sadly lacking in Imperial College at that time. This
grew and flourished to become what was the Haldane Library.
The first selection from Glossop’s Journals describes the summer field work that
he and two fellow students undertook in 1922 at the old Levant mine near Land’s
End in Cornwall. The three intrepid students shared fully in the appalling working
conditions of the miners. The descriptions of the daily descents into the mine and,
more frightening still, the ascents out of it at the end of each day chill the blood! Yet
it did not put Glossop off mining and after graduation in 1924 he worked as a mining
engineer in Canada. In 1930 he had a brief introduction to civil engineering when
he worked for John Mowlem on the construction of Leicester Square underground
station, as described with typical humour in the second Journal extract. With the
nationwide shortage of jobs in the mid-1930s’ recession, he returned to mining. He
worked as a mine manager in the Gold Coast from 1933 to 1937 – the subject of the
next Journal selection and one that I had to read from start to finish in one sitting
so compelling is it.
Glossop describes as the most fortunate decision of his working life, his request
to Mowlem’s to manage their partnership with Siemens, a position which he was
given “on the spot” in May 1937. For readers familiar with the early development
of soil mechanics in the UK, the Journal extracts from the Second World War

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

fill in interesting details, such as the thinking that led Glossop and Golder to a
simplified design method for airfield pavements. There is also a fascinating and
vivid description of Glossop’s involvement with the construction of Phoenix units
for the Mulberry Harbour plan including a site visit to Normandy!
The four “Later Journals” also make interesting reading. Descriptions of Glos-
sop’s visit to the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute in 1955 and his visit to North
America reveal Glossop’s insatiable curiosity about the latest practical developments
in geotechnology and contain much of geotechnical interest. But it is his descrip-
tion of his encounters with the world famous anthropologist, Louis Leakey, which
brings out the breadth of Glossop’s interests and his enjoyment of discussions on
all manner of topics. He describes memorable visits in Kenya including one to the
famous Acheulian site at Olorgesaillie. He also relates how, with some trepidation,
he introduced Karl Terzaghi to Dr Leakey. His fears were unfounded, they became
the best of friends. Included in the four “Later Journals” is an intriguing and very
short description of a Persian Roads contract which ran into difficulties and which
Glossop describes as “the most significant event in my life as an engineer”.
For a short period between 1960 and 1961 Silas Glossop kept a daily diary. Of
particular interest are the entries that relate to the difficulties encountered by John
Mowlem in the construction of the proposed concrete cutoff wall for Derwent dam.
I have long been of the view that papers describing major civil engineering projects
do not adequately describe the very real day to day challenges faced by the engineer.
Too often they read as rather bland statements of what was done. Reading Silas
Glossop’s day to day account of the technical and human challenges that had to be
faced in reaching the decision to dispense with the cutoff wall is anything but bland!
The account also brings out Glossop’s appreciation of the supreme importance of
understanding the geology of a dam site. I can thoroughly recommend reading
Glossop’s diary entries for this project followed by a reading of the three papers and
the discussion published in Volumes 45 and 48 of the Proceedings of the Institution
of Civil Engineers.
The book includes a selection of the exchanges of letters with Terzaghi, Bjerrum
and with his great friend Alec Skempton. Reading these letters, and his selected
writings, shows that Silas Glossop was someone of broad vision, who inspired others
to join him in achieving it. In his obituary in Géotechnique, Skempton described the
essence of Silas Glossop the man as follows: Generous and helpful, drawing on an
extraordinary store of knowledge and quick to grasp the essence of a problem at his desk
or on site, a man of wide interests enjoying discussions on all manner of subjects, enlivened
by entirely fresh ideas, he enriched the lives of all who knew him.

John Burland
Imperial College London


Rudolph Glossop made a unique contribution to the early development of both

geotechnical engineering and engineering geology within the UK. But he began his
career as a mining engineer and it was only with the collapse of the mining industry
after the financial crisis in 1929 that he was led to seek work in civil engineering
with the contractors John Mowlem & Co. On his return to London after four years
spent establishing a new mine in the Gold Coast (Ghana), he rejoined Mowlem’s
and was to remain with them until retirement in 1967.
Towards the end of 1944, Glossop, with his colleagues Hugh Golder and Harold
Harding, established a subsidiary company, Soil Mechanics Ltd., the first specialist
geotechnical firm in the UK. Many other main contractors were shortly to follow suit
as the UK construction industry sought to catch up with developments in the United
States and Europe. Glossop was a founder member of both the British Geotechnical
Society (now Association) and the Engineering Group of the Geological Society,
and played a leading role in establishing their journal Géotechnique in 1948 and, 19
years later, the Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology.
Glossop’s life spanned almost the whole of the 20th century. He was born in
Bakewell, Derbyshire on 17 February 1902 to a long-established local family. His
father was the manager of the local bank and his mother the daughter of a land
agent on a local estate (Chitty 1985). He was educated at Cheltenham College and
the Royal School of Mines (Imperial College), from which he graduated in 1924.
His journals provide a vivid account of his early experiences as an undergraduate
and the four years spent in the Gold Coast where the early construction activities,
preliminary to opening up the reserves, provided a sound basis for his return to
civil engineering. Although Glossop’s journals are not continuous, a number of
published writings have been included to bridge most of the gaps.
Later in his career, between 1960 and 1961, when he was well established as a
main board director of John Mowlem & Co., he began a daily diary, which allows
a direct insight into the operation of a major UK contractor, and also to Glossop’s
commitment to creating and maintaining a leading edge in ground engineering.
This was achieved through an active programme of R & D, and close university

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

links, particularly with Imperial College. It is noteworthy that it was during this
period that Glossop was preparing a history of rock and alluvial grouting, which
was published in two parts in Géotechnique. Skempton, in his obituary of Glossop,
refers to these as ‘works of original scholarship, written with the clarity and style of
which Glossop was a master’ (Skempton 1993). He continues that Glossop ‘by his
own example and by the example of others, he never lost sight of the importance
of bringing together the practical and academic aspects of both geology and soil
mechanics’. This passion is illustrated in a selection of his correspondence with
some of the leading figures in the geotechnical community of that period: Karl
Terzaghi, Alec Skempton and Laurits Bjerrum.
The decade following the end of the Second World War was particularly
fruitful in the development of what Glossop, in a lecture at the Institution of
Civil Engineers in June 1945, termed ‘geotechnology’ but which we now refer
to as geotechnical engineering. Four papers have been included from this ‘spring
time’ of the new discipline. Their practical value is readily apparent in an era when
rather more focus was being placed on the ‘practice’ rather than the ‘theory’ of soil
mechanics. In his 1968 Rankine Lecture, the first by a contractor, Glossop reviewed
the developments in ‘geotechnology’ and in particular the ‘borderland of geology
and civil engineering’.
The aim of this volume is to present the personal perspective of Rudolph
Glossop on the emergence of ground engineering and engineering geology within
the UK during the middle decades of the 20th century.


The impetus for this volume arose from a discussion with Mr Ivan Nixon, a close
colleague of Glossop, who, sadly, died some 18 months later, in September 2008. Mr
Nixon was instrumental in establishing the Glossop Archive at Sheffield University.
This came about when, in 1979, Mr Nixon, who at that time was a director of the
Mowlem subsidiary Engineering Laboratory Equipment Ltd. (ELE), was asked
by Professor Tom Hanna to support the geotechnical summer school at Sheffield
University. Glossop, as Chairman of ELE, was invited to contribute an annual
lecture, which he did from 1980 to 1984. The Archive was established in 1984 and
added to following Glossop’s death in 1993. This material was the basis of a paper
to the Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology (Williams and
Norbury 2008).
Mr Nixon was, however, aware of further unpublished material in the possession
of Emma Slack, Glossop’s daughter, and it is with her kind agreement that the
extracts from the journals, diaries and letters in her keeping are now published.
I would also like to thank John Cripps and Adrian Hyde for access to the
Glossop Archive; Anne Barrett for access to the Skempton and Bishop Archives at
Imperial College; Mike Chimes for considerable support and, in particular, alerting
me to the Mowlem papers which have recently been lodged in the Archives of the
Institution of Civil Engineers; and Peter Eldred for access to the early reports in the
Library of Soil Mechanics.
During discussions for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of Géotechnique,
John Burland gave me considerable encouragement to assemble the material in this
volume for publication, and a number of former members of the Soil Mechanics
Ltd. team, David Norbury, Ken Head, Terry Clarke and Bryan Skipp, have provided
helpful background material.
Finally I would like to thank Susan Chitty for sharing memories of her father,
and to Christine Metcalfe for considerable support during the production process.
The published papers included in this volume have been reproduced with the
kind permission of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Geological Society and
the Midland Geotechnical Society.

selected JouRnals


During his retirement, Glossop wrote a number of journals, which are now held
by his daughter Emma Slack. Most of the journals are typed and bound and cover
his personal and professional life from his time as an undergraduate at the Royal
School of Mines up to the end of the Second World War. There are two gaps in this
sequence. The first is the period between 1924 and 1930, which Glossop spent as a
mining engineer in North America, broken during 1928 by a post at the University
of Birmingham as a lecturer in metalliferous mining. The second, between his return
from the Gold Coast in 1937 and the outbreak of the Second World War, with John
Mowlem & Co., is partly covered in the article ‘Geotechnology and Géotechnique’,
which has been included in the section Selected Writings.
The extracts that follow paint a picture of the early career of Glossop as a mining
engineer and his move into civil engineering, which culminated in the establishment
of the first specialist company for geotechnical engineering in the UK.

the royal School of MineS

This journal covers the four years when Glossop was at the Royal School of Mines in
London. The extract describes the fieldwork that he and two colleagues undertook during
1922 at the Levant Mine in West Cornwall.
Glossop was to return to the mine during 1961 when attempts were made to locate
and seal the leak that had caused the mine to flood. The sketch elevation through the
upper part of the mine shows the location of the breach. In 1922 Glossop worked lower
down in the mine, on the 170 fathom level, but the section illustrates the route by which
he entered the mine through the adit to the engine shaft.
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Sketch elevation, Levant, The Mining Magazine, February 1961.

Levant from the sea.

The Royal School of Mines

That summer of 1922 I had planned, together with H.F. Brown and D.J. Ringwood,
to work underground at the old Levant mine, on the cliffs, a few miles north of
Land’s End Point. But first we attended a field course on Mining Geology, organised
by E. Davison, at the Camborne School of Mines. It was arguably the most fruitful
single episode in my many years of formal education.
I travelled to Cornwall with Brown, on a decrepit, six horse-power ‘Indian’
motor bicycle with a sidecar. It took us four days from London to Penzance. We
bivouacked, wrapped in blankets, under a hedge, or on the edge of a wood, and
slept in extreme discomfort, for it rained every night. A fair proportion of the
daylight hours were spent, not in travelling, but in carrying out emergency repairs
by the roadside. Once we straightened a bent brake pedal spindle by heating it on

Selected Journals

The Levant mine north of Land’s End.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

a Primus stove and forging it straight with a geological hammer. Brown was in his
element on such an occasion.
How very agreeable, and how different, road-travel was just after the First War.
There was no Ministry of Transport, the roads were ‘unclassified’, and of course
there were no motorways, and no by-passes. But for a few miles round the larger
towns, most roads were of water-bound Macadam, with no black-top. Their surface
was often rough, with plenty of potholes, so speeds were low, and if young men
boasted of ‘romping along at 40’, they rarely achieved 30 miles an hour, and the
average for a long journey was less than that. There were no ‘petrol stations’; cars
were refuelled at wayside garages from two-gallon cans, for the petrol pump had not
been invented. Vehicles of all kinds were few and far between, since the really cheap
motor car had not yet been developed. Motoring was, if sometimes strenuous and
uncomfortable, safer than it is now, and, above all, pleasurable. Travelling under
such conditions was never boring, for one was in touch with the country; the road
was a part of the countryside, and not a technological monster imposed upon it.
The villages and market towns were unspoilt, for the ‘chain store’ had not yet come
to dominate the main street, and the hotels, if in some ways primitive, were solid
– not pseudo-smart – and remained very much as Surtees described them – with
stuffed fish, and foxes’ masks in the hall; brass bell-pulls; and in the coffee room,
with its fusty window curtains, a vast Victorian sideboard carrying shabby plate,
salvers, coffee pots, a tureen and a tea urn.
Our destination, the peninsula of West Penwith, which stretches westward
from Hayle and Marazion to Land’s End Point, is underlain by granite, part of the
Hercynian batholith which extends from Dartmoor to Scilly and perhaps beyond
as far as Haig Fras. Over most of this area the rocks which once over-lay the granite
have been stripped off by erosion, and the exposed surface of granite gives rise to
a characteristically Cornish landscape of heather moor, with occasional rocky tors.
Here and there, the older rocks, slates and greenstones have been preserved and
appear, fringing the granite along the coast, notably from Pendeen Point, south to
Cape Cornwall. It is in this zone of contact between the granite and the slate that
the richer ore bodies are most often found.
These fringing rocks, metamorphosed by the granite, form a savage and splendid
scene. The cliffs of black, contorted slate tower above deep water; below them the
Atlantic swells foam and boil between the outlying skerries. During winter gales,
seas break full upon them; then the spray soars majestically up for hundreds of feet,
until the wind catches and carries it inland, over the stunted gorse.
In spring the cliff top is bright with the blue flowers of wild thyme and of pale
pink Armeria, drifts of colour between the black outcrops of killas. Inshore, grey
seals hunt and play between half-tide rocks. Guillemots and razor-bills stand in
ranks along their breeding ledges, and in the deep zawns kittiwakes sail through
turbulent air on steady, outstretched wings, brushing the sheer rockface as they
sweep past in search of nesting places.

Selected JournalS

Levant Mine is situated in such surroundings, being about two miles south of
Pendeen Lighthouse, on the very edge of the cliff; but if the place was beautiful,
working conditions, both on surface and underground, were primitive in the
extreme, for mining at Levant had started in 1820, and in 1922 machinery and
methods had not changed very much.
From my limited knowledge I should say that the history of tin mining in
Cornwall has been one of gross mismanagement. The success of Cornish mining,
in spite of the avarice, and the stupidity of the ‘adventurers’, has been due to the
courage and endurance of those who worked underground, the mine captains and
the miners, and the genius – there is no other word for it – of the Cornish School of
Mechanical Engineers amongst whom the names of Trevithick, Woolf and Harvey
are pre-eminent.
In 1922 Levant was being exploited by means of three shafts. The ‘Skip
Shaft’, through which ore was brought to surface, was a rough affair. It had been
progressively deepened over the years, always following one of the lodes, so that
its alignment varied not only on the dip, but sideways too. Its winding engine was a
24-inch beam engine, built by Harvey of Hayle in 1840, which already deserved to
be the museum piece which it now is; for it has been preserved in its original house,
by the Trevithick Society. Men were forbidden to ride in the skip, but I doubt if the
most foolhardy miner would have done so, even to save a climb.
Secondly, there was the ‘Engine Shaft’, in which the pumps were installed; this,
too, was small in cross-section, and tortuous, with an average dip of about 70º.
In this shaft were the ‘rods’, pitch pine timbers, 8 in x 8 in in cross-section, which
transmitted power from the engine on the surface to the pumps, which were installed
at intervals down the shaft, which itself extended to a depth 278 fathoms below adit
level. The engine had been built by Harvey in 1835, it had been reconstructed more
than once, and in 1922 had a bore of 45 in and a stroke of 7 ft. The great string of
rods, connected end to end by wrought iron couplings, and carried on rollers, slid
up and down 7 ft either way with each stroke of the engine.
Finally, there was the ‘Man-engine Shaft’, which in 1919 had been the scene of
a terrible disaster. At 2.50 pm on 20 October 1919, when the men were coming off
shift, and the shaft was crowded, a tension member at the top of the man-engine
rods failed, and the whole string of rods dropped into the shaft, breaking into pieces
as it fell. These fragments tore out shaft timbers, and destroyed much of the ladder
way. Thirty-one men died. Their bodies were recovered, and the injured brought to
the surface under conditions of appalling danger and difficulty.
Levant Mine was left in a parlous condition. Mismanaged for years, it had no fi-
nancial reserves, and its history was not such as to attract fresh capital. Thus the obvi-
ous step of sinking a new, and properly equipped, shaft to wind both men and ore was
out of the question. Francis Oats, whose family had been associated with the mine for
many years, was determined to recover it, for he knew that reserves of rich ore existed
underground, and if these could be mined, even on a small scale, the confidence of

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

investors might be regained. Many of the miners were happy to work under difficult
conditions rather than to remain unemployed, so the mine was reopened.
The only way for the men to get to work was by ‘walking’ the ladders. Although
the Man-engine Shaft had been put in order, and was the better of the two, the
miners preferred to use the Engine Shaft, for they were superstitious and could not
forget that 31 men had died in the other.
Captain Oats confined operations to the 170 fathom and the 190 fathom levels,
and as in Cornwall levels are measured below the adit; this meant that the men at
the end of the shift had to climb up a vertical height of about 1100 ft, to the adit, and
then scramble for a further 200 vertical feet to the ‘Dry’, or Change House, up an
exposed and very steep cliff path in the full sweep of the Atlantic winds.
Brown and I were determined to live in a small tent on the cliff top, near the
mine; it was a most foolish decision, for one square meal a day and a dry, if flea-
ridden, bed in a nearby cottage, would have gone a long way towards mitigating
our hardships underground. However, we had made that decision, and we stuck
to it, even though one night, in a howling wind and pouring rain, having weighted
down the fly of the tent with heavy rocks, one of the tent poles broke. We were
buried in wet canvas, and had to crawl out and make emergency repairs.
The shift was from 7 am to 3 pm, so every morning we arrived at the Dry at
about 6.30 am and changed into our working clothes. From the Dry we walked
down a steep and sinuous track, some 200 ft or more, into the gully, or ‘zawn’, at
the end of which was the portal of the adit. The adit was a tunnel about 5 ft high
and 2 ft 6 in wide, which we followed for about 50 ft or so, to the point where it was
intersected by the Engine Shaft, and there we took to the ladders.
To go underground we wore old clothes, and hob-nailed boots, our only
protection being a hard hat, or ‘tull’. The Cornish tull was a felt hat, much the shape
of a bowler or billycock hat, saturated with resin or glue, so as to be strong enough
to resist a considerable blow. It was the forerunner of the modern safety helmet,
and was a lifesaver. For light we carried a bunch of tallow candles, tied together at
the top end by their wicks, so that they could be detached one by one, as required.
They were smoky, but there was no other light whatsoever underground. We also
carried a handful of clay. When on the ladders, we stuck our candle to the front of
our tull with a dab of clay, and when at work we stuck the clay, in which the candle
was embedded, to a convenient point on the wall of the working place.
So, every morning, 20 or 30 men, a few feet apart, went down the ladderway.
Climbing, one seemed to be enclosed in a rocky cell, although below one’s feet it
went on down for 1000 ft or so. Alongside us the great pump rods slid up and down
on their 7 ft travel, in narrow places brushing against our sleeves; their movement
was silent, except for the occasional groan or squeal from a dry roller bearing. The
average dip of the shaft was about 70º, the ladders were 20 or 25 ft long, and at the
bottom of every ladder was a timber platform, or ‘solar’; there one stepped sideways
on to the next succeeding ladder, and so on, down and down.

Selected JournalS

I was working on the 170 fathom level, and my job for most of the time was
drilling holes a few inches deep into the side of a drive to take wooden plugs into
which would be driven hooks to carry a compressed air line. ‘Single jack’ drilling
was a feature of Levant mining practice. The driller held the drill in his left hand,
and beat it with a 3 lb hammer, turning it between blows. He was supplied with a
tin of water, which poured into the hole as it advanced, and the drill was surrounded
by a hemp grummet, a sort of collar, which prevented the sludge from splashing
back into the driller’s face at each blow. Obviously the depth of hole by single jack
working was limited to about 2 ft. Single jack was used at Levant because the lodes,
and consequently the stopes, were rarely more than 2 ft wide, so there was no room
for double jack drilling, in which two men, each with a 7 lb hammer, beat on a ‘steel’,
held and turned by a third. By double jack, much deeper holes can be drilled, and
much faster. The art of single jack has proved useful to me on many occasions, and I
still use it at Brane End Farm. [Glossop’s West Cornwall home after retirement.]
We worked about six hours, with a half-hour break for ‘crowst’, which was
invariably a pasty; for drink we had water carried in a curious wooden drum,
cylindrical, with a diameter of about 15 in and a height of, say, 10 in. It had a rope
carrying-handle, and a drinking hole, stopped by a wooden bung. Each pasty was
taken underground in a small linen bag, into which it fitted neatly. As we ate, we
held the pasty in its bag by the lower end, and peeled back the bag as the pasty
was consumed, treating the bag as some people do a banana skin. This was a
necessary precaution against hook-worm, a very troublesome intestinal parasite, of
tropical origin, which had been introduced to Levant by Cornish miners, home
from Spanish America. Levant being a hot, wet mine, the parasite soon established
itself in the workings. The eggs of the worm are excreted in the faeces of the host.
Since sanitary arrangements were non-existent, they were picked up on the miners’
boots, and soon transferred to the rungs of ladders and thence to the hands, and
eventually the mouths and the stomachs of the men.
At the end of the shift the procession reformed, and we started up the ladders,
a steady climb of three-quarters of an hour. I still hear the rasp as a hob-nailed
boot was drawn off one rung, and the clank as it was placed on the rung above. We
sang Methodist hymns in time to our slow footfalls. Emerging from the adit we
trudged up the windy cliff path; pale, tired and breathless, wet, and stained red with
ochreous clay, but as for me:
‘I was bearing in my breast,
Penned tight,
Certain starry thoughts that threw a magic light
On the worktimes and the soundless hours of rest’
One day, at the cliff top, staring rudely as we walked past them, stood a youngish
couple, well-to-do, and of the intellectual stamp, or, more properly, members of the
‘intelligentsia’. As I passed, the woman said, quite audibly, ‘Oh dear! Look! Some of
them are quite young.’
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

A sinister feature of Levant was the ‘40 Backs’, a spot on the extension of the
40 fathom level under the seabed. In Cornwall it was usual to refer to the depths of
‘levels’ with reference to the adit, or drainage tunnel. As the adit at Levant emerged
from the cliff face 60 ft above the level of high tides, the 40 fathom drive was about
180 ft below sea level.
In 1827 a drive under the sea to the west, on the 40 fathom level, ran into rich
copper ore about 900 ft beyond the cliff line, at which point the depth of the sea
was about 50 ft, and thus there was a cover of 130 ft of rock between the drive and
the seabed. This rich ore was mined-out above the 40 fathom level, ‘till boulders
could be heard rolling on the seabed in heavy weather, and water seeping in through
fissures in the rock tasted salt’. It was then believed that the top of the stope was
within 30 ft of the seabed, and work was stopped. For a hundred years, and during
the period when some 300 men were working underground, the existence of the
‘40 Backs’ was always present in the mind of the management, and, for that matter,
in the minds of the older men.
Several inspections were made over the years, but nothing was done. I heard the
story of the boulders rolling on the seabed while I worked in the mine, but I didn’t
believe it, but I now know it to be true.
In 1961, when Geevor Mines planned to reopen Levant, I was consulted, and
Mowlem’s were brought in to deal with the ‘40 Backs’. The conditions then disclosed
were much more dangerous than one could have believed possible. I’m glad that
while working on the 170 fathom level in 1922 I did not know of the threat that was
hanging over us all.
After finishing at Levant, I spent the rest of the summer with Brown, camping on
Hayle Towans, near the mouth of the Red River. There were relatively few people
about in those days. We swam in St Ives Bay, and explored and geologised in Hell’s
Mouth, and other coves near Godrevy.
Once, just at the first light of dawn, a peal of thunder woke me up. I crawled out
of the tent to see a storm cloud black against a pale sky; a brilliant moon and a faint,
but perfect, lunar rainbow. I was not to see another such for 35 years, and, when
I did, it was from the track across the Zagros Mountains, between Bebehan and
Shiraz [a section of the Persian Roads Contract, see page 108].
The course leading to an Associateship of the Royal School of Mines was unique
in that it extended over four years. This was due to the influence of an extraordinary
person, L.H. Cooke, Professor of Mine Surveying. By force of character and
persistence, he persuaded the Governors of the College to devote nearly the whole
of the third year to mine surveying, which made it necessary to add a fourth year
to cover other advanced subjects. Any young man who took Cooke’s course was
competent to go to work at once as a mine surveyor.
I am grateful to his memory, for he taught me a basic skill which saw me through
the most difficult period of my life, the slump of 1929. In my time Professor Cooke
was not a good lecturer, for his brain had been damaged when, very courageously,

Selected JournalS

he had stopped a team of runaway horses in a London street. He clutched the

bridle of the leading horse, and allowed himself to be dragged until he brought
them to a standstill. He was badly injured. In appearance he was short, dark haired,
with a pointed beard. He admired Thomas Carlyle, he was a good German scholar,
and had visited the German mining schools at Clausthal and elsewhere. Indeed,
he modelled himself on the image of a typical ‘Herr Professor’. He made important
contributions to his subject, including the invention of a mining theodolite, in
which the centring device was above, and not below, the levelling screws. This
now seems obvious, and is incorporated in all such instruments, but it was he who
invented it.

introduction to civil engineering

Following graduation in 1924, Glossop spent three years as a mining engineer in North-
ern Ontario and Quebec before taking a short-term lecturing post in metalliferous mining
at the University of Birmingham. In May 1929 he returned to Canada and joined the
Huronian Belt Mining Company, with the intention that by working the summer in the
field he would earn sufficient to spend the winter at Harvard beginning a doctorate. How-
ever, the financial crash in late September put an end to these hopes and in December he
found work with the Nacozari Copper Company at Sonora in north-western Mexico.
But with the collapse in the price of copper in 1930 his contract was terminated and he
returned to England on 11 September.

After my return to Bakewell in late January 1931, my younger sister Elspeth, who was
living in London and worked as a receptionist at the office of the fashion magazine
Vogue, wrote to say that she had met a man called Charles Parsons, who had been at
Los Pilares, and thought that he might give me some useful introductions.
I realised that this must be the famous Don Carlos, who had left Nacozari just
before my arrival there. Charles had given up mining to join the staff of the Chicago
Pneumatic Tool Company, demonstrating and selling rock drills; an occupation in
which he excelled, for after his experience at Copper Queen and Los Pilares he
was a highly practical mining man; and the fact there was a touch of brigand in his
character was an advantage to him as a salesman.
He made his headquarters in Belgrade, which he said was ‘so central’, and from
there visited all the metalliferous mining fields of Europe, where for many years he
was a well-known character.
I returned to London at once, and had my first meeting with him at the ‘Nags
Head’ in Piccadilly. He asked me if I minded what I did, and I replied that I would
do anything to earn a living, although I would obviously prefer that it should be
connected with mining. As a first move he said that he would speak to Charles
Brand’s general foreman, on their contract for an extension of the Piccadilly
underground line, for which work they had a construction site at Manor House, on
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

the Seven Sisters Road. I agreed that this sounded promising so he telephoned and
made an appointment for me on the following day.
He asked me if I was ‘broke’, and when I said that I was, he said that he would
introduce me to a very good place where he always stayed himself, when short of
money, in London. It was a hostel for chauffeurs over a garage at the far end of
Clarges Street, Mayfair. There, for 25 shillings a week, one could get a bed, and
almost unlimited fried sausages and bacon, with cups of tea at all hours of the day.
The next morning I went to Manor House for an interview with Brand’s general
foreman. It was my first meeting with such a person and I was impressed. I passed
muster, for he offered me a job as a miner’s labourer at £3 a week, to start on the
following Monday. I accepted, thanked him, and went off to look for lodgings in
the neighbourhood. For a young English engineer to have accepted such an offer
would, in those days, have been unthinkable, but after my years in Canada I was free
from such snobbery.
About 20 years later I went to the Union Club in St James’s Street, to celebrate
my appointment to the Board of John Mowlem & Co., which had taken place
that afternoon. Quite by chance, Charles Brand, the Chairman of Brand’s, was in
the Club. He congratulated me, and over a decanter of port I told him how, on
returning from Mexico, I had nearly joined his firm as a miner’s labourer. He was
much amused and said, ‘What a pity you didn’t come to us Silas, you’d probably
have been a general foreman yourself by now!’.
At the time, to celebrate my future as a labourer, I went along in the evening to
the Student’s Union at Imperial College, feeling that with the prospect of earning
money again I could relax. Among the crowd in the bar was Jack Duvidier, a civil
engineer, who had been in the same year at the City and Guilds as my cousin W.R.
Grigor Taylor. I knew him and liked him, for we had worked together at New
Hucknal colliery during the strike in 1922.
He asked me what I was doing, and I replied, ‘Nothing, but I’m in luck; I’m
starting next week as a labourer with Brands, on their Piccadilly Line extension
contract.’ His reply was a turning point in my life: ‘John Mowlem have just got a
contract for the reconstruction of Leicester Square underground station, I know
that they have a vacancy for an assistant engineer, try for that. You remember
Harding who was in my year, he works for them, why not telephone to him, he’ll
know if the place is still vacant.’
I did so; he told me that it was and if I was interested he would speak to Mowlem’s
chief engineer and ask for an interview. Next morning I called at Mowlem’s site
office for Leicester Square, a small slummy terrace house in Little Newport Street
opposite the back door to the Ivy Restaurant. The door was opened by an office boy
who led me up to the first floor and showed me into the office of Mr I.J. Jones, head
of the firm’s tunnel department.
Mr Jones was, in front elevation, more nearly square than any other human
being that I have ever seen, he was perhaps 5 ft 7 in in height, but very broad; his

Selected JournalS

face was also square, his features fleshy and his complexion sallow. His appearance
was formidable, and in some ways he was so, but he was also an angst-ridden 50 year
old bachelor, as I was later to discover. In his own field he was a very good engineer.
His voice was low and gruff, and he used few words, but what he said was just what
I wanted to hear.
‘Can you use a theodolite?’
‘When can you start?’
‘Would £400 a year suit you?’
‘Be here at 11 pm tonight, a chainman will be waiting for you. There is an instru-
ment downstairs, you had better have a look at it now. Segrave will tell you what
you have to do.’
So in five minutes, or less, I had been recruited into the profession of civil
engineering, of which I had no experience at all, and had never even contemplated
as a possibility. But, after Professor Cooke’s instruction at the Royal School of
Mines, I was confident that I could deal with any type of precise survey, whether on
the surface or underground.
Segrave, an older man, had taken over the Leicester Square work when Hard-
ing had been transferred as a newly awarded contract, for the construction of the
power house at Henry Ford’s new factory at Dagenham, then under construction. I
sought him out. He gave me a bundle of drawings, pointed to a theodolite, saying,
‘You can use that.’
I took the instrument out of its box and looked it over; it was an old but beauti-
ful 6 inch theodolite made by Troughton and Simms; it was heavy and almost too
precise for the job, but that was a fault on the right side. It was fitted with microm-
eter microscopes, not with verniers. I had never used micrometers, but I was not go-
ing to admit that in the presence of future colleagues, so I said that I would get some
sleep and be back at 10.30 pm. I left the office and took a bus to the office of Cooke,
Troughton and Simms, in Broadway, Westminster. In their showroom I met ‘young
Mr Simms’. I explained my problem to him and found him most helpful. We set up
a theodolite in a backroom, he handed me a Manual of Instructions, and told me to
call on him if I had any difficulty. I spent an hour measuring the angle between two
pencil marks on the wall, by which time I had mastered the use of micrometers.
I was indeed fortunate in joining the firm at the time when it was embarking on
a phase of diversification and growth.
My duties as assistant engineer on Mowlem’s contract for the reconstruction
of Leicester Square underground station were broadly speaking two-fold. First
to make a precise survey of the site, both of its surface features, such as building
lines, kerbs, and manholes, and also of all underground structures, such as building
foundations, cable subways, sewers, gas and water mains and telephone cables.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

With my training as a mining engineer it was natural for me to assume that a plan
existed of every street in London showing all the underground services beneath it,
accurately located. To my surprise I learnt that no such central record existed, and it
was necessary to visit every public utility company to find if they had pipes or cables
in any particular street, and even then they could not locate them accurately. The
only way to find them was to dig holes in search of them.
In my survey all such structures were referred to a network of accurate survey
stations relative to which all new work would be set out.
The second phase, which started as soon as the basic survey points had been
established, was to supervise the actual work of construction. Hence I was responsible
for the setting out of all new work, for issuing instruction sheets and sketches to
the foremen, which I abstracted in simplified form from the Contract Drawings,
and to see that these instructions were strictly followed. I was also responsible for
measuring the completed work and preparing a monthly statement for submission
to the consulting engineer, who, if satisfied, would issue a certificate for payment.
It was to start on the basic survey that I returned to Little Newport Street at 11
pm the night after my meeting with Mr I.J. Jones, there to meet my chainman and
collect the survey instruments. A chainman is an intelligent artisan who acts as gen-
eral factotum to an engineer engaged on a survey. He carries the instruments, and
may be capable of setting up a theodolite or dumpy level so that only a final check
is needed. He can establish survey points, and do a dozen other odd jobs. Most
important of all, he can be trusted to preside over one end of a steel tape, while
an accurate measurement is being made. He is equipped with a heavy hand-sewn
cowhide bag, with a shoulder strap in which he carries a club hammer, cold chisels,
a spirit level, builders line, lump chalk and other necessary odds and ends.
A good chainman is invaluable, and those employed on tunnel works in London
were outstanding; some of them were ex-sappers, some had been at sea. I was
particularly lucky in mine, his nickname was ‘Sailor’, for he had served in the Royal
Navy. That first night, at ‘second supper’, he said:
‘Your name is very familiar to me, Sir.’
‘How’s that, it’s not a common one?’
‘Well Sir, I served in the cruiser Sydney at the Battle of Cocos-Keelin; Captain
Glossop, Sir.’
I told him that I was a third cousin of the Captain’s, and that went down well.
To have such a competent man working for me greatly helped while I was
gaining experience in the details of street surveys.
On a street survey in the West End of London one saw many aspects of a strange
nocturnal life. It was impossible to work above ground before midnight, by which
time the theatre traffic had died down. From then, until one in the morning, work
was possible with only a little disturbance from pedestrians; these were usually
amiable but slightly drunken old men, who stopped and said something of this sort:
‘I worked on the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railways, myself. Hic!’

Selected JournalS

It was important to see that they did not lurch into the tripod, perhaps upsetting
it and damaging the theodolite, but after a minute or so one could get rid of them
on the plea of working against time.
At one stage of construction it became necessary to determine where each street
‘gully’ discharged into the sewer some 20 ft below. The simplest way was to pour
a bucket of whitewash down each gully in turn, while Sailor, in the sewer below,
made a note of where it issued. Soon we found that this was unnecessary; if I knelt
on the kerb and shouted into the drain he could hear me, indeed we could carry on
a conversation, so there was no difficulty in identifying each connection. While this
was going on two girls strolled up and looked at me with amazement.
‘Cor Liz, look at ’im, ’e’s talking down the drain.’
‘Wot are you doin’, Mister?’
I was occupied with Sailor and made no reply.
‘Come on dearie, let’s get out of this, I don’t like it, ’e must be potty.’
I looked up and said, ‘It’s all right, don’t be frightened, I’m just talking to a friend,
he lives down there.’
‘Come off it, Mister.’
At that moment Sailor’s voice could be heard, reading back measurements to
‘Gawd, ’ark at that, there is a bloke down there.’
‘Of course there is, didn’t I tell you so, would you like a word with him?’
Presently the bolder of the two knelt on the pavement, and shouted into the
‘Ullo, Old Cock, ’ow are yer?’
Sailor at once realised what was happening and replied in kind. There followed a
conversation which became funnier and more indecent as it went on.
There is one more anecdote which deserves recording. Harding had been as-
sistant engineer throughout the construction of the New Piccadilly underground
station, and when he was transferred to the contract for Ford’s Power House at Da-
genham as agent and I took his place at Leicester Square, some work was unfinished
at Piccadilly and I became responsible for it.
Two things remained to be done there after the new booking hall, which
extends over nearly the whole area of the Circus, had been officially opened; it
leaked badly, for as the steel roof vibrated under traffic, the waterproofing meas-
ures failed, so that when it rained much water came through. The only remedy was
to take up the roadway and to add a more effective membrane. This consisted of a
sandwich of two thick layers of flexible asphalt, with a heavy sheet of lead between
It was important that the waterproofing was carried out with an absolute mini-
mum of inconvenience to traffic. Thus the work was done in small sections, and at
specified times, which had been submitted for police approval, and these times
were strictly observed.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

The second and crowning task was to replace the statue of Eros in the centre
of the Circus, for it had been removed five years earlier to enable a working shaft
to be sunk on its site. The operation began when we received a drawing from the
Chief Architect’s Department of the London County Council. It must have given
many happy hours of work to some talented young draughtsman. It was on a large
scale and faithfully reproduced each detail and curlywig of that florid monument.
Its only value was that the level of the top of the masonry plinth which forms its
base was given to one-hundredth of a foot. There was also a statement that this level
had been taken from a bench-mark on a granite kerb of the footway near the main
entrance of the Café Royal.
The next night I found this bench-mark and ran a line of levels down to the site
of the fountain and established a datum there. I was surprised to find that if my
work was correct there would be one step fewer than was shown on the drawing, for
the bottom step would be below street level.
I identified three other bench-marks on the walls of buildings nearby, and
ran levels from each to my datum in the centre of the Circus. They all agreed and
showed that the bench-mark referred to by the London County Council was in
error by several inches. It was pretty obvious what had happened; years before, a
London County Council surveyor had unwisely worked from a bench-mark kerb
stone in Regent Street, but during the years which had elapsed since then, the
Westminster City Council, during road repairs, had moved the kerbstone.
Having sorted out this little matter, our masons went ahead and completed the
masonry plinth on which the bronze fountain stands. Then there was a pause, and a
very long pause. No further instructions came to us, and I was kept busy elsewhere.
Still the public were much interested, and when I was working on the site strangers
often came up to me and said, ‘When is the fountain coming back?’ or ‘When is HE
coming back?’
Week followed week, and then month followed month, and we heard no more.
At last the Press became suspicious, and a campaign started, demanding to know
the cause of the delay. There was an embarrassing secret: the London Passenger
Transport Board had lost Eros.
Just in time to avert a scandal, an old foreman at the Stockwell depot of the
London Electric Railways, having read the day’s paper during his lunch hour went
to the Depot Superintendent, and said:
‘Wot’s all this about that there Eaross, Guvner?’
His boss made non-committal noises, and the foreman guessed the truth for he
‘Don’t you know where ’e is?’
While the Superintendent was hesitating, he was given the answer.
‘Well I’ll tell you where ’e is: you remember that brick wall they built down there
four years ago? Well ’e’s behind that, covered with tarpaulins.’
So honour was saved, and we were told to go ahead.

Selected JournalS

It is of course not just a statue, but a powerful and complex fountain. Within it
is an elaborate system of feeder pipes and valves which kept our plumbers busy for
several weeks.
At last the hoarding was removed, and the fountain was turned on. It was a splen-
did sight, but very soon all the pedestrians, and all the passing traffic, were soaked.
It was turned to half power, but that was no cure, and within an hour the water was
turned off altogether and has never been turned on again from that day to this.
After Leicester Square, I became subagent on a contract for the construction
of escalator and other tunnels connecting the Bank Station and the Monument
Station. This work necessitated the diversion of a large sewer, which ran from north
to south beneath King William Street. It was an old and primitive structure built
of brick. In cross-section it was an ellipse of small eccentricity, almost circular in
fact. The major axis was vertical, so its height was over seven feet and its greatest
width about six feet. Its large size was necessary for it served a wide area beyond
Moorgate; so although the normal flow was very small, during a sudden rainstorm
it filled to capacity in a minute of two. For this reason I was always accompanied
by a senior City of London sewer-man, called a ‘flusher’, who warned me when to
evacuate. Once we ran for our lives, and I remember, as I hauled the instrument up
the iron ladder in the manhole, I looked down and saw a raging torrent six feet deep,
just below me.
The flusher was an expert on life in a sewer. One day when an indescribably
horrible stink enveloped us, he said laconically, ‘Barts ’Orspital.’
Since the radius of the sewer was so large, the invert was shallow, and in dry
weather excrement accumulated in heaps beneath the pipe through which it entered,
for there was no flow of storm water to carry it away. Once after concentrating on the
precise measurement of an angle, by the method of ‘repeated addition’, and having
entered the result in my notebook, I glanced at the flusher who was standing near
me, and was astonished to see that he was rinsing the ordure through his fingers.
‘What are you doing that for?’ I said.
‘No bloody good down ’ere Sir among these orficces,’ he replied. ‘Nothink but
pen nibs and paper clips. You want to get up West among those hotels, you’ll find
wedding rings and all sorts, there.’
In those days it was believed that working in sewers was positively healthy,
and certainly, though it was unpleasant, it never did me any harm. Nowadays it is
recognised that there is the danger of Weil’s disease. This is caused by a spirochaete
which infests rats, and is transmitted through their urine. It is very common in
Amsterdam, and anyone falling into a canal there is taken to hospital for immediate
inoculation. If not dealt with at once, it can be fatal. Perhaps it only spread to
England after 1930.
[With the contract at Bank Station coming to an end and little prospect of future
employment with Mowlem’s, Glossop sought to return to the mining industry and
attended an interview with the Gold Coast Selection Trust.]

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

However, no sooner had I signed a contract with the Gold Coast Selection Trust
than I.J. Jones sent for me; it seemed that his extreme pessimism over the future of
John Mowlem’s tunnel department had not been justified; it had just been awarded a
contract for the construction of an underground booking-hall and escalator tunnels
on the Central London Line, and he wanted me to start on the preliminary survey at
once. I explained to him that I had been interviewed by J.A. Agnew, Chairman of the
Consolidated Goldfields of South Africa, who had offered me employment with the
GCST, and that to go back on it might be harmful to my future in the London min-
ing community. In fact there was rather more to it than that; I still regarded myself
as a mining man and my three years with Mowlem’s as an interesting diversion from
my career – although just how fortunate I was only to appreciate when I became
responsible for all construction work at N’Tubia Gold Areas.

the gold coaSt (ghana)

The voyage out
It was on August 24, 1933 that I took the boat-train from Euston to Liverpool, and
boarded a tender going off to the Elder Dempster steamer Apapa, then lying in the
Mersey. It was a wretched evening, cold and gray, and as, in the train, I had been
talking to three middle-aged mining engineers, each of whom said that under no
circumstances would he have been on his way to the Gold Coast if there was the
slightest prospect of finding employing anywhere else, I began to doubt my wisdom
in having signed that contract.
Apapa was a steamer, built about the turn of the century, with old-fashioned
furniture and fittings, but comfortable enough, and a good sea boat, appropriate for
what promised to be a ‘Voyage au bout de la Nuit’. The food was good for the first
week, but during the second it deteriorated to bully-beef and potato salad.
On the first morning out, I rose early to walk round the deck in the best English
fashion. I was shocked to see a group of Old Coasters already, before breakfast, in the
smoking room, drinking brandy and ginger-ale, I felt that all my worst forebodings
about the White Man’s Grave were to be justified; but I soon picked up the habit
myself, and found that, if you stick to one large one, a brandy and ginger-ale is an
excellent start to a day at sea.
Many of the passengers were civil servants, who spent much time discussing
plans for their next leaves, a depressing attitude to life; the remainder were mining
men who drank, talked shop, and played cards, with a sprinkling of salesmen of one
sort or another, and of employees of the United Africa Company; there were no
The Elder Dempster ships sailed from Liverpool, and called at Funchal, Las
Palmas, Georgetown, Freetown, at Takoradi, the new Port on the Gold Coast, and
so on to their final destination, Port Harcourt in Nigeria. On the return journey the
ports of call were the same, but the passengers went ashore at Plymouth.
Selected JournalS

In those days it was the policy of the Colonial Office to keep the statistical return
for deaths of civil servants in the Colony as low as possible, so any man gravely
ill, unless it would have been sheer murder, was shipped home. Needless to say
quite a few never got there; they died and were buried at sea. Most of such deaths
occurred just north of Madeira where there is a sudden change in climate. This spot
was known as ‘The Bone-yard’, and on every voyage I made we had a burial there.
At Paddington Station there was always a line of ambulances waiting to whisk off
survivors to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases.
On one voyage a more distressing event was a suicide. I went down to my cabin
one mid-morning to fetch a book, and finding a bustle said to my steward, ‘What
is it?’. ‘Shocking thing Sir, the young gentleman next to you as ’anged ’imself.’; and
so he had, from the ventilation duct in his cabin. He was cut down and left there on
his bunk till evening, to allow the Captain time to get family consent to a burial at
sea. By then his presence next door had become all too evident, and I stayed in the
bar until his body had been removed. He was a cadet in the Political Service who
had suffered a nervous breakdown. Two older men, themselves going on leave, had
volunteered to keep an eye on him; they had left him alone on deck for only a very
few minutes, and he had slipped below to escape from that which haunted him.
Next morning the Captain read the burial service, and his corpse slid overboard to
join all those others scattered on the seabed between the Coast and the Channel.
Later the old steamships were to be replaced by more modern diesels with the
same names, such as Apapa and Accra, but by then white women were going to the
Coast, there was deck tennis, and the whole atmosphere changed to that of a poor
man’s Cunard.
It was my first voyage to the tropics. I well remember, how, in the doldrums, the
flying fish arrowed from our bows bouncing from the top of one low greasy swell
to another, till they splashed into the sea far ahead. But before that, one morning, a
ship’s officer came up to me as I was leaning over the rail, and said, ‘There’s Teneriffe’.
I stared and saw nothing but a bank of cloud. ‘Not there, THERE!’ he said, pointing
almost vertically upward: and there, quite unbelievably, away above the cloud, was
a tiny, perfect, snow-clad cone, the tip of El Teide with its crater.
‘Doth not a Tenarif or higher Hill
Rise so high like a Rocke, that one might thinke
The floating moone would shipwracke there and sinke?’
My first sight of Africa was from the Gambia River. There we lay at anchor for a
few hours, with nothing to see but a low sandy shore, and a huddle of buildings that
was Georgetown. A year or two later there was an epidemic, and a number of men
died of yellow fever. The women escaped and a cargo of widows was sent home.
After the war the Gambia was to be the setting for one of the smaller specimens,
though in its way a masterly example, of a folly organised by the Colonial Develop-
ment Corporation, boldly led by the egregious John Strachey, a one-time follower of

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Mosley, but by then a Labour Minister. He decided to raise chickens and on a large
scale, for was not the climate ideal for the cultivation of sunflowers and could not
the hens be fed on sunflower seeds? No one had observed that the domestic fowl
rarely thrives in West Africa, tormented as it is by mites, ticks and other parasites.
The only person to do well out of this venture was an old friend of mine, R.T. Dicks.
He had gone out to the Coast as a mining engineer, but had set up as a contractor.
Dicks tendered for, and was awarded, an order to make and supply an extraordinary
number of hen-houses. This he did, promptly and profitably, but though the houses
were of excellent quality, few hens survived in them for long enough to pay for their
keep. Dicks, with the proceeds, bought a farm near Piltdown, in Sussex. One man’s
folly was another man’s fortune.
Freetown, in Sierra Leone, our next port of call, was nearer to my expectations.
The thickly wooded hills rise steeply behind an attractive looking town. I did not
go ashore, for it rained, how it rained! I have never seen anything like it before or
since. The water that is above the Firmament seemed to have displaced all air below
it, so large and so closely spaced were the rain drops. I went below to avoid being
drowned while standing on deck.

The journey inland

From the port at Takoradi I took the train up-country. The railway followed a sinu-
ous course through forest, for it had been surveyed about 1900, and set out so as to
avoid heavy cuts and fills. Conspicuous were a surprising number of graves beside
the line; those of European construction men who had died, and been buried on
the job.
My destination was Dunkwa, a small town about one hundred miles inland.
It was a seat of Government, and the white population, before the arrival of the
Gold Coast Selection Trust, consisted of an Assistant District Commissioner doing
the work of a District Commissioner, on the pay of an ADC, a Medical Officer, a
Public Works Engineer, and a Police Superintendent, who was an agreeable and
extroverted character. His black mistress ran the Dunkwa Telephone Exchange, and
must have been a useful source of information on the movement of stolen gold, of
human sacrifice at funeral customs, and other such misdemeanours.
The General Manager of the Company was a Yorkshireman, Major Gilchrist. He
was away, but I was met at the station by his secretary, a young man called Sabine,
who led me to the firm’s rest-house, on the upper floor of a large building which
belonged to the United Africa Company. It was situated in the main street of the
town, just two rows of mud-brick shops, and it looked down on the market place,
a group of open sheds with corrugated iron roofs. On them there perched rows of
vultures, that shuffled, loured and peered down at the ‘market mammies’ in their
brightly patterned ‘cloths’, and at the crowd milling round them.
I was alone, and, after a cup of tea, I sat and turned over a pile of old magazines.
I was overcome by the most profound misery, ‘Why,’ I thought, have I left England,

Selected JournalS

my friends and so many of my interests, to come to this damned hole?’; but soon
other people drifted in, I recovered the feel of the mining world, and felt better.
Next day I went off to join a prospecting team on the other side of the Offin
River. There I started to learn Pidgin English, which is not as simple as one might
think, and also the techniques of camping in equatorial forest.
On this concession, I saw for the first time an outcrop of a quartz conglomerate,
lithologically very similar to the ‘Banket’of the Witwatersrand. Indeed the rocks I
then saw are worked for gold a few miles south of the Offin River, at Tarkwa and
Abosso. Whether these rocks are to be regarded as fossil placers, or whether the
origin of the gold is epigenetic, and they are to be classed as of hydrothermal origin
remains, after nearly a century, a matter of controversy.
My first surprise was that the sun was never visible. In four years I never saw the
sun’s orb, but only a flare of radiation through the perpetual cloud cover.
The high forest is monotonous and gloomy; to see an animal is unusual, for most
of the life and colour is far overhead in the canopy. At ground level the undergrowth
has dull green leaves, and any flowers are inconspicuous.
Surprisingly it is easy to travel through such forest, for the litter is only an inch or
two deep, and there are no knee high, shrubby plants such as grow thickly in most
temperate and subarctic forests. The smaller trees and saplings are widely spaced, and
the chief obstacles are the vines and lianas which hang thickly from the taller trees.
It is generally wise to have a boy or two going ahead, with bush knives (machetes),
to clear a trail and watch out for weaver ants. These are large, slender ants, very
pale brown in colour, that build nests by sticking a few leaves together with silk.
If disturbed, they may fall on you, and their bite is more painful than a stab from a
red-hot needle.
To give warning of weaver ants is not the only reason for having a native in the
van when travelling through the bush; this I found by experience soon after my
arrival in the country. I was off on a day’s prospecting, with about a dozen boys
walking behind me, when, as we were crossing a clearing in the bush, a deserted
farm, where the narrow track was so over-grown with grass that the ground was
only visible over a width of 6 inches or so, I suddenly saw that with my right foot
already suspended in the air, in half stride, it was about to descend on a really large
cobra. Only a few inches of the middle section of the snake was visible, and it was
moving slowly. I did a truly remarkable half somersault and landed on my back.
By the time that my retainers had pulled me up and dusted me down, and I had
explained the reason for my eccentric behaviour, which took a little time as I did
not then know the Twi word for snake, which is ‘owo’, the last few inches were just
disappearing into the undergrowth. The boys showed no anxiety to pursue it, and
nor did I; but after that I always had a native ahead of me; after all it was his country,
and he kept an eye open for reptiles intuitively.
Here and there the trunks of the great trees tower up 100 or even 200 ft above
the ground. Most are smooth barked and remarkably slim for their height, but

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

others, like the silk-cotton tree (haunted by the red-haired demon, Sasa Bonsam),
have immense buttressed roots which support the bole to a height of 15 or 20 ft.
The most striking contrast between subarctic and equatorial forest came as a
surprise; it was the level of sound. In Canada there is almost perpetual silence,
only broken by the tapping of a woodpecker or the plaintive little song of a tree-
sparrow. On the Gold Coast the high pitched racket of innumerable cicadas is
deafening and incessant, never fluctuating by night or by day. After dark is added
the diabolical scream of the hyrax. These little animals were sometimes brought
into camp by hunters, but they do not make good pets, for they are slow and
exceedingly dull; their only obvious talent is for tightrope walking. The specimens
of the tree hyrax that I saw were rat-coloured, and about the size and shape of a
guinea pig, with a short muzzle, but I now realise that the animals the hunters
used to bring in, and sell as pets, were immature, about half-grown. On their back
they have a curious glandular structure, free from hair. The hyrax is a zoological
curiosity for it is an ungulate, and its nearest living relative, though certainly very
remote, is the rhinoceros. Slow moving, and living in the immense spaces of the
forest-canopy it has, to ensure meeting and mating with other hyrax, developed
a voice out of all proportion to its size. After dark the male starts with a subdued
cry, repeated every few seconds, but becoming louder and more frequent, till, after
five minutes, it gives forth a succession of shattering screams, like a fiend raging in
the pit. Then, overtaxed its voice breaks in mid-scream, and silence follows, until
another hyrax breaks loose. With several round a camp, sleep is difficult.

The N’Tubia mine

After two or three weeks on the Offin River, I was told to take over a concession at a
place called N’Tubia, about 90 miles to the north west, and there I spent the rest of
my time on the Coast. In those days contracts were signed for a ‘tour’ of 12 months
followed by three months leave on full pay; of these three months, one was spent
at sea. I did three tours, so I was to be associated with N’Tubia for four remarkably
happy years.
I spent a few days in Dunkwa buying stores and engaging servants and bearers.
I also hired two ‘boys’ from Tarkwa who had mining experience and so could act as
‘head-men’ over local labour.
It was my intention to stop at the town of Wiawso, the Capital of the Sefwi coun-
try, to pay my respects to the District Commissioner, and to call on the Paramount
Chief of the Sefwis, Nana Kwame Atta II, for whom I took a ‘dash’, or present: a
canvas bag holding about £25 in florins, and a case of ‘Olifant’ gin. The word ‘Nana’,
the title of a chief, in literal translation means ‘grandfather’. Many years later, from the
train between Rotterdam and Amsterdam, I was to see the distillery which manufac-
tures that dreadful liquid. On occasions, when my supplies of food and drink were
low, coming in tired after a long day in the bush, I have tried to drink a little, but no,
by no means could I get it down. The Sefwi aristocracy thought it splendid stuff.

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I took as a guide a Swedish contractor, Mike Yuzolin, and we set off early getting
to Wiawso before the heat of the day. The native town, with a population of 1500 or
so, was built on the top of a sacred hill, rising some 400 ft above an equally sacred
river, the Tano. The houses were of wattle and daub, but in the midst was a large,
rambling adobe building which housed the Chief, his family and his Court. Before
the main entrance was a sacred tree. Once a year a dog was sacrificed and its blood
smeared on the trunk. Before the arrival of the British it was not a dog that was
sacrificed but a man.
The District Commissioner was away on a tour of his territory, so I went straight
to the Chief ’s house. I was received in a courtyard by the Nana, who sat in the centre
of a crescent of the members of his entourage, the more eminent in the front row,
the less eminent in the second row. Slightly to one side was an old dame who kept
her eyes on me; she was a very important person indeed, the Ahema. The Akan
peoples of the Gold Coast practise post matrilineal succession. They believe that
the ‘blood’ is inherited through the female line, and the ‘spirit’ through the father.
That the Chief should have inherited the ‘blood’ is essential to the well-being of
the tribe. The importance of the ‘spirit’ is recognised, but it is only effective for
one generation, hence on the death of a Chief the stool is inherited, not by one
of his sons, but by the eldest son of his eldest sister. I may have over-simplified all
this; be that as it may, the Chief ’s mother, the Ahema, is an ‘eminence grise’ of great
influence. My gifts were well received, and I went on my way to reach road-head
before sunset. There we stayed the night under canvas, for it was still a 20 mile walk
to our destination.
Next day we reached the old mine, and made camp before dark. While our
supper was cooking, the drums started in Aferi village; they were to go on for
about a fortnight. Our arrival had been observed, and soon we had visitors from
whom we learnt that the old Chief of Aferi had died, and that his funeral custom
had started.
After Yuzolin left, I put my boys to work. They didn’t stray far, in fact they
obviously wished to stay within calling distance, and at night they wrapped
themselves up in their cloths and slept on the ground near my tent. They were well
aware that a human sacrifice would be appropriate at the funeral of a rich Chief,
and that his relations might regard the arrival on their doorstep of strangers from
other tribes a temptation difficult to resist. Why not snatch one! He would never
be missed.
The period of mourning seemed unnecessarily long and at last I enquired why. I
was told that the dead man’s family had sent to Accra for a splendid, and expensive,
coffin, but its delivery had been long delayed. They said, ‘He spoil too much, we
no be fit to wait.’ So they huddled his rotten remnants into the wormy earth. The
drums stopped, and my retinue slept in peace.
Once settled, I explored my immediate neighbourhood. The old mine, where I
camped, was about equidistant from two villages: N’Tubia some four miles north

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

east, and Aferi about the same distance north west. N’Tubia village was a gloomy
place. In its midst was a Juju House, just a thatched roof on poles, within which was
suspended, by a rusty chain, an object about the size, shape and colour of a small
Bradenham ham. This was not the fetish, which was enclosed within it, and may
have been anything from a human head to a meteorite. The ham-like object had been
formed by the accretion of dried blood, egg yolks, and such like, the accumulation
of sacrifices with which the fetish had been anointed over many years.
Aferi was more welcoming; it was richer, for about 1900 the villagers had
discovered the outcrop of a gold-bearing quartz lode on their side of the Bensupata
River. The laterite above it was rich in alluvial gold, and they had worked it so
vigorously that when I arrived on the scene there existed an excavation some 15 ft
wide and 12 ft deep, which extended several hundreds of feet up the hillside. Thus
the reigning family, or rather the ‘Stool’ of Aferi, was rich, and on formal occasions
the Chief could sport gold-mounted state umbrellas, heavy gold jewellery and other
status symbols.
About 1905 the Sefwis sold the mining rights to the Société Francaise de
Pétrole, who exploited the mine for several years, but eventually closed it owing
to the high cost of transport from the coast. At that time there was no railway and
there were no roads, and everything, including heavy machinery, had to be carried
by men through the forest. For that matter there was no harbour, and everything
was brought through the breakers at Sekondi in surf-boats paddled by Krumen,
many a heavy load must have ended on the seabed.
Thus, when I arrived, N’Tubia mine had been deserted for over 20 years and was
buried in dense, second-growth forest. I set about clearing the whole area, for there
seemed to be an astonishing quantity of plant and machinery rusting away there.
A few days after I had set a gang to work at bush clearing, a head boy, Morrison,
who had come with me from Dunkwa, sought me out. He looked uneasy, and said,
‘Massa, I find something that dé for bush.’ ‘What’s that?’ I said, but he wouldn’t
answer directly, and just replied, ‘Massa, come look ’um.’ I followed him, and
there, not far from my tent, was an elaborate tombstone. It was of Cornish granite,
beautifully dressed and made in sections, each of a size to make a head load for one
man. There must have been a ready sale on the Gold Coast, in the early days, for
such portable monuments. The epitaph read:

Manager N’Tubia Mine
Died April 14th 1908
‘Faithful Unto Death’

‘Well,’ thought I, ‘I suppose that this is the sort of thing that one must expect in
the White Man’s Grave. When clearing bush, the first thing you find is the grave of

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the last man who held your job.’ Indeed there was a saying in those days that there
were three men to every job on the Coast, the one who had just died, the one who
held it, and the one who was preparing to come out and take over.

N’ Tubia mine at the outset.

Near my camp there lived an old man, a Moshi, who had worked on the mine
in the early days. When it closed, he had ingratiated himself with the Chief of Aferi,
and had stayed there, cultivating a little plot of land. I asked him if he had known
Mr Kean, he said, ‘Yes’, and went on to tell me the most extraordinary rigmarole.
He said that one day Mr Kean saw a rainbow, he walked to the end of it, to see if
there was gold there. He touched it, at once there was a loud crash, and he fell to the
ground unconscious. They carried him to his house, where he died. I felt that there
should be an interesting story behind such an elaborate and unnecessary lie.
A year or so later I got the truth from an old mining man, called Richards, who
had spent many years on the Coast. He had lost one hand in a blasting accident,
and an eye in another, but he was fit, and very good company. I asked him about
Kean, and he said that he had known him well; he was an Australian, with a violent
temper. When I asked ‘How did he die?’, Richards said, ‘Oh, they poisoned him.’ It
appears that one day Kean was called to the market place, where a riot had started.
The centre of the excitement, and apparently the instigator of the row, was a middle-
aged woman. Kean set about her with his stick, and sent her packing. A day or two
later, as a result of her juju palaver, aided by her knowledge of poisons, he was a dead
man. She was the priestess of the sacred River Bensupata. Poison is a traditional
West African method for settling scores. In 1905 a District Commissioner, called
Fulkes, was poisoned in a village on the Bia River, a few miles from my place. Thirty
years later no one would go near the site of the rest-house where he died, even in
daylight. It was haunted by an abominable ghost. I once visited the village to check
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

a rumour that diamonds had been found there. It was a nasty, dirty hole, and the
villagers were a sullen, shifty lot; the whole place felt evil. As it was situated near the
frontier between French and English territory, it may well have been a convenient
centre for all sorts of villainy.

The Sergeant Yusufu affair

As far as I know, only one of my people died of witchcraft, or of poison, or of a
mixture of the two. He was called Sergeant Yusufu; he had a Liberian passport, and
was light coloured. After the abolition of the slave trade, many negroes found in
captured slave ships were dumped in Liberia, irrespective of their place of origin.
To restore the balance of sexes, English philanthropists arranged that London pros-
titutes, who had been found guilty of petty thefts, instead of being transported to
Australia, should be deported to Liberia, and provided with husbands among the
freed slaves. It would be interesting to know which fate was preferable. Be that as it
may, Sergeant Yusufu was clearly of mixed blood, and cut a good figure. He was an
excellent builder of palm-thatched huts, and he built them for me at £20 a time. Be-
tween such contracts I kept him employed, one way or another, on a regular salary.
Towards the end of my first year at N’Tubia he became involved in a strange affair.
The story, as it was told to me, was that he had gone off on a hunting expedition into
the bush, with a local man; he came back, alone, but his companion was never seen
again, alive or dead. Shortly after that, Yusufu sickened, and wasted away. When I
got back from my first three months leave, he was dead. All my African staff told me
that the ghost of his friend had come for him. It was pretty clear that he had been
poisoned, but why, and what the real story was, I never discovered, although the
explanation may be simple. It’s easy enough for the inexperienced and impulsive,
clutching a gun, tense and ready, to fire at the first thing that moves. Tom Lehrer
wrote ‘The Hunting Song’ about this, with the refrain,
‘… I went out to hunt some deer
On a morning bright and clear
I shot the maximum the game laws would allow
Two Game Wardens, seven hunters and a cow’
Lehrer, whose songs wear very well, was a lecturer in mathematics at Harvard.
Once, lunching in the Faculty Club with Arthur Casagrande, whose work I admire,
but who is Teutonically orthodox, and with two or three duller academics, when
conversation lagged, I said, ‘Is that amusing mathematician Lehrer still here?’ There
was a dreadful silence, ‘Lehrer’ must have been the dirtiest word in the Harvard
vocabulary; there was a dead-pan ‘no’. I’m happy to say that, whatever the reason he
left, when I last heard he was back at Harvard.

Christmas celebrations
Once settled at N’Tubia I soon learnt that a number of other mining men I had

Selected JournalS

known here and there in the past had been cast up on the Gold Coast, their only
refuge in a time of deep economic depression. Of them, to me, the most important
was John Brushfield, who had been in my year at the Royal School of Mines, where
we spent four years together. He was celebrated as a player of rugby football, as a
beer drinker, and as something of an eccentric; for behind his bluff façade, he had
perspicacity and taste, if a highly idiosyncratic taste. He had come to the Coast from
Northern Rhodesia, where exploration work had been curtailed when the price of
copper fell. As Christmas came near the general manager, Major Gilchrist, agreed
that his senior staff should take a few days off. Our little circle decided to celebrate
the Feast at Brushfield’s camp at Ettadoom, which was equidistant from our several
territories; and so, on Christmas Eve, we arrived there, each with his servants, his
camping equipage and a trail of followers.
I walked the 20 miles through heavy forest to the road-head, where I kept my
‘Bedford’ truck, and set off with my luggage and retainers crammed into the back,
driven by a relatively trustworthy ‘boy’. We trundled along the earth road, crossed
the sacred River Tano on the primitive ferry, past the town of Wiawso, where my
nearest white neighbour, the District Commissioner lived, and reached Ettadoom
shortly before sunset.
The branch road into Ettadoom was very rough indeed, no more than two ruts
through a clearing in the bush, and then, just before we reached camp, a snake
crossed the road ahead of us. There was nothing unusual about that; snakes often
crossed the road, cobras as black, and as shiny, as well-polished boots, and green
mambas, slithering along slim and deadly, their heads held high, their coarse, bright
green scales brilliant as metal; but this one was of a different kind: it was relatively
enormous. While its head was out of sight on one side of the road, its tail was well
into the undergrowth on the other, it must have been at least 10 ft long. I shouted
to my driver, ‘Kill him! Kill him!’, but he had more sense; he turned the dusky lilac
colour that negroes do, when they are very frightened, and cried, ‘No Massa! No
Massa! Be devil! Be devil!’ and jammed on the brake. The snake accelerated and
disappeared. I did not follow it. Maybe he had good reason to be frightened. I’ve
often heard stories of men who have run over a snake, and the wounded snake, in a
very bad temper has ended up in the car with them. True, I’ve never heard this story
at first hand, but perhaps the driver rarely lives to tell the tale. What this creature
was, I don’t know; it was certainly not a mamba; its colour was too pale, its scales
too small, and it was thick rather than lithe, and of course it was far too big. No one
has enlightened me; my own belief is that it was a python, for with snakes there can
be a considerable range of colour within one species. If it had been venomous, it
would have been a very ugly customer indeed.
The mining camp at Ettadoom, which was exceedingly primitive, consisted of
a few thousand square yards of cleared bush, encumbered with tree stumps, in the
midst of which was a small, steep-sided, conical hillock, crowned by three palm
trees, spared when the forest was cut down.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Ettadoom shaft: May 1934.

At its base, John Brushfield was sinking a shaft, which was then down about 100
ft. As he liked to do everything in the most primitive possible way, regardless of
cost, one way or the other, it was as nasty a hole as I’ve ever had the misfortune to
see. He had found an old ‘Cameron’ sinking pump, which he worked by steam, from
a second-hand boiler, rather than by compressed air; so the heat and the humidity
at the shaft-bottom were almost intolerable, even to Africans. The only way up and
down was by means of a vertical ladder, with no resting platforms. Before blasting,
having lit the fuses – for he had no electrical detonators – the ladder had to be taken
up at high speed; this was always a job he did himself.
At the top of the hill, beside the palms, was John’s personal establishment. A
tent, and a rather larger palm-thatched, bamboo shack, placed end to end, and inter-
communicating. The tent was his office, and the shack his bedroom. Through the
thatch of the shack there protruded two brass knobs, capping the head of a large
old-fashioned bedstead, which more than filled the building. Beneath the bed were
stored for safe keeping a couple of cases of dynamite; for the natives, given half a
chance would steal the stuff and use it for stunning fish, even though fisherman
sometimes lost an arm, a hand or a few fingers through mishandling it.

Yellow fever at Ettadoom

At breakfast time someone said, ‘Where’s Wenck?’ Wenck was one of the party, a
young Swiss geologist, very well liked by all that knew him. We paid a visit to his
tent, and found him in a very bad state indeed. Clearly it was not a hangover, and
in any case he was an abstemious young man. Someone suggested cerebral malaria.

Selected JournalS

Dicks volunteered to drive him into hospital, and the party went on, though in a
subdued fashion.
Next day there was bad news. Wenck had yellow fever, a disease from which there
could be very little hope of recovery. If a few mosquitoes had busied themselves
round that convivial table under the palms on Christmas Eve, the Bill of Mortality
for Christmas 1933 would have been high.
The medical authorities moved fast; we were clapped into quarantine, and
forbidden to return to our own camps for 10 days or so. This meant that Dunkwa
was overcrowded, and as the Company rest-house, opposite the market, was full, I
found myself quartered with Gilchrist, and three others, in the derelict bungalow of
a neglected rubber plantation, on the other side of the River Offin from the town.
There are few more lugubrious places than an old rubber plantation. It is gloomy,
for the trees are high and closely spaced, and there is no sound except that of the
rubber ‘nuts’ falling to the ground; and there is no visible wild life but for enormous
millipedes. The only person who seemed pleased with our accommodation was my
steward boy, who evidently thought my camp at N’Tubia beneath his dignity. He
went into my allotted room, to make my bed, and came out, beaming with pleasure,
clutching a jerry, and said, ‘Look Massa, we catch piss pot.’ Evidently in his eyes no
gentleman was really a gentleman, who had not got one beneath his bed.
We spent our days working on geological maps, and talking ‘shop’, and our
evenings in playing cards or chess, and in drinking a little too much, so breakfast
was a gloomy meal. Obviously each of us had in the back of his mind the thought
‘Who will be the next lucky lad?’, for yellow fever cases rarely come in ones; and the
morning headache made one think, ‘This is it.’
I went over to see Wenck: as there was no isolation hospital, his bed was in the
big first floor room of Gilchrist’s house, which had wire gauze on all its windows;
there he lay, under a mosquito net, either delirious or in a coma; it was impossible
to do anything for him. On the fifth day he became lucid for a short time, and we
thought there might be some hope, but this is a characteristic of the disease, and he
soon collapsed and died.

A funeral and wake

At sundown we went to fetch his corpse, and carried his coffin to the lorry, in which
we drove to the European graveyard, a patch of neglected hillside, outside the town.
I was a bearer, and as we laboured up the steep path, I feared that if one of us slipped
we might all go helter skelter down the hill, with the coffin on the top of us.
Wenck was a protestant, so the District Commissioner, in full uniform, with his
sword, met us at the graveside, to read the service. How splendid and how deeply
moving, is the liturgy of the Church of England.
‘Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty,
O holy and most merciful Saviour,
Deliver us now into the bitter pains of eternal death’
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Then we went back to the rest-house, and sat around in attitudes of dejection,
until John came in and said, ‘What about a drink?’ That night I learned how deep
seated is the human instinct for the ‘wake’. Without the least premeditation, the
evening became riotous. Bottle followed bottle, wilder and wilder became the
scene, with rugger scrums up and down the room, bar room choruses, and at last
the wanton smashing of furniture. The uproar was extraordinary, and the sprinkling
of civil servants who lived decorously outside the town heard it, and were deeply
shocked, saying, ‘Oh! Those dreadful mining people.’ Not so the Africans who
said, ‘Teh! be white man’s funeral custom, be fine custom.’ To them the only thing
missing was a human sacrifice.
In the early hours, I and my companions decided that it was time for bed. We
made our way down to the bank of the Offin River, which was quite wide, and
swift, with a few resident crocodiles. The ferry was a dugout canoe, hewn from the
trunk of a silk-cotton tree; it was drawn up on the bank, but for all our howls and
abjurations, there was no sign of the ferry man. So, faut de mieux, I shepherded my
little flock into that unstable craft, climbed into the stern, grabbed a paddle, and set
off. I made the passage without disaster, put my semi-conscious passengers ashore,
and set them on the path to the bungalow.
It must have been early sunrise, for beside the landing place I could see a
Shaddock laden with fruit. I lingered behind my fellow revellers for long enough
to eat three or four of them. How exquisitely refreshing they were in the cool air of
dawn, after that sad and drunken night.
Breakfast was late, glum and silent, and Gilchrist was more dour than usual, At
last he said:
‘How did we get home last night?’
‘I put you all in the canoe, and paddled you across,’ said I.
At last, released from quarantine, I hurried back to N’Tubia, which had become
my home.

Developing N’Tubia mine

After a few months at N’Tubia, I had settled down nicely; I had mastered ‘Pidgin’, I
had established amicable relations with the Chiefs of Aferi and N’Tubia, I had my
work force well under control and I had got through a good deal of work, and, even
more important, I had from the start maintained a sanitary gang to carry out an
anti-malaria campaign.
I had started a reconnaissance survey of the Concession, which was about 25
miles long and 15 miles wide. Luckily, the hunter’s track, which was my main link
with the outside world, ran more or less along its axis, from south west to north east.
I used it as a sinuous base-line, and from it set out at right angles, across the strike,
a grid of survey lines at half-mile intervals. They were cut through heavy forest.
From them, rock outcrops could be mapped and streams identified and panned for

Selected JournalS

gold. Soon after I had started on this survey, a young negro called Kwashi came into
camp and asked for a job as a surveyor, saying that he had been trained by the Gold
Coast Survey Department. He was tall, good-looking, and had nice manners; more
important he was perfectly competent for the sort of reconnaissance work that I was
doing, and he was a good draughtsman. I gave him the topographical work, leaving
myself to deal with the geology. A couple of years later I met an official of the Survey
Department and mentioned Kwashi to him, he pulled a face and said nothing, so
I suppose that Kwashi, like several others of my more competent employees, had
been in some sort of a scrape, and had taken refuge at N’Tubia mine.
At the mine, most of the second-growth had been cut down and burnt, so that
I was able to survey the outcrop workings, adits and the shafts. A most astonishing
quantity of old machinery now came to light, some of which, like a couple of
Cameron sinking pumps, I overhauled, ready for further use. There was even a small
Babcock Wilcox boiler, and two head of Holman pneumatic stamps; but these were
beyond repair. Every scrap of this heavy machinery must have been carried by men
from Accra or Sekondi in 1907.
My underground boys had opened up a warren of old workings above water
level, and I was recovering the old adit, much of which had collapsed, by spiling. In
some of these old workings the air was very bad, and I rigged up a wood-burning
furnace for ventilation. This 18th century device was most effective, and gave a
splendid draught.
The first significant event of 1934 was the arrival, unannounced, in early February,
of my first white assistant. It was nearly sundown, I was homeward bound after a
day’s mapping and was just stepping off a survey line on to the hunter’s path when
a boy went by, heading for my camp, with a black japanned trunk on his head, the
sure sign of a white man. I waited, he was followed by a dozen other bearers loaded
with camp equipment and food boxes, and, last of all, the inevitable galvanised bath
filled with odds and ends, chucked in at the last moment. Who would round off the
procession? The District Commissioner, at least.
I stepped out of the forest, and said:
‘Good evening.’
‘Good evening,’ said he, ‘Is your name Glossop?’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Who are you?’
‘My name is Fairbairn, I’m a geologist and your new assistant.’
‘Hmm,’ I said, ‘It’s the first I’ve heard of it’, for I was so settled that I really didn’t
want another white man around, ‘Come along to camp.’
Back at camp, his tent pitched, I invited Fairbairn to dinner, and then I found
that I was very lucky in my first assistant. He had been a scholar at Eton, and, after
reading geology at Cambridge, had done a post-graduate year in Mining Geology
at the Royal School of Mines. After taking part in an expedition to Spitzbergen he
had applied for a job with the Gold Coast Selection Trust. He was well read and a
talented amateur musician.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Fairbairn soon took over the geological work from me, so he was not stationed
at the mine, but lived in the bush, moving his camp as he extended his work into
fresh areas. Every second week he came in for stores, for mail and to refit. Then we
always dined together and I did my best to produce a decent meal if only from tins;
for I always kept some exotic Fortnum and Mason delicacies for such occasions,
and I had found a source of cheap drinkable wine at a French Mission Station down
south. I myself was fully occupied with investigating the old mine, and we were
both working very hard, so these fortnightly dinners were a welcome break. We
had many interests in common, including the works of William Blake and music
of Sibelius. I was delighted when, once, after dinner, he recited the whole of ‘The
Marriage of Heaven and Hell’. On rare occasions these evenings became hilarious.
The first time was to celebrate my birthday.
Sergeant Yusufu’s huts had a wide verandah running down their full length,
which was used as a living cum dining room; but for a low half-wall of bamboo,
it was open to the front. At the back was a bamboo partition, with two openings
leading into the bedrooms. Hanging from the roof was a ‘Tilley’ paraffin lamp,
with an incandescent mantle which gave a powerful light. After dinner, as we were
drinking a bottle of brandy which I had opened for the occasion, a violent thun-
derstorm blew up, and the torrential rain, brilliantly lit by the lamp formed a back-
ground to the scene. We had been talking about Shakespeare, and I could not resist
the opportunity, I plunged into the storm, and ‘I WAS Lear’; or so I thought. I
’Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples drowned the cocks!’
My steward boy dashed after me, carrying a lantern, and unwittingly played the
fool crying:
‘Massa! Massa! be no good, be no good at all, come for inside Massa, you go be
sick, maybe you die one-time’, but I was determined to reach that superb climax,
‘You sulph’rous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
SINGE my white head!’
I howled; but by then I was wet to the skin, the cold water had sobered me
and, more important still, that was all of Lear that I could remember, so I went in,
changed, and we got back to the brandy bottle.

Mine geology
The Gold Coast Geological Survey was formed in 1913. Under its first Director,
A.E. Kitson, the great deposit of manganese ore at N’Suta was discovered and, a
little later, important deposits of alluvial diamonds. It was natural that the search for
economic minerals should have been given priority, but, in addition, a geological

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reconnaissance of the whole colony was made, and the result published in a geological
map about 1930. In view of the very difficult nature of the country, this in itself was
a remarkable achievement, but, even so, relatively little had been undertaken in the
field of classical geology, in regional mapping or in geomorphology, so at N’Tubia
we started almost from scratch. Before Fairbairn’s arrival I had collected three
distinct types of unweathered rock from the waste dump by the old shaft. These
were a quartzite, though not a typical quartzite, for its content of dark minerals was
high; a white structureless rock, which I named ‘porphyry’, a portmanteau term then
used in Canada for any acid intrusive, associated with an orebody, though perhaps
felsite would have been a better field term; and last a green, slightly schistose rock,
a phyllite perhaps, originally a ‘tuff ’. There was an outcrop of the ‘quartzite’, with a
deeply grooved surface, beside the Bensupata River, and it certainly underlay a large
area in the northern part of the Concession.
Fairbairn, when he took over the geological work from me observed that the
‘quartzite’ showed a distinct foliation, and he renamed it ‘quartz schist’, a name
which stuck, although he added that ‘fine grained quartzitic para-gneiss’ might be
nearer the mark.
When we got underground, it was confirmed that the mine was situated
on the contact between the quartz schist and the phyllite, and that this contact
dipped steeply to the north west. Along it there had been some shearing between
the competent and the incompetent rocks, and along this shear zone there had
been intruded acid ‘felsite’ and then the gold-quartz vein. Two years later, on the
assumption that this structure was one limb of an anticline, I suggested that the
Company should extend their Concession to the south east, and when this had been
done I sent a young geologist, Hallam, out to make a reconnaissance. Sure enough,
he found the other limb of the fold, with quartz veins at the contact with the quartz
schist, but unfortunately their gold content was too low to be of interest.
It soon became apparent that our area was essentially part of a peneplain a few
hundreds of feet above sea level. Below this ancient surface the rocks had been
completely lateritised to a depth of about 100 ft. The peneplain was dissected by
a young river system, which in places had cut down to unweathered rock. Thus
the most likely place to find exposures was not on the hilltops, but in the beds of
streams shallow enough to be explored by wading.
There were outcrops on the surface of the peneplain, but these were small
‘inselbergs’, most of them no bigger than a really large haystack, and, as they were
widely spaced, they were not easy to find in thick forest. It seemed reasonable to
offer a modest reward to anyone who could guide us to them, but that failed. All
these rock exposures were sacred, and once it was known that we were looking
for them, we were deliberately misled. Of course, on our systematic traverses we
discovered several such outcrops, and, sure enough, beside them were little tables
or altars made of sticks, on which lay earthenware bowls each holding the fly-blown
remains of an offering. It was easy for a Pantheist to believe that these primitive altars

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

were such as Daphnis might have built and dedicated to Pan or Persephone; but the
Africans worshipped other Gods, they were obsessed by the brooding power of evil
spirits who must be placated. The offerings were not those of simple people to the
Gods of Nature, but the abject bribes of frightened negroes to devils.
My next recruit was a Cornish shift-boss called Tonkin, a native of Redruth. He
had spent several years working on the Indian Goldfield at Mysore. Mysore then
claimed to be the deepest mine in the world, running neck and neck with the San
Jean del Rey in Brazil, and the Crown Mine at Johannesburg. It was prone to rock-
bursts. On occasions, the wall of a deep working would fail, explosively, under the
immense weight of overlying rock. There was no escape if you were close by, but
these bursts set up air-blasts in nearby drives, which could be extremely dangerous,
even at a distance. Tonkin had been reduced to a state very like that of shell shock,
he was always on edge, and at any loud noise or sudden movement he might panic.
In a short time he quietened down, proved to be a good miner, and soon took over
the recovery of old workings from me. When I started sinking a new shaft, I put him
in charge, and he did very well.

Mine planning
Since Fairbairn had already taken over the exploration and geological mapping of
the concession, and with Tonkin as mine captain, I could think of the future. I knew
that the Company intended to develop the orebody, and that they were about to
let a contract to Mike Yuzolin for the extension of the road into the mine. I had
also seen a list of the mechanical plant that was on its way out. The two principal
items were a Bellis and Morcom, double expansion, 100 kW generator, powered by
wood-burning Robey portable boilers, and a 500 cubic ft air compressor. Not the
sort of thing that I should have chosen myself, but beautiful machines.
I got down to the drawing board, and before the road was even started I had
designed a power house, and indeed all the buildings, and the whole surface
layout of the mine. As the plant arrived from England, it was stored in a temporary
warehouse at road-head.
Meanwhile construction had started. Gangs of sawyers were set to work in
the bush. They would fell a great tree, of a species we called ‘mahogany’, which it
certainly resembled, dig a sawpit beside the trunk, which they then cut into long
sections. These they manoeuvred one after another over the pit, using only levers,
and a simple ratchet ‘jack’. There these sections were sawn, by hand, into baulks,
scantlings or planks, as was required. The top-sawyer stood on the trunk and the
bottom-sawyer in the pit. It was a pleasure to see this ancient skill in use. As the sawn
timber had to be carried to the mine on bush tracks, I designed so far as possible, for
timbers of small cross-section.
Thus the head-frame was built of 8 inch × 8 inch timbers. The power house I
designed from very light sections, well braced for wind loads. I had a few anxious
moments during exceptionally violent storms, but it gave no trouble.

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A small inselberg made a quarry for aggregate, and cement was brought in from
road-head as head-loads; thus all the machine foundations were complete before
the buildings were erected.
By the time that I was due to go on leave, much mapping and prospecting had
been done, and all would be ready to start serious underground development as
soon as the road reached camp.

The first year break

Back in London, for two months, I rented a large and ramshackle furnished studio
in Manresa Road, from an Italian cellist, and re-entered the society of Chelsea and
Low Bloomsbury. I gave breakfast parties which went on until midday, or later, top-
ping off bacon and eggs, mushrooms and sausages with tawny port. My evenings I
spent in that most delightful club, the ‘Gargoyle’. I wasted a good deal of time, but
I enjoyed myself. At a lunch party given by the McCleans, Douglas, who was an
epidemiologist, when he heard of Wenck’s death suggested that I should have injec-
tions against yellow fever, for the Welcome Institute were developing a vaccine and
were delighted to have guinea pigs. It was a daunting experience; after a normal-
sized injection, I spent two hours in the Welcome Museum, which was filled with
pickled viscerae, repulsive pictures and grizzly details of all sorts of infectious dis-
eases, including one whose name has stuck in my memory: ‘Rat Bite Fever’. Then I
had a second and enormous injection into the muscles of my belly, after which I left,
and, against orders. had a large whiskey at Euston Station.
Some years later, Douglas McLean told me that there had been several deaths
at the Euston Road laboratory, following laboratory infection with yellow fever. He
said that the then director was brilliant, but casual; when after these incidents there
was a major clean-up of the laboratories, a dead monkey was found behind one of
the refrigerators; it had been there for some time!

The Yuzolin incident

On my return from England for a second tour I found that I had missed a dramatic
episode by a couple of days. Mike Yuzolin had nearly been killed by one of his
gang. By his own account, he had been born in a small town in Minnesota, where
the Swedish language was commonly used, and indeed he spoke with a marked
Scandinavian accent. He had come to West Africa as an employee of the America
Peanut Corporation, presumably as agent, to purchase and ship peanuts to the USA.
Certainly he knew more about obscure places like Portuguese Guinea and the near
by Bissago archipelago than anyone else I have ever met. He moved on to the Gold
Coast while Takoradi Habour was under construction, and started in a small way as
a contractor. He did quite well, for he was brave, pugnacious and shrewd, in fact a
good old-fashioned labour-master.
By 1932 he had established himself near Twofoo, where he owned some land on
which was an abandoned mine.
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Expatriates were not allowed to own property in the Colony, but he had cir-
cumvented the law by marrying his mistress, Debörah. Debörah was an excellent
business woman, and a striking character; they made an effective team. When
Yuzolin had a road contract, they set up camp together on the job, and Debörah
would sell old clothes, mouth organs, and other such items to the boys. Truck Acts
or no Truck Acts, the money owing was deducted on pay day; there were no bad
By the time that I was due back from leave he had made good progress on the road
and his camp was only four or five miles from the mine. Pay day was approaching;
he had been into the bank in Dunkwa and had returned with some hundreds of
pounds, which he stored under his bed. He and Debörah slept heavily that night.
Next morning the money had gone. They had heard nothing, and nor had the dogs.
Evidently they and the dogs had been drugged.
Then by all accounts hell was let loose. Yuzolin lined up all his head-men and
interrogated them, and before he had finished a good many black eyes and bloody
noses had been distributed. Then a Moshi man told an unlikely tale; he knew
where the ‘thief-men’ had hidden the money, and he would lead Yuzolin to it.
They set off into the bush alone. Debörah, who didn’t believe the story, followed.
It was soon apparent that the man was lying, for there was no sign of anyone
having been that way before. Presently he pointed to a fallen tree and said, ‘It be
down there, Massa.’ As Yuzolin said, ‘If I had been fool enough to look, he would
have had my head off.’ As it was, he stormed at the boy, ‘You lie! You lie! Go
on, go on.’ The boy, seeing the game was up, swung round and slashed at Yuzo-
lin with his bush knife, once on each shoulder, partly crippling his arms. Yuzolin
charged and fell on top of him; but he hadn’t the strength to strangle him, and the
boy, though he could put no weight behind his blows, had his right arm, and the
hand which held the cutlass, over Yuzolin’s left shoulder, and succeeded in carv-
ing up Yuzolin’s back. Debörah caught up, and, hearing the cries, Yuzolin shouted,
‘Debo, Debo, get my gun’, for he had an automatic pistol in his belt. She dived for
it, and though she was twice slashed, she got it. ‘Shoot! Shoot!’, cried Yuzolin.
Shoot she did, but as the two men were rolling on the ground her first shot got
the wrong man. It broke a rib and went through Yuzolin’s lung. Her next shot was
better. Yuzolin felt his assailant convulse as the bullet went into him, he staggered
up, took the pistol from Debo, and, to be on the safe side, emptied the magazine
into the other fellow.
They got back to the road line, Yuzolin soaked in blood, Debo helping him. Soon
a party arrived from the mine, and Yuzolin was driven to hospital. He was a tough
character and was soon back on the job. He loved telling the story of this affray, and
particularly how air came bubbling out through the blood which flowed from the
bullet hole in his lung.
Debörah’s bravery was reported to the Authorities, and in due course she was
awarded a medal for her gallant behaviour. It was decided that as the Governor

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was shortly to pass through Dunkwa on his way north, he should stop, and present
Debo with her medal on the platform of the railway station.
Debo, who was a rich woman, owned a small house in Dunkwa, so she went
to it. The time came, a corporal and two police constables, very smart in their red
fezzes, khaki bush shirts and shorts, puttees and bare feet, with their rifles at the
slope, marched to her house to escort her. The corporal knocked, and Debörah
opened the door. No doubt she had many little matters on her conscience, and the
sight of a police guard was too much for her. She gave a piercing scream, turned,
dashed through the back door and headed for the bush. The police broke ranks,
chased, captured, and brushed her down. They paraded her at the station, just in
time for the Governor to pin a medal on her massive bosom. Her fellow citizens
were gratified; they didn’t much like north country tribesmen.

The Mine and village

Before Yuzolin had completed his road to the Bensupata River, I had already built
a bridge across it, and had completed a short stretch of road from this bridge to the
mine. Any time then on when the road link was finished, the machinery, already
waiting in a temporary store at the old road-head, could be brought in. It was then
that Hugh McNeil was sent to join my staff.
Hugh had taken his degree in mechanical engineering at the University of
Glasgow. He was a sportsman, and his deepest regret was that he had broken an
arm, while playing association football for Glasgow University, on the day before
he was to fight in the finals of the Scottish Universities Middleweight Boxing
Championship, a fight which it was regarded as certain that he would win.
He did an excellent job, for he recruited a gang of ‘fitter boys’, who answered to
names such as ‘Glasgow’ and ‘Bicycle’, put the fear of God into them, and made an
efficient team. They would go underground at any hour of the day or night, if there
was trouble with the pumps.
As soon as he had settled in, I handed all my drawings to Mac, and he got on with
the installation of plant, leaving me to deal with the many social problems which
arose as the road approached the mine, for then Africans of many different tribes
flocked in seeking work. Some of them, as I was later to learn, were on the run from
the police, but often none the worse for that. I had already had an awful warning of
the dangers of uncontrolled village building from events in the Tarkwa-Bibiani area,
where prospects were being developed. There, native building had been allowed to
flourish without plan, sanitation was non-existent, and slum conditions were the
immediate result. Malaria was rife, there was much sickness, and there had been
deaths among the European staff.
Consequently there was heavy drinking and demoralisation. In that area the
only way in which a Company could control sporadic building was to ask the Gov-
ernment to impose the ‘Towns Ordinance’. Once this was done an elaborate system
of Building Byelaws was enforced. Where only a, perhaps, short-lived, prospecting
operation was going on, the cost was unreasonable.
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

I discussed this matter with Darling, District Commissioner at Wiawso, who

made a brilliant suggestion. He remembered that his predecessor had persuaded
the then Paramount Chief of the Sefwis to enact a code of byelaws, intended to
control sanitation in the villages of his domain. In normal times they were rarely
if ever needed, and perhaps had never been enforced, but they were the perfect
solution to my problem at N’Tubia. All that I had to do was to call on Nana Kwame
Atta II, present him with a case of ‘Olifant’ gin, and a canvas bag of florins, and
ask him if he would graciously insist that his sanitary byelaws should be imposed
at N’Tubia, and furthermore would he be so kind as to appoint one of his sons as
Sanitary Officer, on a salary of £10 per month, paid by the Company. He agreed
at once.

Site clearance
By this time I had already chosen a site for a village on the other side of the
River Bensupata from the mine, and the European settlement, and had laid out a
rectangular grid of streets and avenues, appropriately named after bigwigs in the
Consolidated Goldfields, such as Agnew Avenue and Brodigan Street. My scheme
included a market place and a playing field.
Most of the immigrants had been docile enough; they had gladly accepted the
plots allotted to them, and were building more or less in accordance with my speci-
fication, which was not very demanding. There was one problem; an extraordinary
group of semi-savages, wholly alien to the Sefwi country, had arrived from the Ivory
Coast, and built a large circular zareba, containing a number of huts, right in the mid-
dle of my admirable town site, and nothing I could do would shift them.
A few days after my call on Nana Kwame Atta, my new Sanitary Officer arrived,
looking very smart in a double-breasted blue serge suit, bought from a mail-order
house in England. I interviewed him in my mud-brick office, and, pointing to the
zareba on the other side of the river, said, ‘See if you can persuade those people
to move out.’ He said, ‘Yes, Massa’ and went off to the village. Ten minutes later I
heard a loud crackling noise, and a tremendous hullabaloo, I went to my window,
and saw a great column of smoke; the zareba was a mass of flame. My new Sanitary
Officer had walked in, said ‘Get out!’ and set alight to the place. The inhabitants
were far too wise to make trouble; if they had done so their chances of getting back
over the Bia River alive in to French territory would have been poor, and probably
the French police wanted them anyway. Thus my new employee had solved this
difficult problem in less than ten minutes, and it seemed as if, with the authority of
the Nana behind me, I was not likely to have any further trouble in the village.

A lucky escape
After this minor show of force the village thrived, and once established on hygienic
principles it absorbed the constant flow of immigrants without trouble. As people
never appreciate benefits which are imposed on them apparently for nothing, but in
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fact at someone else’s expense, I sent to the Bell Punch Company for rolls of tickets
marked ‘1p’, and a bus conductor’s punch. One of the Sanitary Gang was appointed
‘Market Boy’, and as the local farmer’s wives and their daughters sailed in from the
bush, in brilliant ‘cloths’, symbols of their new prosperity, balancing great baskets
of yams, bananas, and corncobs on their heads, they paid ‘penny penny’ for a ticket
to buy a day’s ‘pitch’ in the market place. The takings made a contribution towards
clearing up the market every evening, and to building a mud-brick incinerator to
get rid of the banana skins and corncobs, so everyone was happy.
Hugh McNeil and I designed excellent public latrines, ‘Ladies’ and ‘Gents’, and
these were greatly praised by the whole village. Every morning influential citizens
would squat in a long row, exchanging gossip, as was done in ancient Rome, in the
rather more commodious ‘jakes’ at the Bathos of Caracalla, where solid citizens of
Rome discussed the day’s news, while seated at stool.
One evening, shortly after the opening of the new latrines, having bathed and
changed, I was sitting on my verandah having quinine and pink gin – a pink gin
with a good deal of angostura bitters, mixed with soda water, not plain water, was
known as a ‘Coaster’ – when Saidu, my chief watchman, came up from the village,
saluted, and said:
‘Massa, I come to report.’
‘What is it?’
‘Massa, pican fall for latrine.’
Since the latrines were 20 ft deep, this presumably meant a dead child, and a
body to be recovered under very unpleasant circumstances.
‘Go for mine, get ropes and ladder, I go, come one time,’ I said.
In a couple of minutes I had changed back into my boiler suit, and had started af-
ter Saidu. I found a messenger from the village talking to him, he turned and said:
‘Massa, people they catch pican.’
‘Pican be dead?’
‘No Massa, pican be alive, the woman go wash him small, after I bring them to
salute you.’
I went back to my gin. Presently a little procession wound up from the village:
Saidu, the woman carrying a three or four year old child on her hip, and the father,
looking a trifle foolish, as fathers generally do on such occasions, when out of the
limelight. Saidu lined them up facing me, tucked his swagger cane under his arm,
and spoke:
‘Mass, this woman go for to shit.’
‘Yes, Saidu.’
‘The pican he play small, he fall for inside latrine!’
‘But Massa, Nyame Ŏhŏ! God go look’um: if small shit dey for latrine the pican
go fall, Pom! He break himself, he go die one time; if plenty shit dey for latrine the
pican he drown: but Massa, small shit dey for latrine, Nyame Ŏhŏ! God look’um,
the pican catch plenty sense, he stand So, So.’

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

And here Saidu stood on tiptoe, with his right hand, palm down extended
horizontally just beneath his nose.
‘Nyame Ŏhŏ! God look’um; the people run they fetch ladder, they catch pican.’
I gave the mother two shillings, the pican sixpence, and they all went off

Village social life

I found a couple of small springs on the valley side, near the village, led them into
concrete cisterns, so the village then had a good water supply, and the well heads
became a gossiping centre for the women.
The playing field was a great success, for it enabled everyone, both players and
spectators, to let off steam once a week, and may have helped to keep the number of
crimes of violence very low, as it certainly was.
McNeil, who in his day had played soccer for the Scottish universities, organised
three teams: ‘Surface Boys’, the labourers; ‘Underground Boys’, the miners; and
‘Fitters’, which included carpenters and all the skilled men.
Every Saturday there was a match, which I watched from a grandstand of palm
thatch and bamboo, surrounded by my senior staff.
Money changed hands in bets, and the spectators were wildly enthusiastic;
often at the end of a game they would charge on to the field and there would be a
free fight. But by local standards it was good clean fun. This gave McNeil and myself
an opportunity that we never failed to seize; descending from the grandstand we
would walk with dignity to the clump of 20 or 30 human beings writhing in each
other’s clutches on the ground, we would identify a few of them whose recent
behaviour had been conspicuously bad, and having related the face to the bottom
would lay in with a will. After two or three of the best, the victim would realise what
was happening to him, and would squirm round and shout, ‘No, No, Massa, it no
be me.’ To which the answer would be, ‘Yes Glasgow,’ or Bicycle, or what his name
happened to be, ‘Be you, Be you.’ Whack! Whack! Eventually the scrum broke up
and they trooped off to the village, where the fires were smoking and the women
were pounding fufu.

Crime and ‘Crazy Man’

As regards crime, apart from the equivocal death of Sergeant Yusufu, I had only one
serious crime at N’Tubia, that is to say only one that came to my notice.
One evening Yarkoff, a young geologist, was dining with me when a messenger
came up from the village to say that there had been a fight, that two Moshi men had
been stabbed and that they were in the first aid hut. We went there and found one
Moshi sitting on a chair; he had a long shallow cut on his belly and his intestines
had been protruding. The first aid man had done a good job; he had pushed them
back, and bound them in with sticking plaster. The other unfortunate was lying on
the floor; he had a deep stab high up on his left arm, which had cut an artery and
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blood was pulsing out of it. I put on a tourniquet, stopped the bleeding, and sent for
my driver to take the two of them into hospital at Dunkwa.
While transport was being arranged, I asked what had happened. I was told
that three young Moshis shared a house in the village, one of whom, generally
known as ‘Crazy man’, was familiar to me. The other two had been teasing him,
when he went berserk and stabbed them both. When I asked where Crazy man
was, I was told, ‘He go for bush’, and when I asked where the knife was they said,
‘He take knife.’ I saw the two wounded men bedded down in a lorry and sent a
supposedly reliable man with them to loosen the tourniquet at intervals. What in
fact happened was that there was no one on duty at the Tano ferry, so they spent
the night there, the ‘reliable’ man went to sleep and did not loosen the tourniquet,
so the man with the stab in the belly survived, and the one with the stab in the arm
I fussed afterwards, but unnecessarily; with a homicidal madman loose I couldn’t
leave N’Tubia, and nor could I send the first aid man, in case there was an accident
on the mine.
After the lorry had left, I sent for Saidu and told him to collect some of his
fellow tribesmen and catch Crazy man, adding, ‘No flog him, bring him to me.’
Saidu and a dozen Moshis with lanterns and sticks set off in high spirits, and barely
were they out of sight when my steward boy came running down the hill, shouting,
‘Massa, Moshi man dey for bungalow.’ ‘Which Moshi man?’ ‘Be Crazy man, Massa,
be Crazy man.’ I got hold of a lantern, and Yarkoff found a fu-fu stick, about 2 inch
in diameter and 5 ft long. We walked up the hill, wondering what could be the
object of Crazy man’s visit. As I got near the house I saw him sitting on the steps;
he got up and walked towards me. I said to Yarkoff, ‘Watch it’, but I at once saw
the manic fit was over. His first words were ‘Mass I make complaint. ’ I held the
lantern out at arms’ length, and said, ‘Take canya and go for office.’ I beckoned
him to go ahead and Yarkoff and I followed him, Yarkoff with his fu-fu stick at the
ready. Once I had settled him into the office I sent a messenger to find Saidu and
his posse. Meanwhile I sat Crazy man in a chair and tried to get some sense out of
him, but he only knew a few words of Pidgin and I didn’t make any progress. At
first he was calm enough, but soon a bad fit came on, his face distorted with rage,
his eyes rolled and he looked the very embodiment of a maniac. Yarkoff, grasping
his club, was stationed behind the office door, but he was not needed, the Moshi
man calmed down.
This cycle was repeated three times, and I was happy to see Saidu back. I handed
Crazy man over to him with strict instructions not to knock him about, and next
day sent him to the police station at Wiawso with a suitable guard.
Eventually I was subpoenaed and went down to Sekondi to give evidence. The
Court was held in a large whitewashed room, the puisne judge was robed in light-
weight scarlet material, and looked impressive. The room was crowded with prosper-
ous negroes. In those days, any young man rich enough to complete his education in

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

England became a barrister, but in spite of their endeavours to stir up litigation among
their tribal friends and relations, the profession was overcrowded, and they had plenty
of time to spend in Court taking a professional interest in all that went on.
It became apparent that the man was mad, but I didn’t stay to hear the verdict,
as it was the only chance I ever had to visit the sea coast. Certainly it has a unique
character, with wide beaches, a fringe of palm trees and immense Atlantic rollers
breaking into sheets of surf, through which in the old days the Kroomen used to
paddle their big freight canoes.

Law and order at N’Tubia

The nearest centre of law and order was at Wiawso, the headquarters of the District
Commissioner, and the seat of the Paramount Chief. In my time the District Com-
missioner was a first-rate young man called Darling for whom I had the highest
regard. Later he was transferred to Israel, then governed by Britain under a mandate
from the League of Nations. I believe that he found conditions there intolerable,
and resigned from the Colonial Service. He took Holy Orders and was ordained a
priest in the Church of England. He made an excellent clergyman but, alas, he died
relatively young.
I never saw a native policeman at N’Tubia, except on the very rare occasions
when Darling visited me with his escort; but obviously he must have had informers
in a village which could so easily have become a trouble-spot. However, in so far
as I was concerned, I was responsible for making a mine in that lonely place with
a population of some 600 Africans of diverse origin. In addition to Sefwis, and
representatives of other coastal tribes, there were a good many north country boys,
who made excellent workers. There was a strong contingent of Moshis, a nation
rather than a tribe, whose capital city is Wagadougou, in French Equatorial Africa.
They are warlike – the old West African Regiment was largely recruited from them
– hard working and generally regarded as impenetrably stupid, though I did not
find them so. The Dagartys were intelligent and excellent workers, and there was
a sprinkling of Wangaras, who were totally unafraid of venomous snakes, and this
amazed the Sefwis, who suspected witchcraft.
Mr Johnson, the chief book-keeper, came from the sea coast near Sekondi,
where their ancestors had been in touch with Europeans for centuries.
However, one way or another, there I was, if not responsible to Government for
law and order in a small inter-tribal community, certainly responsible to the Gold
Coast Selection Trust for developing a mine from grass roots without unnecessary
expenditure, or public scandal.
My immediate problem was how to keep a hold on my mixed bag of employees.
If I stayed within the law, the only thing that I could do to an idle man, or an
incurable troublemaker, was to discharge him. Then he would stay in the village,
borrow money for food, and eventually take to theft or worse to keep body and soul
together. In one case I had a man whipped. I didn’t like it very much, though I knew

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that I would have been despised by the whole community if I hadn’t. But as a rule I
made use of fines, subtracted from the culprit’s weekly pay-packet. This, of course,
was strictly against the law, and if any boy, with a clean police record, had reported
me to Darling, I would have been very heavily fined myself. Still, it was either that
or failure and anarchy, so I fined them.

The Miners’ Welfare Fund

I had told Mr Johnson to put the fines into a separate account, and this he did. One
day he came to see me and said rather slyly, ‘Mr Glossop there is now a considerable
sum in the Fines Account, it is £33.12.0, what shall be done about it?’ At that moment
I had an inspiration and said, ‘Mr Johnson, I will start a Miners’ Welfare Fund’ –
shades of the University of Birmingham – ‘I will persuade the Company to put up
pound for pound, and the money will be spent for the good of the community and
on matters outside the financial responsibility of the Company.’
This was a bright idea, for it killed two birds with one stone by linking discipline
with hygiene, and, furthermore, no one could say that the Company profited from
the fines for they served an important charitable purpose, and generated a further
contribution from the Company itself. Not that that would have been an acceptable
excuse if I had been prosecuted.
The first use of the money in the Miners’ Welfare Fund was to eliminate ‘yaws’,
which was then endemic among the children in the village; but before describing
the anti-yaw campaign, it is appropriate to discuss tropical hygiene as practised at
N’Tubia Mine, for it shows how much can be done by the strict application of a few
simple rules.

Tropical hygiene at N’Tubia

During the four years that I managed N’Tubia Gold Areas, with an average of six
or eight Europeans living in the camp, there was not a single case of malaria, nor
for that matter of dysentery, nor of any other tropical disease. There were odd cases
of gonorrhea, among those who had neither the strength of character to practise
celibacy, nor ‘failing that’ the prudence to add a mistress, on a regular and adequate
stipend, to their household. Of course, sooner or later, such men, after a few drinks,
would send to the village for a woman, with the inevitable result of infection. In those
days before the discovery of sulfa drugs, or of antibiotics, gonorrhea was a painful and
troublesome disease. Latterly, when the doctor from Dunkwa visited the camp once
a month, he would spend the night at my bungalow. After dinner, when the table
had been cleared, he would get out his microscope, and together we would examine
‘smears’ from suspected cases; I became quite expert at spotting a gonococcus, and
so I often knew of the victim’s condition before he knew it himself.
My success with malaria I owed to a course of six lectures on Tropical Hygiene,
which were given in the fourth year at the Royal School of Mines. I attended them,
and, although there was no examination, I took them seriously.
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

When I first set up camp and started clearing bush, I appointed two boys to
spray all pools and streams in the neighbourhood and, as operations extended, the
sanitary squad was enlarged.
As my staff increased, certain anti-malaria precautions were made the respon-
sibility of the individual. I insisted that everyone should take five grains of quinine
sulphate every evening, which was generally washed down with a ‘Coaster’ of pink
gin and soda water, thus, as was the accepted custom, medication became associ-
ated with the social habit of the ‘Sun-downer’. Mosquito boots were compulsory
wear in the evening; these were soft leather high boots worn under the trousers, and
intended to protect one’s ankles from mosquitoes. Finally, everyone had to sleep
under a mosquito net. That is not a bad idea anyway, for it makes it unlikely that
a scorpion, or a venomous centipede, both of which grow to an enormous size in
West Africa, will find its way into your bed, unless put there by some disaffected
character after the bed has been made up.
Other precautions were a matter of administration, such as the supervision
of the Sanitary Gang. They sprayed oil on all streams and standing water near the
camp. They disposed of old bottles and tin cans which might collect water, and they
rooted out such plants as cannas, which hold water in their stems. Thus no breeding
place for mosquitoes could exist within half a mile of the camp.
One final precaution was a matter of planning. At that time it was usual to build
a kitchen separate from, but immediately adjacent to, the back of each bungalow.
There, the cook, and his family, lived as well as worked. The children were invariably
perfect little reservoirs of malaria, their swollen spleens thrusting out their bellies
like footballs, each crowned by a misshapen navel, bigger than a golf ball. An
Anopheles could fly in a few seconds from a meal on a malarial child, to top up from
the householder, sitting on his verandah, a mere 20 yards away.
To prevent this source of infection I built proper servants’ quarters, a group of
huts some 200 yards downwind from the Staff bungalows, too far for a mosquito
to fly. There the servants lived, and only cooks and steward boys, on duty, were
allowed to frequent the kitchens.
The outcome of all these precautions was successful. Once, a newcomer to the
camp had a severe attack of malaria, which he had acquired down south. But no
other cases followed, for the insect vector, which alone could transmit the disease,
was non-existent.
Thanks to these precautions, the state of health in the African village, as well as
in the European settlement, was above average; deaths were few and serious illness
rare as I well knew, for, before the road was extended, the nearest doctor at Dunkwa
was inaccessible to the natives. Such physicking as they got was from me.
After earlier experiments with a beautiful Borroughs and Welcome medicine
chest, I equipped myself with a very large supply of lint and bandages, and a great
deal of Epsom salts, aspirin and quinine, for I had found that if I could not benefit
my patients with these simple resources and plenty of hot water, then I couldn’t

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benefit them at all. It must be remembered that no modern drug, not even penicillin,
existed at that time.

The anti-yaws campaign

One disease that I could do nothing about, until the Miners’ Welfare Fund
produced some money, and which, as the village grew, became more common, and
more distressing, was ‘yaws’. This is a beastly complaint caused by a spirochaete, so
similar in appearance to the Spirochaeta pallida of syphilis that under a microscope
it takes a skilled pathologist to distinguish between the two. Nevertheless it is not
spread by venereal contact, but by flies, and it is common in young children. The
most conspicuous symptom is the occurrence of large spongy eruptions all over
the body, hence the scientific name of framboesia, for they do indeed resemble
raspberries. In a bad case the child may be covered with these sores from the crown
of its head to the soles of its feet, and such cases may prove fatal. Certainly they are
painful to the child, and pitiable to see. A fly, having settled on one of these sores,
may then visit a cut or graze on another child, and so the disease spreads.
Before the Miners’ Welfare Fund campaign, about two-thirds of the children
under eight years old had the disease. I had discussed this state of affairs with the
doctor at Dunkwa, who told me that yaws could be controlled by a simple drug,
much less costly than salvarsan, which in the pre-penicillin days was the only
remedy for syphilis. As soon as I had funds from the Miners’ Welfare Fund, I
set to work. I built a small dispensary, and arranged for the doctor to send up an
African dispenser, twice a month, to give injections to the afflicted children without
charge to the mothers. Six months later I could take my usual pre-lunch Sunday
walk through the village without seeing a single case of the disease, a happy state of
affairs. But Oh! what screams and yells there were on injection day.

Tropical meals
For the first year, and indeed until the new road reached camp, I lived off the country.
This meant chicken, and boiled yam, in place of potatoes. Luckily, there was plenty
of fruit – pawpaw, pineapple and bananas – all of which grew like weeds.
The event of the week was lunch on Sunday; then cook provided either palm
oil chop, or ground nut chop. Each was a chicken stew, the one cooked in a sauce
of palm oil, the other, which was the better, in a sauce made of powdered ground
nuts; in each case, many vegetables – okra, peppers, and so on – were added to the
stew and cooked with it. The dish came to table in the pot in which it had been
cooked, roughly spherical, made without a wheel by ‘coil building’, and black with
the smoke of many fires. It was accompanied by as many side dishes as the ingenuity
of the cook and the resources of the country would allow; grated coconut, chilli
paste, okra, banana and many others. The Sunday ritual was always the same, three
or four ‘Coasters’, beer with the chop, and a long siesta in the afternoon.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

On the first Sunday after Fairbairn’s arrival I invited him to lunch, and we sat
down to a ground nut chop. Suddenly he started up, black in the face and choking.
Then he fell and rolled on the floor, crowing like a cock. My first thought was,
‘My God; They’ve sent me an epileptic.’ After I had undone his collar, and poured
cold water on him he recovered, and told me what had happened. Like many Old
Etonians he was rather a greedy chap; he had tucked in with enthusiasm, and had
swallowed a spoonful of a paste made by grinding the small very hot red chillies
between two stones. It went down at a gulp, and the effect had been alarming for
both of us.
Occasionally I would buy a sheep, and for a time I employed a local hunter. He
was on the payroll and was given an allowance to buy gunpowder for his antiquated
flint lock Dane gun. He brought in the occasional antelope, and sometimes the very
beautiful little bright chestnut coloured Royal Antelope, no bigger than a hare. These
he snared, and, as he did not go round his traps every day, a lot of maggots had to be
brushed off before the carcass was butchered. It was scarcely worth the trouble, for
refrigerators were not to be had, so the animal had to be eaten immediately. I always
had a leg of lamb for dinner when one of the local chiefs had paid me a visit. These
visits had an elaborate ceremonial, and the protocol was strict.

A ceremonial encounter
My most frequent visitor was the Chief of Aferi; his calls were more than social
affairs for they involved an invocation of the tutelary deity of N’Tubia, pleading
that the mine should prosper. There was evidently an elaborate mythology of gold
among the Aken people, but I could learn nothing about it. An educated clerk once
said to me, when I questioned him, ‘Gold is a spirit’, and that was as far as I got.
A procession of 30 or so people would wind its way along the bush track into my
camp led by the chief, his gold-mounted state umbrella held over his head, loaded
with all his finery, gold rings, bracelets and necklaces. Then came his counsellors
and his ‘herald’, two or three of his favourite wives, and their children, followed by
a motley collection of retainers. My servants would set out a half-moon of chairs
and stools about 15 yards from my front door, and facing it, and a chair for me
immediately in front of the door. When we were all seated, I would stand up, walk
over and shake hands with the Chief, and return to my seat. He would then stand
up, drop his cloth from his left shoulder, walk across and shake hands with me. I
would then make another sally and shake hands with all the senior gentry in the
front row. The main part of the proceedings then started; the ‘herald’ stood up and
delivered a long oration, which included an address to all the Chief ’s ancestors,
by name, and there seemed to be an extraordinary number of them, followed by
lengthy and tedious prayers. All this took over half an hour, a long time under a
hot sun. Then my servants would present the Chief with a live sheep, which I had
bought for the occasion. After further prayers its throat was cut; this involved a lot
of sawing away with a rusty knife, and, strange to say, the sheep did not seem to

Selected JournalS

mind in the least; perhaps it was drugged. Its blood was spilled upon the ground,
and the carcass taken aside to be cut up.
I then called my steward and handed him a bottle of Olifant gin; with it he walked
over the Chief, knelt in front of him, handed him a large tumbler, and filled it to the
very brim. The steward returned to stand by me. The Chief stood, addressed his
ancestors, and poured a libation of gin on to the sacrificial blood lying before him
on the ground. The skill with which he limited this offering to a very few drops was
amusing to watch. The Chief then sat down holding his bumper of gin, the herald
knelt in front of him and screened his face by holding up a dirty handkerchief,
stretched between his hands. When half a minute later he removed this screen, Lo!
and Behold!, half a pint of neat gin had vanished.
The glass was then refilled, and one by one, in order of seniority, the members
of the Court would kneel before the Chief, he proffered the glass, and held it while
they drank; half a glass for counsellors, down to a modest swig for wives. Then
the picans were each given a nip, and trotted off rubbing their little bellies. The
glass was refilled for the last time, and downed by the Chief behind the ceremonial
handkerchief; then, after a short speech of farewell, he led the way back to Aferi, his
followers weaving unsteadily through the bush. I had it, on good authority, that a
short way out of camp they always lay down and slept it off. My share was a leg of
lamb which I ate for dinner that evening.

Mining accidents
In my four years at N’Tubia, apart from a number of minor casualties, there were
only three serious cases of injury to men at work, and all were fatal.
The first occurred very shortly after I got to N’Tubia. I had a gang clearing bush
and one of them slashed himself deeply with a bush-knife. The wound was at the
very base of his shin, just where the leg joins the foot. It didn’t seem a case for a
tourniquet, so I put on a graduated pad and checked the bleeding. I told his family
that he must stay lying down with his foot slightly raised on a support, and went
off for a day of geological mapping. When I got back in the evening, a deputation
asked me to see him. They had taken off the bandage to see how the wound was
doing, they couldn’t put it back, and bleeding started again. They seemed to expect
a miracle; I could only tell them that he was stone dead, and that was the end of
On my third year there was a nasty accident in a drive on the 300 ft level. A slab of
rock came down, not from the roof but from waist-level on the footwall; it crushed
the leg of a boy who was passing at that moment. He suffered a bad compound
fracture, and though I got him into hospital at Dunkwa as soon as possible, he
died. A young assistant from the Department of Mines came up to conduct an
enquiry, and I was of course present, since if there was any question of negligence
on the part of the management, I should have been held responsible. He spent the
morning interviewing witnesses and getting nowhere. Over lunch I had an idea, for

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

I was beginning to understand the African way of thought. I said to the Inspector,
‘Do you know what the trouble is? You and I make the basic assumption that this
incident was accidental, even although the accident might have been avoided; to
these people the word “accident” has no meaning, the very concept of “accidental”
is outside their range of thought. To them everything is “willed”, either by another
person, or a witch, or an evil spirit.’ I heard later that this minor contribution to
psychology was accepted by the Department of Mines, and that young men were
advised of it.
The third case happened on night shift. A boy was stepping into the sinking
bucket when, without waiting for the signal bell, the driver moved the engine and
the boy was killed. I had had some doubts about this driver, and, although he had
a government certificate, I got rid of him. If he could have killed me he certainly
would have done so.

Shaft sinking
During the second half of my second tour, before the road came in and before
the power house was working, I had already started to sink a new vertical, three
compartment shaft, designed to cut the lode at about 250 ft.
Even to the most seasoned mining man, to start sinking a new shaft is exciting,
for it is a ‘venture’, a capital investment that is something of a gamble. Then, too,
shaft sinking calls for particular skills, and, to some people, and I am one of them,
it makes a strong appeal.
On the site of this new shaft, the ground was laterite, a residual soil, the product
of intense tropical weathering. Whatever the chemical history of laterisation, the
outcome was a material almost ideal for shaft sinking. It could easily be taken out by
hand labour, and yet stood vertically without support until a concrete lining could
be placed. This happy state of affairs continued to a depth of nearly 100 ft, and was
followed by a transition zone, only some 6 ft deep, from laterite into apparently
unweathered rock. In this zone water was encountered for the first time.
Before the road reached camp, I sank the shaft, by hand excavation, to a depth
of 30 ft, using a home-made Scotch derrick, rigged up from three small tree trunks,
some 8 inch in diameter and 20 or 30 ft long, and a crab winch. This first section is
lined with concrete and a shaft collar of concrete put in to carry the weight of the
shaft lining, and to act as a foundation to the head-frame. Thus as soon as the road
was complete, the winding engine with its boiler could be installed, the head-frame
built, and sinking carried down to bedrock. It was only in the transition zone where
there was water that we had a little trouble, and before sealing the concrete lining
into bedrock, we had lost a little ground.
A grout pan was rigged up from a 9 ft length of 8 inch steam barrel carrying a cap
with a plug valve, attached to which was a length of grout houses and, at its upper
end, a cap and valve to which was attached an air hose. The miners having gone
below, the bucket was removed at the surface, and the grout pan hung in its place.

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Half a dozen surface boys squatting round the shaft collar, and spurred on by the
promise of palm wine, stirred up a sand–cement grout in old five gallon petrol cans.
This they emptied into the pan; the cap was screwed on and it was lowered away to
the shaft bottom, where the miners attached the grout hose to the group pipes, and
turned on the air valve and the grout valve. The effect was remarkable; the grout
went in under a pressure of 80 lb/sq. in and water squirted out of scarcely visible
cracks in the lining well up the shaft.

The second year ends

By the time I was due to go on leave for the second time, the plant was installed, the
shaft was into bedrock, and all was ready to get on with hard-rock mining. Shortly
before I left, my temporary replacement arrived. His name was MacLeod, and he
was the finest example of a wild highlander that I have ever known. He was short,
very broad shouldered, with dead-black hair, a fine crop of which sprouted from
each nostril. He normally spoke in a whisper. In his bungalow, in the evening,
he would rise from his chair and move towards his guest in a crouching posture,
clutching a bottle, and saying; ‘You WILL haf another whisky, Yess!’; they generally
did. He came originally from Portree, in the Island of Skye, where his father had
been a Minister in the Wee Free Kirk, and by his own account his childhood had
been, even by Calvinist standards, pretty horrible.
Before he came to the Coast he had been general foreman on a tunnel job in
South Wales, and he seemed competent to carry on with the shaft, which was now
in solid rock. I knew that in any case the mechanical side of things would be safe with
McNeil. In fact McLeod made a mess of it, there was a succession of monumental
rows, and he succeeded in getting the shaft 12 inches out of plumb. By the time I got
back he had been sacked, and McNeil had taken over.
A few days before I was due to sail, I drove to Dunkwa in my Bedford truck, taking
with me Barclay, the accountant from Dunkwa, who had been visiting me, and in
the back several boys and our luggage. About 20 miles short of the town, I came to
a stretch of road where a Public Works gang had cleared the ditches of a slimy mud
and carefully spread it over the surface. The car went into an uncontrollable skid and
turned half-over, which was perhaps better than going into the bush, and charging
a tree head on. Barclay was catapulted out, and the boys flew in every direction. I
remember lying in the road with the car, on its side, above me, speculating as to
whether it would topple on to me, or stay where it was. It stayed, but it was a very
near thing.
Hearing wails and lamentations I pulled myself together, and rounded up the
boys. Luckily, no one was seriously hurt, not even Barclay, although, as I was to
discover when the excitement wore off, I was myself a bit the worse for wear.
The car was in a terrible mess. I got the gang to pull it back on to its four wheels,
and to chop off all the wrecked top hamper with bush knives. Luckily it started
without trouble, so we got aboard and set off for Dunkwa, on a sinuous course, at

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

about 10 miles an hour, for among other damage the steering wheel had been badly
buckled when I had been thrown against it.
Back at the rest-house I was in high spirits and had a large drink, the first of the
day, before sitting down to lunch, when I suddenly felt exceedingly queer. I walked
over to the hospital, and saw the doctor, who told me that I had broken two ribs,
and so I stayed in Dunkwa till the time came to catch the boat train. I passed most
of the voyage lying in a deck chair reading ‘The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’, a volume
which weighs several pounds, and was difficult to handle in my condition.

Mine Development
My third year at N’Tubia was devoted to mining, the underground development
of the orebody, since the sanitation, housing, and law and order issues were under
control. The staff had grown to a Mine Captain, two shift bosses, two geologists, a
fitter and a young mining engineer, and of course the chief mechanical engineer,
McNeil, who eventually took over the management from me. There were also odd
company prospectors, who came for varying periods, as for example when I found
a few small diamonds on the Concession.

Mine safety
My chief interest was the new shaft, and in particular safety, for shaft sinking is nec-
essarily dangerous, since conditions at the working face are most trying.
First there is the indescribable racket of powerful pneumatic drills working in
the confined space of the shaft bottom. It is impossible to communicate; you can
put your mouth to another man’s ear, and yell your head off, but he will hear noth-
ing; also the visibility is bad, for the exhaust from the drills forms a cold fog, in
which one stumbles about as best one may, and lastly there is the water. Nowadays,
if there is any likelihood of a strong flow of water from fissured rock, pressure grout-
ing ahead of the face is used at once. In the 1930s, ‘cementation’ was only resorted
to if the sinking pumps were overpowered. The water flowing in freely cascaded on
to the miners, who wore very heavy oilskins with aprons, and oil skin hats such as
one normally associates with lifeboat crews. This protective clothing was necessary,
for the impact of a torrent of water falling from a considerable height was almost
painful. Under such circumstances men become careless, so that safety should be
the chief anxiety of the Master-sinker. I had learnt this from the manager of the Co-
lonial Mine at Cobalt, Ontario, a remarkable man called Beattie. He had been born
on a ranch in Wyoming, and was a fine horseman; indeed, he always kept a horse
and never used a car if he could avoid it. He left Cobalt to sink the Froud Shaft at
Sudbury, Ontario, then the largest, and one of the deeper shafts in the world. There
he spent much time in the shaft, checking every possible source of danger; climbing
around the timbering, looking for loose rock and so on. His miners had complete
confidence in him and concentrated on the job in hand, knowing that they had
nothing to fear from overhead.
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Beattie’s end was sad, but in character. He celebrated the completion of the Froud
Shaft with a tremendous party and then, still remarkably drunk, rode into town. In
those days the only building of any size in Sudbury was the hospital, which, rather
surprisingly, had an impressive flight of steps leading up to the entrance. Beattie
couldn’t resist the challenge, he rode his horse up the steps, turned and started down.
The horse stumbled, Beattie was thrown, broke his neck, and died on the spot.
I adopted Beattie’s example underground, though not, fortunately, on the
surface, and spent a lot of time clambering about among the timber sets checking
all danger points. It was as well that I did so.
It should be understood that in sound rock and with suitable precautions a shaft
can be sunk some 50 ft ahead of the timber, and the timbering advanced once a week.
On this occasion I was sitting on the last set of timber, looking down on the gang, some
30 ft below, when I noticed, just beneath me, a crack, which suggested a loose slab of
rock. I could not make the shift boss hear me for the drills were running, so I rang for
the bucket, went down to the face, and sent the gang up, then took the shift boss up
with me to the last timber set. I showed him the crack which didn’t seem to impress
him; I touched it with a scaling bar, and a ton of rock fell into the shaft bottom; that
shook him, indeed it shook me a little. I didn’t expect it to be hanging by such a tiny
thread. Certainly two or three local men and perhaps the shift boss himself, a decent
type from Newcastle-on-Tyne, owed their lives, at one remove, to old Beattie.

Final stages
The rigours of shaft sinking were relieved with a little metallurgy. Obviously an
Assay Office would be needed as soon as the Mill was built, and the mine was
in production. In the meantime it would be cheaper to assay the many samples
coming in from the development drives at the mine, rather than to send them down
to Tarkwa. I designed the laboratory on the lines of the one in the O’Brien Mine in
which I had worked at Cobalt. But whereas at Cobalt we had an electrical muffle
furnace, and although it had been my intention to build a wood-fired reverberatory
furnace at N’Tubia, Head Office intervened and sent me an oil-fired muffle. Perhaps
they were right; it might have been difficult to maintain a steady temperature with
wood firing.
I did the assaying myself until I had trained one of my younger engineers to
take it on.
The new vertical shaft intersected the lode at a depth of about 250 ft, and there
I cut a shaft station, and started a development drive, which, before I went on leave
for the last time, opened up the lode for sampling over a length of about 700 ft. The
average width of the orebody was about 14 inches and the average gold content one
ounce per ton of ore. Just before my departure the character of the mineralisation
changed and instead of narrow high grade there was a mass of quartz several feet wide
and running about one pennyweight per ton. This was an interesting phenomenon,
and I wish that I had had more time to investigate it.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Towards the end of the year I knew that I was slowing down. The climate, the
large doses of quinine and less exercise were all having their effect. I had no wish to
settle down for life as an ‘Old Coaster’, but did look forward to erecting a treatment
plant, and to seeing the mine produce its first gold brick.
I had been fortunate in being sent to N’Tubia in the first place, and then to
have been left there with a free hand which gave me the unusual opportunity of
developing a mine in a remote place from the very start. Nearly every detail of the
work had come off my drawing board, and had been built under my supervision. So
when I went home for the third time it was my intention to return once more to see
the mine in production, and then make a change.
A few weeks before I was due to sail a young Canadian arrived to take over while
I was on leave. He was a pleasant enough fellow, but negligible as an engineer. He
brought with him his wife, a pretty, amiable young woman, though scarcely fitted
to life on the Coast.
I hastily arranged for a shack to be built in a clearing about half a mile out of camp,
on the trail to N’Tubia village, and I handed my own house over to the newcomers.
I was happy to be back in the bush, and clear of whatever new social set-up must
now develop in the camp. My hut was quiet, and every evening a troop of monkeys
would appear in the high trees overlooking it, and were as much interested in me
as I was in them.
One night, in the small hours, I was woken by a loud crackling sound. I looked
out to see a blaze in the direction of the mine. I pulled on my boots, and walked
over to find McNeil’s house a mass of flames, and Mac in his pyjamas stamping
round it making menacing Scottish noises, for he had lost all his possessions. It was
obviously a case of arson. Mac must have been a bit rough with one of the criminal
types that he employed, and the boy, having waited till everyone, including the
watchman, was asleep, put a match to the place, and how is burnt! After that Mac
joined me in my retreat, and we got on very well together.
On my last Sunday Mac and I were just starting on our third pink gin, while
waiting for lunch, when up the trail came the Chief of N’Tubia with his retainers. ‘Oh
God,’ I said. ‘Not a palaver now.’; but surprisingly it was just a social call. I told my
boys to set out the chairs for company, and to bring a bottle of Olifant gin. We settled
down to a chat. By this time I had picked up quite a bit of Twi, and given another year
would have spoken it reasonably well. The Chief, after the usual politenesses, said
that he had a serious problem and he would like to discuss with me. There were many
evil, and disaffected people in his tribe, who were plotting against him.
I was inspired, and said in Twi of a sort, ‘My friend, you are a good man, Nyame
Ŏhŏ; God will preserve you. You will beat your enemies.’ The Chief was visibly
moved; he thanked me, said I had given him strength, and that on my return from
England he would give me one of his daughters in marriage. After another gin all
round, he left, and Mac and I settled down to lunch. I felt that to avoid marrying into
the local aristocracy might require tact but, as matters turned out, I was not to be

Selected JournalS

faced with this social problem. A few days later I left, never to return. McNeil took
over the mine, but soon quarrelled with the Consulting Engineer and moved to
Tarkwa. I believe that in 1939 it produced about 10,000 ounces of gold, so although
no new orebodies were discovered, I suppose that it paid for itself.
My four years at N’Tubia had not been wasted. I had been happy there, I had
had excellent mining experience, and I had learnt how to live in the tropics. I liked
the local people, and got on well with them. They were highly emotional, but they
had a sense of humour. Whatever religion they professed, and it often varied from
Methodist to Roman Catholic, according to the last missionary to have visited
the district, they were basically pagan and animist. To them every rock, tree and
stream was numinous, a state of mind that I could gladly share. But there was also
a dark side to their nature, many spirits were evil and must be placated, and human
sacrifice was still practised.
A few days after my return to London, at the conclusion of my third tour on
the Gold Coast, I called at Mowlem’s Head Office and invited Harding to lunch
with me. In the course of conversation he told me that the firm had been awarded
an important contract for the extension of the Central London Underground
Railway, eastward into Essex. That part of the tunnel passing through the sandy
alluvial deposits of the River Lea would be driven under an air pressure of about
13 lb sq. in, to counter-balance the head of water in the ground above it. When
complete, it would be the longest shield driven tunnel constructed in compressed
air in the world. He had been appointed agent in charge of the work.
I asked him what was happening to the Siemens Schuckert–Mowlem Partnership
which he had managed for three years, and he replied that no suitable person had
been found to take it on.
Next day I went to the office of Consolidated Goldfields Ltd. to discuss my
contract for another year on the Coast; for I was looking forward to building
a treatment plant, and getting N’Tubia mine into production. I was interviewed
by a relatively young Australian engineer, who had just been transferred to Head
Office staff, on which, as matters turned out, he did not distinguish himself. He told
me that it was proposed to transfer me to the Ariston Mine, as an assistant Mine
Captain. Presumably this was regarded as advancement. I had visited the Ariston
Mine, which I found a squalid, and ill-managed concern, and nothing would have
induced me to work there.
I said I would think it over, went to the nearest public telephone, rang Mowlem’s,
asked for the job of running the Siemens partnership. I was given it on the spot. It
was the most fortunate decision of my working life.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

the Second World War

Shortly after returning from the Gold Coast in May 1937 Glossop rejoined John Mowlem
& Co. and had the good fortune to take over an embryonic business in ground engineer-
ing. This was based upon a partnership with Siemens Schuckert that had been managed
by Harold Harding since its inception in 1933 and he gives an account of these early
beginnings in Chapter 7 of his autobiography (Harding 1981, p. 134).
The initial focus of the partnership was the development of new approaches to
grouting and groundwater lowering. However, the business plan prepared by Glossop in
1939 provides for the first time a framework for a broad-based geotechnical contracting
business which, after the war, was to emerge as Soil Mechanics Ltd. A copy of his business
plan can be found in the section Selected Writings (p199). Glossop published an account
of the pre-war activities, and in particular the establishment of a soil-testing laboratory
on the Chingford Reservoir project, and this paper ‘Geotechnology and Géotechnique’ is
also included in Selected Writings (p182).
In the archives of Soil Mechanics Ltd. can be found reports dating from the early
months of 1939 and one, Report SM5, is of particular interest. It gives a detailed account
of the visit made by Harold Harding and Rudolph Glossop on January 11th 1939 to
the first immersed tube tunnel, the MAAS tunnel, under construction in Rotterdam. This
visit was fortuitous as both Harding and Glossop would have the opportunity to apply
some of the construction methods they saw when building the Phoenix Units in London
Docks some four years later.
The advent of the war was to halt the plans to develop a geotechnical contracting
business and Glossop’s journal on the Second World War opens with a phone call to the
Chingford site by Sir George Burt, the Chairman of John Mowlem & Co.

Anti-tank defences
My ‘phoney war’ ended abruptly one day in June 1940. Sir George Burt’s secretary
telephoned to me at Chingford and said:
‘Sir George wishes you to attend a meeting with an officer of the Royal Engi-
neers, the rendezvous will be at 11 am tomorrow outside the “Blue Anchor” at
Blindley Heath.’
When I asked ‘Why?’, he said that he did not know, but that he thought it had
something to do with the War Office and the Federation of Civil Engineering
Contractors. This was not much help and it was sometime before I learnt the true
There was in existence an agreement between the War Office and the Federation
of Civil Engineering Contractors to enable the full resources of the contracting
industry to be switched at once to defence works in an emergency, and now with the
Germans on the French coast the emergency was with us. Basically the country was
divided into zones, to each of which was appointed a leading firm to act as Managing

Selected JournalS

Contractor. These firms had powers to co-opt other firms as subcontractors, and
were expected ‘to get on with it’; they had considerable powers. Mowlem’s had a
large zone in Surrey and Sussex, and Eric Burt was the director responsible for it.
When I set out for Blindley Heath, I had not the faintest idea why I was going
there. Outside the ‘Blue Anchor’ I was met by a colonel and a little group of junior
officers, all ‘sappers’. Naturally they assumed me to be fully briefed; so I kept my
mouth shut as we walked down the road, across the River Eden, to the southern
edge of the heath. By then I had learnt that I was responsible for the construction
of an anti-tank ditch, together with a great number of pill boxes, some intended for
Bren guns, some for anti-tank guns, and that this line extended from Edenbridge
to Reigate, a considerable piece of work. Then came the question, ‘When can you
start?’. I replied that I hoped it would be very soon, but that I must get back to my
office to see what plant I could mobilise, and how quickly I could transport it to
Blindley Heath. He replied, ‘Of course, meet me here at 11 am in three days’ time to
let me know how you are getting on.’
I lunched at the ‘Blue Anchor’, and seeing that they had a large single-storeyed
building where they served food to charabanc parties, I hired it on the spot as an
Driving back to Chingford I thought to myself, ‘What would Wynne-Edwards do
if he found himself in my position?’, and before I reached my office I had concocted
a scheme which I thought, for its audacity, with just a touch of panache, was worthy
of him. The time I had spent as his assistant at Chingford had not been wasted.
I would send the whole of the Chingford fleet of 100 HP D8 ‘Caterpillar’ tractors,
then the largest in the country, down to the site at once. They would travel by road
on their own tracks, not carried on low-loaders, for that would have been far too
slow, and they would tow scrapers and other excavating machinery. Lorries would
take the men, and a good supply of tools and spare parts, in case of breakdown en
route, and as the nucleus for a repair shop on site.
I telephoned to Sir George Burt, told him of my plan and asked for his permission
to go ahead; he gave it at once. I then telephoned to the Chief Engineer of the
Metropolitan Water Board, and asked for his permission to stop the Chingford job,
and transfer all the mechanical plant to defence work; he agreed to this; I had the
green light, and it only remained to be ready before I met that colonel again.
I called for Wallie Dobson, my general foreman, his assistant foremen, and the
foreman of the ‘Black gang’, and told them what was to be done; they were delighted,
for they too had suffered during the phoney war. Wallie said the he would be ready
to move off early on the morning of the next day but one, and he suggested starting
at first-light, so as to get through the City and over Tower Bridge before the rush
hour. Then, once clear, it would be a straight run down the A22 to Blindley Heath
and the rendezvous. It remained to get police permission. I rang Scotland Yard, told
them what I proposed, and asked their permission to go ahead. I suggested that they
telephone to the Director of Fortifications and Works and see what he had to say

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

about it. Soon my telephone rang; it was Scotland Yard. ‘Yes you can go ahead, an
escort of motorcycle police will be at Chingford at 5 am the day after tomorrow.’
The passage of my fleet through London astonished all who saw it, for at that time
Caterpillar tractors were quite unknown to the public, and people were impressed
by their size and by the noise they made. It was widely believed that they were secret
weapons on their way to the coast, and this perhaps gave encouragement to many
who were sadly in need of it.
In the days before the second war, the civil engineering work force were still
well-seasoned men, with a long tradition behind them. Among both foremen and
navvies, many came from families associated with public works for generations, at
least since the railway boom of 1840 to 1850. They were a good lot, tough and
hardworking, and used to sleeping ‘rough’, for it was a matter of pride with them
as a job came to an end to set off on foot to seek work on some new contract, and
never paying for lodgings.
Wallie formed a ‘lager’ for the plant near our rendezvous with the army; he chose
a field surrounded by high hedges so that it was invisible from the road. There the
men bivouacked happily, for they were within quarter of an hour’s walk of the ‘Blue
Anchor’. When I arrived for my next site meeting, the colonel was already there
with his staff in attendance. His first words were ‘When can you start ?’ I replied, ‘At
once.’ He looked astonished and said ‘What do you mean by that?’ ‘In ten minutes
if necessary, come and look.’
We walked across the road into the lager; and a remarkable sight it was, the
largest fleet of such equipment in Britain, the men round their machines checking
fuel and oil, and ready to go.
I felt that it was now my turn, and I said, ‘You see, Sir, we’re ready to start, what
am I to do?’. That was evidently a poser, the spirit that built the lines of Torres Ve-
dras was lacking.* We walked back across the road to our starting place. In any such
situation there is always one person who takes the lead, this time it was a young ma-
jor in the Royal Engineers, whom I had already noticed as an outstanding person.
‘May I suggest, here, Sir!’, he said, so that was agreed, and ‘Which way shall we go?’, I
asked. ‘This way,’ said the major, moving off in a westerly direction; we followed him
and soon came to a hedge. Land on the heavy Weald clay had been neglected for
many years, and this was less a hedge than a dense thicket of half-grown trees. We
stopped and looked at it; I said, ‘I think that I can help – Wallie, fetch a bulldozer.’
Wallie grinned and went off; he was soon back driving a D8 with the official driver
sitting beside him. Wallie stopped opposite the hedge, then he opened the throt-
tle wide; with a roar the machine charged into the hedge, like an angry elephant,
then, again rather like an elephant, it slowly waggled out backwards dragging with it
branches and roots. Wallie went in again, and the third time broke through into the
next field. The major looked at me and said, ‘May I borrow it?’ ‘Yes, of course, take

* The Torres Vedras were lines of forts that Viscount Wellington ordered to be built in secrecy
during the Peninsular War to defend Lisbon and were named after a nearby town.
Selected JournalS

it for as long as you like.’ He jumped up beside the driver and was off on a reconnais-
sance. From then on we never had to wait for instructions as to our line.
In 1940 the Corps of Royal Engineers, though themselves as efficient as ever,
had no contact with the big civil engineering firms, and probably had had none
since Brassey built railways for the army in the Crimea. This state of affairs was
remedied after the war, but at the time of which I write I suspect that they looked
upon contractors as lewd fellows of the baser sort, not to be trusted. Evidently they
did not quite know what to make of John Mowlem & Co., but they were soon to
learn. A few days after the start of work, Sir George visited us; he was met by a
young officer who showed him a completed length of anti-tank ditch, and explained
its purpose and design. Sir George Burt listened attentively, and then said, without
a trace of affectation: ‘I see, you want something that a bold hunter wouldn’t face,
and that a good hill pony couldn’t scramble through.’ There was a silence, and then,
‘Yes, Sir.’
Soon I had chosen a number of subcontractors and we were ready to start on the
construction of concrete pill boxes. The trench was laid out in zig zags, and the pill
boxes were sited at every other angle, so that they could enfilade the trench, Bren
gun types alternating with those designed for anti-tank guns. Soon we were told
only to build Bren gun pill boxes; there were not anti-tank guns to put in the others.
I had heard that our army in France had been equipped with two-pounder guns,
and that these were useless against the German armour, so maybe it was as well that
they were left behind. Later I was instructed to complete one anti-tank gun pill box
with a special gun mounting as an experiment; when the gun arrived I recognised
it to be a Hodkiss gun of a type fitted in tanks during the first war; to such straits
were we reduced.
Soon there was another scare; a fault was found in the design of the Bren gun
mounting, with the result that the field of fire from adjacent loopholes did not
intersect, and it would be possible to walk up to the pill box in this dead zone in
comparative safety, and perhaps put a hand grenade through one of the loopholes.
This fault arose because the Bren gun had two alternative mountings, one a
dipod near the muzzle, the other a tripod further back nearly under the breech; a
draftsman had confused the two. A young subaltern who was with me at the time
and who had been in France said, ‘Funny thing, the Pioneer Corps were building a
lot of these things, and I noticed that suddenly they stopped and started cutting out
the loopholes with pneumatic concrete breakers.’ Evidently the drawings which
had been found to be incorrect in France, had been once more issued, without
alteration, in England. My reaction was, ‘Thank God we’ve got a navy.’ In June the
German air raids started, and by mid-July squadrons of their bombers flew over
us nearly every day. By mid-August the attacks were evidently heavier and more
frequent. On one occasion we heard heavy bombing a few miles to the north,
this may have been the attack which destroyed the Vickers Works at Brooklands,
and shortly after that we saw a great column of black smoke rising beyond the

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of Geotechnology

Pill box hidden on the edge of a wood guarding the River Ouse at Isfield Mill.

One of the few anti-tank block houses near Jarvis Brook.

Selected JournalS

northern skyline, London Docks and Silvertown were burning. Although we did
not know it, we were watching one of the great decisive battles of history, the Battle
of Britain.
A Canadian mining man, Sir Harry Oakes, the prospector who discovered and
developed the Kirkland Lake goldfield in Ontario, and made a vast fortune, had at
his own expense recruited and equipped a field company of sappers and miners,
and by the summer of 1940 they were already in England. These Canadians had
developed a new form of anti-tank mine. They drilled a flat angled hole with a rotary
drill, filled it with nitroglycerine and fired it when the time seemed appropriate.
Coincidentally, thought was being given to an anti-tank barrier to be set up on the
roads which intersected the defence line. It was necessary to keep the road open as
long as possible and then closed in the face of the enemy. Obviously it should be
easily reopened if and when the enemy retreated. Old rails were to be used for the
barrier, and I was told to design and build suitable concrete pillars to hold them.
I struck on what I thought an ingenious device. My pillars resembled mounting
blocks, the vertical face to the enemy, the steps away from him. In the top of each
block was a deep vertical slot just wide enough to take a rail. The principle was that
a few infantry men could lift a rail up step by step until it was on the top of the pillar,
and then slide it over to drop into the slot. Three or four rails in the slot would make
a formidable barrier, which would be difficult to dismantle, particularly under fire.
This design was accepted and I was told to go ahead and build it.
It was decided to demonstrate the Canadian mine and my own device to a
distinguished gathering, and the place chosen was near that very field at Blindley
Heath where I had started work. The road obstacle would be demonstrated first,
and then the Canadians would give their display.
When the day came, car after car arrived, and from each there stepped a general
until there must have been at least 20 or more, a splendid sight. Then a large Rolls
Royce drew up, and out of it came Harry Oakes, looking the very picture of a
Canadian millionaire, a stout pink- faced man in a grey tussore suit.
A major stepped forward; he had been on the site before; his name was Westrop.
I had spoken to him and had decided that in civil life, for he was a territorial, he was
probably in the plant-hire business, certainly he was not a civil engineer. Westrop
gave a little talk about what he described as ‘his invention’, and then came the trial.
A tank moved down the road and charged the barrier, it was brought to a standstill;
it reversed and charged again, lengths of rail flew into the air, and the tank was
through, it did not seem to be any the worse for the collision, nor was the concrete
Then came the event of the day; the generals and other guests gathered round
the mine at a supposedly safe distance. Sir Harry gave the signal. The explosion was
spectacular, a huge cloud of pulverised clay rose high into the air, and then, wonder
of wonders, within the cloud we saw brilliant electrical discharges. While we stared
at them, lumps of clay rained down, and we retreated beneath the trees. One chunk

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

of hard clay, of at least half a cubic yard bulk, landed on the roof of a large and
sumptuous car and stove it in. When the dust cleared, we saw that the artificial
lightning had been unintended; no one had noticed that an overhead power line
crossed the field, and a length of fractured borehole casing had wrapped itself round
the cables and short circuited them.
Whether the defence line would have been of the slightest use in the event of
an invasion I do not know, for I have no experience in military matters, but my
own belief is that it might have been an encumbrance to free manoeuvre by the
defenders. At the time I was reminder of William Cobbett’s comment on the Royal
Military Canal at Hythe:
‘The canal is intended to check the advance of the French armies which have
already crossed the Rhine and the Danube.’

Airfield runways
Hurn Airfield
While the Battle of Britain was at its height, I was told to hand over the anti-tank line
to my assistant Steven, and go down to Hurn, near Christchurch, to start a contract
for the construction of an airfield which, although intended for fighter aircraft, is
now, in an expanded form, Bournemouth Airport. I took with me a foreman, and a
clerk from Blindley Heath, hired a few men from the local labour exchange, and set
them to work erecting huts and latrines, ready for the flood of labour and staff soon
to descend upon me.
The site was rough grazing and scrubby woodland, on the edge of the New Forest;
pleasant country. I picked the south-eastern corner for my contractor’s encampment,
for there, a group of large trees gave cover from the squadrons of German aircraft
which still, at that stage of the war, flew in broad daylight over southern England.
On the first day of work an old Rolls Royce drove up, and out got two elderly
gentlemen; the younger of the two said to me:
‘Are you the chief bottle-washer here?’
‘Yes, you might call me that.’
‘What are you doing on this land?’
‘I’m building an aerodrome.’
At last it dawned upon me that I was talking to the Earl of Malmsbury and his
agent, and learnt that the Air Ministry had not even gone through the formalities
of compulsory acquisition before moving a contractor on to the site. I replied that I
could scarcely be expected to stop work unless Lord Malmsbury first dealt with the
Air Ministry, and this was accepted.
He struck me as being a very nice man, and certainly the matter was settled
without the acrimony and publicity that attended Turnhouse in the first war and
Crichel Down in the second.
At this same time R.I. Beck started another airfield, RAF Ibsley, some five miles
to the north of Hurn on the Salisbury road, and he and I worked closely together.
Selected JournalS

The original design was, in each case, for concrete runways, but, although this was
officially denied, we were told that owing to the extreme shortage of Portland cement
they were to be built of waterbound Macadam, with a tarmac surface coat, and that
we must find our own sources of road-stone. The nearest working quarries of first
class stone were in the Carboniferous limestone, near Frome, but the output there
was not large enough to supply both contracts so we decided that since Ibsley was
nearer to Frome, it should take its full output from there, and that I should look for
some alternative. The obvious place to prospect for stone was the Isle of Purbeck,
where old John Mowlem had been born about 1790. There the Jurassic limestones
were worked for generations, and there are dumps of waste on many old quarries.
This waste stone seemed adequate for the purpose, but there was much dust and
silty material mixed with it, so, as labour was still plentiful, I gave up all thought of
using mechanical excavators and took on many gangs of men, who, equipped with
forks, not shovels, hand loaded the stuff on to lorries.
Although in 1940 diesel-driven road rollers were supplanting the old steam
rollers, there were not enough of them to meet the emergency demand for runway
construction. There were, however, plenty of old 10-ton steam rollers still kept
in service by County and Borough Surveyors for use on road works, so I had no
difficulty in hiring half a dozen of them. Soon the stone was coming in at a great rate
and rolling started. The fleet of rollers made a remarkable sight as they moved, in
echelon, up and down the runways, their heavy fly-wheels spinning, steam billowing
from their tall smoke stacks and their brightly polished brass-work flashing in the
sun. Progress was good, and before long I had brought in a subcontractor to lay the
tar Macadam.
Then, with the first heavy rains of autumn came trouble; there was a greater
proportion of ‘fines’ in the quarry waste than had been apparent, and when saturated
with water, and under the action of rolling, a slurry formed which was forced up
into the tar Macadam and ‘killed it’, by destroying the adhesion between the tar-
covered stones.
After considering several possible alternatives, R.I. Beck and I decided that
a part of the Frome stone should be diverted to Hurn, where the base would be
composite, the lower two-thirds being of Purbeck ‘waste’, and the top one-third of
Frome stone, with the tarmac on the top of that. This design worked very well, and
I had no more difficulty.
I found one other source, if a minor one, of suitable hardcore. About this time
there came the first heavy air raid on Southampton, and next day I arranged with
the City Engineer’s office to engage subcontractors to load the rubble from the
buildings that had been destroyed into lorries and bring it to Hurn, where it went
into the runways. At least where the Germans had destroyed a building, within a
matter of hours, what was left was incorporated into a runway for fighter aircraft. It
had been a very bad night for the people of Southampton, and many of those one
met in the streets next morning seemed like sleepwalkers.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

There was no trouble from the subgrade which was a clean, sandy gravel, and
equal to any load likely to be imposed on it. I was luckier than I knew, as I was to
find out on the next airfield that I built, at Leiston in Suffolk, which was underlain
by a glacial clay.
As German aircraft passed over so frequently, I thought that a little protection
for the men might be a good thing, so when a load of large-diameter concrete pipes
was delivered, instead of stacking them, I had them scattered over the site, thinking
that although useless against a near miss by a bomb, that might be a comfort if the
gangs were machine gunned. Fortunately, we were not regarded as a significant
target, and they were never needed for such a purpose.

Leiston Airfield
In October 1942 I moved to Leiston, four miles north of Aldeburgh in East Suffolk,
where I had been appointed agent on a contract for the construction of an airfield,
RAF Leiston, destined for the US Airforce. There were two members of staff
on this contract who would each play an important part in the development of
geotechnology: H.Q. Golder and T.G. Clark.
Hugh Golder was a member of Cooling’s original soil mechanics research team
at the Building Research Station. Wishing to leave the Government service and get
into industry, he approached Wynne-Edwards, who gave him an introduction to Sir
George Burt, who in turn sent him to join my staff at Leiston. I was told that he was
to learn the duties of a contractor’s engineer, but it was at once obvious that he was
totally unfitted for them. Luckily, an opportunity soon arose to make better use of
this undoubted talent.
After the completion of Leiston he helped me to build up a viable firm, Soil
Mechanics Ltd., devoted entirely to geotechnical engineering, the first of its kind
in the world. He was soon appointed to the Board, and remained with us for some
years until he went to Canada, where he set up his own firm.
Terry Clark took on the routine testing at Chingford more than competently. A
mass of information on the physical properties of the London clay had accumulated,
which was analysed and eventually published in the proceedings of a Conference
held by the Comité Belge pour l’Étude des Argiles in 1947.
Early in 1943 I was asked to undertake an investigation into the use of powdered
resin for the stabilisation of soil. Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) heard of
our preliminary work, and suggested that they should collaborate with us. They
would produce resonates and other polar substances, and would test them both in
the laboratory and the field. So, ironically, it then became necessary to move the
laboratory to Leiston. The grammar school at Leiston had been evacuated inland,
so we rented the science laboratories and Clark moved in with all the apparatus
from Chingford and did excellent work on this problem.
The Leiston site, of about 300 acres, was seven miles north of Aldeborough,
and two or three miles from the coast. Two-thirds of it was the roughest of rough

Selected JournalS

pasture, more properly waste, and the remaining 100 acres were woodland, much
neglected plantations of pollarded ash.
The area is underlain by chalky boulder clay, which, in turn, is underlain by sands
and gravels. The surface of this clay-land forms a plain, or plateau, of low relief, with
an elevation of about 70 ft above sea level, and as might be expected the natural
drainage is poor.
Before the Air Ministry acquired this site for an airfield the Ministry of
Agriculture had set about improvements, but all that they had done was to work
over the ‘waste’ grassland, with a large disc harrow. This implement had cut deep,
parallel and closely spaced grooves in the soil.
I feared that when the autumn rains fell, such a Pleistocene clay, with a low
liquid limit, would be most troublesome to work, and the effect of the harrowing
would be to make matters very much worse, and so it proved. Late autumn was not
at all the time one would choose to start work on an airfield construction contract
and I walked over these sodden pastures for the first time, on a dark, wet October
afternoon with a feeling of gloom. One thing was obvious: I must make a quick
For a short spell before the weather broke, good progress was indeed made. A
central concrete mixing plant was installed, repair shops for the heavy mechanical
plant were erected, and a labour camp was prepared. Meanwhile I made a search for
the very large quantity of sand and gravel that would be needed to make concrete
for the runways, the perimeter track, and the hard standings. Surprisingly, to find a
sandy gravel, so graded as to be a good concrete aggregate, proved very difficult, and
in the end I had to put up with the second best.
The programme of airfield construction during the war was immense; between
1939 and 1945 some 444 airfields were built in the United Kingdom, and at the
peak, during 1942, they were completed at an average of one every three days.
Each construction site had to depend upon local resources, for petrol could not be
spared for long hauls. Those near to a quarry producing good quality crushed rock,
and to a deposit of relatively coarse sand, or within reach of established gravel pits,
were lucky. I was not. One might suppose that deposits of sand and gravel would be
plentiful in Suffolk; they are, but of the wrong kind.
They consist of a heterogeneous mass of gravel, fine and, rock-flour, or silt, with
a little clay. Known locally as ‘hoggin’, it makes an admirable stabilised soil, but was
useless as concrete aggregate, and no one was prepared to use stabilised soil. Finally,
after much searching, I found on Westleton Heath, about five miles from my site,
a deposit of sandy gravel, from which a concrete of sufficient strength could be
made; it was not very good concrete, for the sand was too fine, which meant that the
water/cement ratio during mixing was too high, but it was accepted by the Ministry
officials, and it proved satisfactory.
A supply of water was there for the taking. A 3 inch, two-stage centrifugal pump
was installed beside the little river Minsmere, upstream of the Minsmere Level,

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

close to a public house called ‘The Eel’s Foot’; and this gave us all the water we
needed, both for the concrete plant, and the camp.
After the war Minsmere became famous, for it was discovered that the Level
had been recolonised by avocets, a species which had not bred in England for over a
century. It was made a bird sanctuary, where avocets, bearded tits, and other rarities
may be seen.
By the time these preliminary works were complete, and the construction works
proper started, my troubles began. These were three in kind: first the quality of the
men sent to me under the Essential Works Order. They were, for the most part a
very poor lot.
A second cause of delay, and one which gave me much anxiety, for I had no control
over it whatsoever, was the poor state of Mowlem’s mechanical plant in 1943, after
about three years of constant use. It was heartbreaking for an overburdened agent,
with quite enough difficulties over labour, supplies and weather, to be frustrated
when a much needed machine would arrive on site, and at once break down, to
remain idle for days, or even weeks, before it could be set to work again.
The third reason for anxiety, was due to the nature of the chalky boulder clay.
In the first place, after rain, under construction traffic, it broke down very rapidly
to slurry, on which it would have been foolish to lay a concrete slab. The resident
engineer gave us permission to place a few inches of dry mixed, 12:1 concrete on
the freshly exposed surface of the clay, and this certainly helped matters; but soon
the possibility of a far graver danger became apparent, not due to the clay which had
been wetted and disturbed, but inherent in the clay in its natural condition.
During the winter of 1942–43, the concrete runways on several aerodromes
broke up soon after they were brought into use. In some cases as at Sculthorpe, the
concrete was so heavily fractured after a few weeks of service that the station was
closed, since to fly from it was no longer safe. Of course such incidents were matters
of secrecy, and I heard nothing of them, but soon minor damage occurred on a
Mowlem contract, at Market Harborough. Sir George Burt was much concerned.
He came to Leiston, told us of the trouble at Market Harborough and of the more
serious failures elsewhere, and he demanded that the Mowlem laboratory should
diagnose the cause and suggest a cure. Golder and I looked at each other, for this
was indeed a hard nut to crack.
It was apparent that if we succeeded in finding the cause of these failures, and
in suggesting a cure, this would be tantamount to discovering a method for the
design of road bases, for at the time no method existed for the determination of the
thickness of base required for stability under a given load for a given subgrade. True,
we had heard that in the United States an empirical method for the determination of
base thickness, called the Californian bearing ratio method, was being developed,
but no description of it was then available in England.
This may seem strange, but until 1930 most roads were of water-bound
Macadam, with some form of ‘black-top’. They were built to traditional methods:

Selected JournalS

first, stone pitching was placed by hand, graded road metal was added, and well
rolled in, while quarry ‘fines’ and water were brushed over the surface; this
penetrated the voids. The road was then ‘given to traffic’ for some weeks, and
as potholes developed at points where the underlying soil was weak, they were
filled in with broken stone. Thus the road base adjusted itself to the strength of the
underlying soil: the weaker the soil the greater the thickness of the base. Finally, the
surface was graded to the required profile, and after the appearance of the motor
car, the surface was tar sprayed, to prevent the formation of excessive dust. With
the increase in motor traffic, more sophisticated forms of bituminous ‘black-top’
were introduced, which acted as a wearing course, as well as a waterproofer. When
repairs were needed, the surface was scarified, and more stone was added and rolled
in. Thus on a well-maintained road over a period of years an unsuspected thickness
of base might accumulate and complete equilibrium be achieved between the road
base and the underlying soil.
This happy state of affairs did not apply to concrete roads, for, in their case, once
the design had been settled, including the preparation of the subgrade, methods
of soil drainage, if any, and a decision on the thickness of the base, the die was
cast. If failure occurred then no piecemeal measures would suffice, and costly
reconstruction would be necessary. This certainly occurred during the 1920s on
several roads, including the Kingston by-pass, and such failures may have delayed
the acceptance of concrete as a material for road building.
Thus, when, in 1939, the Air Ministry embarked on a gigantic programme of
airfield construction, no organised body of knowledge on the principles of road-
base design thickness existed. Indeed the contract drawings which were issued all
showed a concrete slab 6 in thick, irrespective of the nature of the underlying soil.
Golder and I began our investigation into the cause of runway failures from
scratch. We had scarcely started work when the first completed sections of runway
at Leiston, the so called ‘Pilot Strip’, 9 ft wide and running down the centre of each
runway, cracked under construction traffic. This was a very serious matter indeed
for the loads imposed by five-ton lorries were relatively light, so it was apparent
that I was engaged in building large and costly engineering structures which must
inevitably fail as soon as they were put to use.
I discussed the reason for this cracking with Collingridge and Golder, and we
were agreed that the cause of the trouble probably lay in the weakness of the soil
beneath the slab and not in the quality of the concrete; this appeared likely because
the cracks were not uniformly distributed, but were confined to relatively small and
well-defined areas. As the strength of the concrete was nearly constant throughout,
it seemed that the areas of cracking must coincide with areas where the clay was
Golder went to Market Harborough to examine the failure of the runways there,
and he came back satisfied that our hypothesis was correct. Weakness of the soil
was the cause of cracking. On his return Golder attempted to analyse the failures

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

using the Fellenius method for the design of shallow foundations, but this approach
proved unsuitable to a structure such as a runway, which covers an enormous surface
area, and may well extend over a number of soil types.
After further thought, a breakthrough came suddenly. I was talking to Golder
one evening, as we were being driven back to our lodgings, and said, ‘Why don’t
we ignore the tensile strength of the concrete slab altogether? After all, once a crack
appears, progressive cracking goes on till the slab breaks up into fragments maybe
only a few inches across; it then exerts no beam action at all, and has no other
function than to spread the load on the underlying soil, and as regards that it is
certainly less effective than a well-compacted, water-bound Macadam base, for the
fragments of concrete will impose point loads, and probably wobble under traffic.’
We talked this over and agreed that if this drastic simplifying assumption was
acceptable, we might proceed to a second, equally outrageous, that a Boussinesq
distribution of stress might be assumed both in the concrete base and in the
underlying clay. To evaluate this would not be difficult, for we were both familiar
with a paper by Jurgensen, published in the Journal of the Boston Society of Engineers
for 1934, in which tabulated solutions for the Boussinesq Equation were given
at various depths beneath a circular loaded area. Finally, we would make another
simplifying assumption: measure the area of contact of a lorry tyre, by jacking up
a wheel, painting the lower half white, and lowering it, while wet, on to a sheet of
brown paper, and having ascertained the area of the roughly elliptical imprint, base
our calculations on a circle of equal area.
We could put down hand auger holes, take 1½ in diameter undisturbed samples
of the clay, and measure their shear strength by the unconfined compression device,
and then decide where to go from there. Golder said he would think it over.
Next day he arrived in the office in very good spirits, and said that he had
completed a programme for research. I could not have had a better collaborator,
for while at the Building Research Station he had worked on the ultimate bearing
capacity of shallow foundations. He said that he was satisfied with the assumptions
that we had made the night before, and it now remained to examine the relation
between the load and the strength of the clay. Obviously, in accordance with the
second assumption mentioned above, the maximum pressure of the subgrade would
be determined by the thickness of the base of the pavement. In any particular case,
the thickness of base necessary to ensure stability must be of such a magnitude as
to restrict the pressure on the clay to some critical value, which would be a function
of the shear strength(s) of the soil.
Three cases should be considered and tested by measurements on site.
1. P < π Cu
where P is the maximum pressure in the subgrade, and Cu is the
shear strength of the soil.

Selected JournalS

2. Pm < π Cu
where Pm is the mean pressure over the surface of the subgrade.

3. Hencky’s value for the ultimate bearing capacity of clay, 5.64Cu,

and a factor of safety of 3 applied to the mean pressure over the
It remained to make an investigation in the soil beneath the ‘Pilot Strip’ to see
which, if any one, of these criteria distinguished between areas where there had
been cracking of the concrete, and those where there had not.
A young engineer, A.E. Longsdon, was equipped with an auger, a sampler and
a device for measuring the unconfined compression strength of clay. He carried
out measurements beneath areas of cracking and areas where the slab was intact.
The following day his results were plotted, and showed that the curve P = π Cu
distinguished between points of failure and of no failure. It was an exciting hour as
plot followed plot and it became clear that we had found a criterion for design.
Soon the news spread, and for some time Golder was kept busy examining
airfields all over the country where there had been failures, and in this way much
more supporting evidence accumulated. Later it was tested exhaustively by the
Roads Research Laboratory, who published their results and conclusions in a
handbook, Soil Mechanics for Road Engineering (HMSO), which appeared shortly
after the war. It was applied by several County Engineers up and down the country
and though minor modifications were suggested, the principles on which it was
based were accepted.
I was allowed to apply the method for the completion of the runways at Leiston,
using a 6 in slab, underlain by a sufficient depth of dry mixed 12:1 concrete to give
the calculated thickness of base. It was entirely satisfactory and my mind was set at
rest from the possibility of a fiasco.
Sir George was very pleased with this piece of work, and insisted that it should be
published, and so it was, after being presented on May 9th 1944 at a meeting of the
Road Engineering Division of the Institution of Civil Engineers. [see Early Papers]
Only twice were we disturbed by the Luftwaffe. From my bed at Mill Cottage, I
could hear the tractors working on site, and if for some reason they stopped, I woke
up. On the first occasion, silence was followed by a reverberating explosion, and
the sound of aircraft. I got up and walked to the site, where I found all the men in a
state of shock, and unable to give any account of what had happened. I eventually
got them back to work. Next day a crater was found not far from where work had
been going on. It was caused by a land mine, a device intended to do maximum
damage in cities, but relatively harmless in open country. No doubt the pilot was
anxious to get home intact and dumped it as soon as he got over the coast and saw
our lights. But the tide was turning against the Germans. One night the noise of
aircraft was so loud that we all went outside and stood in the road opposite Mill
Cottage. That menacing all pervasive thunder of hundreds of bombers filled the
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of Geotechnology

Leiston Airfield in USAAF service, c. 1944. Original from Arthur E. Swanson 357th Fighter Group USAAF
via Roger A. Freeman. Copy negative number 136254 with Chas. Bowers Limited.
Selected JournalS

whole firmament; I had never heard anything in the least like it during the blitz, and
almost felt sorry for the Germans. Later we heard that they had been setting out on
the ‘thousand bomber’ raid on Cologne.

Mulberry harbours
By October 1943 the construction of RAF Leiston was well advanced, and the
Americans were moving in. The runways were not quite finished, but crippled
bombers would sometimes land on them, scattering my men in all directions. These
aircraft were often badly damaged, with members of the crew wounded, and on one
occasion at least the rear gunner dead in his turret.
In late October, Sir George Burt sent for me. When I arrived at Head Office, he
instructed me to take over an extremely urgent contract. The site was Russia Yard in
Surrey Docks, between Canada Dock and Lavender Pond. A General Foreman had
been allotted to me; his name was Jameson, and he had been instructed to meet me
on the site that afternoon: as for the rest I was to choose my own staff. I was also
given a bundle of drawings marked ‘Top Secret’, which at first glance looked like a
design for Noah’s Ark in reinforced concrete. It was labelled ‘Phoenix B’. Leaving Sir
George, I went down to the drawing office; there I met Harold Harding who said:
‘What are you doing here?’. ‘Apparently I’m to build Noah’s Ark in Russia Yard.’ ‘Oh,’
said Harding, ‘Phoenix; I’ve been on it for two weeks at South Dock, but I regret to
say that I’ve cleaned out all the useful plant from the depots, you won’t find much
left.’ As matters turned out, the fact that Mowlem’s plant resources were fully en-
gaged proved a blessing.
That afternoon I went to Surrey Docks. Russia Yard had been a timber store, but
in the air raids of 1940 everything there had gone up in one great conflagration, and
by 1943 there was nothing left but a level waste of cinders with clumps of weed.
Brooding over this desolate scene was an extraordinary figure: tall, gaunt,
stooped, prematurely bald, and hook nosed, wearing a loosely hanging grey wa-
terproof – it was Jameson, my new general foreman. ‘Always my torture’, he was to
remain on my staff until I retired in 1968. There was no idling, or ‘go slow’ where
he was in charge. As my ‘number two’ I chose Ivan Greeves* from Leiston, a first
class engineer who also remained with me till my retirement, and later became
a director of Mowlem (Civil Engineering) Ltd.* As Welfare Officer I brought in
Robert Ramsay, also from Leiston, who did a splendid job.
It should be remembered that at the time we knew nothing of the overall
nature of Mulberry, and we could only make vague and inaccurate guesses as to the
function of ‘Phoenix’, the extraordinary objects which we were building.
At the Quebec Conference in August 1943, the whole strategy of the invasion
of Europe –‘Overlord’ – was discussed and agreed in broad outline. The coast of
Normandy was to be the point of attack and the concept of harbours built from

*Ivan Greeves was to work in the London Docks for many years after the war and has written a civil
engineering history (Greeves 1980) which includes an account of the construction of the Phoenix
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Sir George Burt, KBE.

prefabricated units, towed across the Channel, and sunk into position, so as to be
operational in a matter of days, was accepted. The code name for these harbours
was ‘Mulberry’.
A Mulberry harbour consisted of four main components. The first in order of
emplacement on site was ‘Gooseberry’; this consisted of a number of old merchant
ships which were scuttled end to end immediately after the first assault on the
beaches, so as to form a temporary breakwater. Gooseberry was most effective.
Within it was placed the main breakwater, consisting of Phoenix units sunk end to
end; these were basically like reinforced concrete Noah’s Arks with swim ends to
make towing easier, and with an elaborate internal system of valves and dwarf walls,
to enable them to be sunk accurately in position. Outside these two breakwaters was
a third device known as ‘Bombardon’. They proved a total failure. True, they acted
as breakwaters, but although much of the wave energy was got rid of in turbulence,
much also was diverted into breaking the moorings at each end of the individual
units. Thus in the storm just after D Day, many Bombardon units broke loose and,
drifting towards the harbour, became a serious menace, not only to shipping, but
to the inner ring of Phoenix. Luckily, a naval officer sized up the situation, opened
fire, and sank the Bombardons most likely to do harm. The remainder was thrown
ashore on the beaches, where I saw them a few days later. No doubt they stayed
there, until, after the war, they came as a godsend to French scrap-merchants.
Within the shelter of the Phoenix breakwater were the pierhead pontoons held
in position by steel spuds, connected to the shore by a jetty consisting of a structural

Selected JournalS

steel roadway carried on precast concrete pontoons called ‘Beetles’. My impression

is that these piers were not much used, and that most ships unloaded directly to
amphibious lorries, DKWS (Ducks), which were strikingly effective.
At Russia Yard, I was, at first, only concerned with building Phoenix ‘B’ units.
The organisation of the gigantic Mulberry project, which was carried out in a
remarkably short space of time, was, as regards the reinforced concrete Phoenix
units, most unusual. Twenty-four leading firms of contractors were chosen; each
was allotted a task of so many units, and given a site for the job. Leading firms of
consultants were also employed, but their powers were far more strictly limited than
would have been the case on a normal contract. They provided staff to supervise the
standard of workmanship, but the contracting firms were allowed to choose their
own method of construction, and to get on with it in their own way.
Methods for the building of Phoenix units differed widely; Storey Wilson of
Holloway’s launched the completed units down ‘ways’, like ships, rolling them on
steel balls; but there was a nasty accident, and two men were killed. In some cases,
wet docks were pumped out and used as construction sites, to be flooded again as
soon as the units were ready to float. MacAlpine’s did this at East India Dock, but
they had difficulties and delays, for the dock walls, built in the early 19th century,
were not designed to resist conditions of rapid drawdown and collapsed in places.
Mowlem’s used this method at South Dock, Surrey Docks, where Harold Harding
was agent, but there too it was far from plain sailing. Most contractors chose to
build Phoenix units in shallow basins, excavated for the purpose, on low land beside
estuaries. They evidently thought that deeper excavations in such ground would
prove unstable, and they preferred to float the units out when only completed to half-
height, and then to finish them afloat, a troublesome and time-wasting procedure.
It was suggested that I should employ the half-height method at Russia Yard, but I
did not accept the idea, which I thought bad engineering. I put down a borehole on
the site of the temporary basin, and from one look at the log it was evident that to
build to half-height was out of the question. Just below the level at which the base
of the units would be founded, there was a bed of peat about two feet thick that
would not bear the weight of even a half-height unit, without settling several inches,
which was unacceptable. Moreover the sand which underlay the peat carried water
under small artesian heads so that if the peat were removed it would liquefy and
be unsuitable for a foundation. The sands and gravels of the Thames Flood Plain,
which underlay the peat, were 16 feet thick, and below them was fine sand of the
Woolwich and Reading Beds.
To me all this was good news. I disliked the half-height method and at Russia
Yard it was now clear that the rational solution was to make a deep basin, and to
complete the Phoenix units to their full height, before setting them afloat. With
my experience of ground water lowering, I was confident that I could construct a
basin, even though its size was much greater than anything of the sort previously
attempted in Britain by such means.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

The first use of ground water lowering, by means of tube wells, was on the
construction of King George Vth graving dock at Southampton, and on the
construction of a new entrance to Grimsby Fish Dock, where deep wells were used,
and at Bentall’s Store at Kingston, Surrey, where shallow tube wells were employed:
but although all these three jobs were Mowlem contracts, the ground water lowering
schemes were designed and installed by German engineers from the Siemens Bau-
Union; so when I took over from Harding in 1937, neither he nor his department
had had direct experience of such work. I had installed two shallow well schemes
before the war, one at Uxbridge, the other at Battersea Power Station. Both were
successful, but it was a long step to a scheme as large as that at Russia Yard, and I
was relieved when it succeeded.
I retired to my flat at 6 Sloane Square, where I kept a trestle table, and a drawing
board, and made working drawings of the basin and the ground water lowering
installation. There was one vital decision to be made on a matter of which I had had
no previous experience; what clearance would I allow, beneath the units, when they
were afloat, for this determined the depth of the basin? I made a guess tempered
with judgement, and allowed 12 in; it proved sufficient.
I submitted the scheme to the consulting engineers, Sir Alexander Gibb and
Partners, and they turned it down. It was too advanced for them, indeed by the
standards of the time, unorthodox. I went to Sir George Burt, who said, ‘Are you
sure it will work, Glossop?’ I said that I was confident that it would, and he replied,
‘Go ahead, they haven’t the power to stop you.’
Meanwhile Jameson got on with building offices and a canteen for several hun-
dred men; and Ramsay with the problem of housing them, for many would be
brought from distant places, under the Essential Works Order. We took over a large
Salvation Army Hotel in Spa Road, Bermondsey, which had been evacuated, and
this gave us a good start. At the time I knew little about the Salvation Army, but
for a few romantic ideas that I had picked up from Bernard Shaw’s ‘Major Barbara’.
When I saw Spa Road I was disillusioned; it was indescribably filthy, the wooden
floors coated with black grease. After a dozen men with buckets of boiling water
and soda had scrubbed them with stiff brushes for several days, Ramsay made it fit
for human habitation.
While the site was prepared, I had discussions with Greeves and Jameson to
decide on the broad plan of work, once the basin was complete and construction
started. How to mix the concrete? How to convey it to the units? What type of
shuttering to use? And so on. Jameson came out very strongly for a Continuous
Concrete Mixer, of which there was only one type on the market, the ‘Benford’
mixer, and it, I believe, was of German design. Accounts of its performance differed
widely, and most of the Consulting Engineers had banned its use on Mulberry sites.
Jameson made such a good case, obviously based on experience, that I decided
to chance my arm again, and insist on using it; after all, if it was a failure, I could
quickly switch to conventional batch mixers. Sir George supported me; he said

Ground water lowering, Russia Dock.
Selected Journals

[From ‘The Principles and Application of Soil Mechanics’,

‘A Record of Four Lectures delivered at The Institution’, Institution of Civil Engineers 1946
Third Lecture, 21 June 1945 pp. 63–90.]
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

that if Consultants banned new types of plant they would stifle progress. Greeves
suggested the use of the ‘Parry Clamp’ for the shutters. By this system the walls
would be raised in two-foot lifts, but large gangs of carpenters could quickly raise
the shutters for the next lift. Finally we decided to use concrete pumps to convey
the wet concrete from the continuous mixer to the shutters. This again was a device
not widely used at the time. These basic decisions having been made, Greeves could
get down to the basic planning, and the programming of the whole job, which he
did very ably.
Our choice of construction methods was perfectly suited to working in a large
temporary basin, and by January the units were taking shape. For obvious reasons,
we worked day shifts only, but the men would work overtime, with a minimum of
light, if it was necessary to complete a ‘pour’ of concrete. Although during the air
raids early in 1944 the site escaped a direct hit, there was one interesting episode.
As a result of a nearby bomb, there was a surge of current, and the main circuit
breaker on the site switchboard flew out. This was a serious matter; it was late and
the electricians had gone home. There was a real danger that the concrete might
set and harden in the pipe lines, the mixers and the pumps. Jameson found a long-
handled broom, which fortunately was dry, and pushed the breaker back. Work
On 16 March 1944, the four Phoenix units were set afloat. Valves in the steel
entrance cofferdam were opened, and the water level in the basin began to rise;
soon the ground water lowering pumps were stopped, and flooding went on until
the water level in the basin was the same as that in the dock outside. The units, to

Russia Yard Basin, with four B-type Phoenix units complete and ready to be set afloat.

Selected JournalS

my secret relief, were evidently afloat. It remained to extract the pile closing the
entrance cofferdam, and then to summon a Port of London Authority tug to take
Phoenix 1 into Russia Dock and moor her there.
[During this period Glossop met Sheila Fell and they married on 2 June 1944 in St
James’s Church, Piccadilly.]
After we had been married for two weeks I left for Normandy as a member
of a small team under Brigadier Sir Bruce White, which was sent out to prepare
a private report for Churchill on the damage caused to the Mulberry harbours at
Arromanches and Omaha Beach between 19 and 23 June.
My visit to Arromanche in June 1944 started with a vague telephone call from
Sir George Burt’s secretary, telling me to report that evening to the ‘Metropole Ho-
tel’ in Northumberland Avenue, then one of the many extensions of the War Office.
I must be prepared to go abroad, and was to take a gas mask and a steel helmet. Such
instructions seemed inadequate, so I drove from my Phoenix site at Surrey Docks
to Mowlem’s Head Office at Ebury Bridge Road. As I could learn nothing there I
went back to the flat at 6 Sloane Square, and waited for Sheila to come home from
Baker Street. We decided that I was obviously bound for Normandy, and that my
visit must have something to do with the concrete caissons that I was then building.
At that time we knew nothing of the overall concept of ‘Mulberry harbour’.
Sheila lent me a civilian gas mask in a cardboard box with a length of string to
pass round the neck, and finally a remarkable steel helmet of the type issued to
War Office staff for fire-watching duty. It was the size and shape of the solar topee
as worn by General Napier and his staff during the Abyssinian campaign, and even

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

more like the brass steam dome of an old-fashioned locomotive. Thus equipped,
and wearing a green tweed suit, I set out for the wars.
At the ‘Metropole Hotel’ I was shown down to the cellars, which were shabby
but sufficiently commodious; the walls were covered with dirty whitewash and
festooned with runs of pipe of all sizes. There was a canteen, with trestle tables, and
there were dormitories with camp beds.
At a supper of bully-beef and tea, I met other members of the team, and could
form some idea as to what it was that we were expected to do. There were two other
civilians, Gwyther, of Coode, Vaughan, Lee and Gwyther, whose firm had played
a large part in the overall design of ‘Mulberry’, and Low, a director of the Lobnitz
Dredging Company, who had designed and built the pierhead pontoons and other
bits and pieces, and myself from Mowlem’s to investigate foundation conditions.
The team was led by Brigadier Bruce White, a civil engineer, and pre-war territorial
solider, who was responsible for the whole scheme. Then there was Major W.J.
Hodge, who had been in charge of the Port of London Authority Civil Engineering
Design Department before the war. In the War Office he was responsible for the
design of the Phoenix units, and all that went with them.
Early next morning a fleet of Ford station-wagons was waiting in Northumber-
land Avenue. I got into the last one, and we set off down the Portsmouth Road.
Soon we were driving over Portsdown, and it was evident that we were going to the
dock yard.
As we drew up at the King’s Steps in the shadow of HMS Victory, I joined the
end of a procession. Rarely have I felt such a fool as I then did, shambling along in
my green tweed suit, carrying my ludicrous gear and surrounded by all the panoply
of war. It became apparent that something very remarkable was going on at the
leading end of our queue: Bosun’s pipes were squealing, and naval officers of all
ranks, up to and including admirals, were standing to attention and saluting. I felt
that this could scarcely be the welcome accorded to a territorial brigadier, but, if
not, for whom? The procession turned right and I found myself walking up a gang
plank on to the deck of a destroyer, where I stood bewildered.
Our team, less its leader Brigadier Bruce White, who was being entertained by
the Captain, was shown into the Ward Room, and I was just thinking that we would
get a much better breakfast in one of His Majesty’s ships than we had had for a long
time, when a young officer came in, and said, with all the charm and diffidence that
one expects from a young naval officer, that there had been a mistake, the First Lord
of the Admiralty was breakfasting in the Ward Room, we were to breakfast in the
Gun Room. At the breakfast table I heard the whole story. It will be remembered
that D Day was 6 June and that on 12 June, after the construction of Mulberry was
well ahead, a tempest blew from the north east which persisted until 19 June, and
which did great damage to the partly completed work.
Reports from Normandy were conflicting, so Churchill sent for Brigadier Bruce
White, told him to pick a team of experts and to leave for Arromanches at once.

Selected JournalS

He also wrote on a sheet of notepaper, ‘Brigadier Bruce White is to be given

every facility to visit port works in Normandy’, which he handed to the Brigadier.
Lord Alexander, the First Sea Lord, was paying a visit to Arromanches the next
day, and Churchill asked him to take us with him; so that was that.
The destroyer tore down to Portsmouth Harbour to a chorus of bosun’s pipes,
and to the thud of salutes from the forts; once at sea we had a very good breakfast. I
now thought it likely that there might be trouble from German aircraft, but the RAF
had complete command of the situation, and I neither heard nor saw a German
aeroplane during the whole expedition.
Half-way across the channel we caught up with a large convoy of Mulberry sec-
tions under tow.
A more extraordinary spectacle of floating objects it would be difficult to
imagine. Phoenix units looking exactly like Noah’s Ark, ‘beetles’, and pierhead
pontoons, with their four spuds high in the air.
Arromanches itself was an amazing achievement, although it was only just over
two weeks since the original assault on the beaches; here was a large harbour, fully
operational and crowded with shipping.
DKWS (amphibious lorries) were shuttling between the anchored whips and
the RE dumps on the hill behind the town; they were called ‘Ducks’, and indeed
they were very like ducks as they came down the beach, hesitated for a moment,
breasted the water and swam off into the harbour. To the south were columns of
black smoke and the sound of gunfire. The battle of Caen was in progress.

Engineers travelling to Arromanches (Glossop back right).

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of Geotechnology

Phoenix units being towed to France.

Mulberry ‘B’ harbour Arromanches.

Plan showing ‘Phoenix’ caissons and ‘Gooseberry’ blockships.

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We went ashore in an amphibious ‘jeep’, like a ‘duck’ but smaller, and were driven
to a chateau a few miles inland, where the Port Construction Company had their
mess. A most beautiful place, the garden was surrounded by great trees, the Home
Farm had splendid old Norman outhouses, the pastures were rich and the cattle fat;
it was a scene from de Maupassant. The owner and his wife were charming people.
It seemed a miracle that the place had survived intact. Presumably the Germans had
been taken so completely by surprise that they were hard pressed to retreat in any
sort of order, and had no time to spare for wanton mischief.
I spent the following two days in an amphibious jeep, visiting the damaged
monoliths in the harbour. On the whole, Arromanches had not suffered too badly,
but several of the Phoenix units had broken their backs, for tidal currents sweeping
through the triangular gap where the ‘swim-ends’ of adjacent units met had scoured
away the sand beneath them to such an extent that, unsupported at either end, the
upper member had failed in tension. They were of course designed to take the effect
of hogging and sagging when at sea, and under tow, but not apparently for the con-
dition when they were aground, with the ends totally unsupported from below.
During this inspection, I was on the gun platform of one unit talking to the gun’s
crew when a newly arrived unit was towed past us. I recognised its number for I
had seen it before in West India Dock. It was being built there by another firm, but
they were badly behind programme and I had been asked to take it over and finish
it, which I did. When it was complete, and after the gun’s crew had come aboard
and were waiting for a tow, a V1 flying bomb came over, they jumped to their gun,
opened fire, and by extraordinary luck scored a hit. The bomb exploded in mid-air.
When I told this to the crew at Arromanches, they were consumed with envy, for
such was the RAF cover that in the week they had been there they had seen nothing
to shoot at.
On the third day we paid a visit to the American harbour at Omaha Beach, which
we were told had suffered more severely from storm damage than had Arromanches.
We were also told that the Americans had been so keen to make progress that they
did not complete the moorings for each unit as it was placed, intending to come
back and make all secure. The storm caught them unawares.
The sight of Omaha beggared description; it was a shambles. Most of the
Phoenix units had been destroyed, and the piers and the pierheads had been torn to
pieces, but worst of all the beach was littered with wrecks, not dozens or scores, but
even hundreds. They were of several types, mostly infantry landing craft, but also
big tank landing craft. In one place they were actually three deep, a ship had gone
ashore, a second had been thrown on top of it, and a third on the top of that.
On the fourth day I had seen all I had to see by lunch time and arrangements
were made for our return journey.
The following day, after my return to London, I went to the War Office to
write my report in longhand. It was clear that the damage to the Phoenix units at
Arromanches had been due to scour, and the best way to check it quickly would be

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

to sink spare units, overlapping the existing ones by half a length, so as to close the
triangular gaps.
During these few days I had one notable experience. I was taken to an exceedingly
high-level meeting, where the fate of Omaha was to be settled. It was in fact decided
that, as the American forces were so near Cherbourg, arrangements should be made
to take supplies in through that port, and that Omaha should be cannibalised, and
any undamaged sections used to repair Arromanches. The meeting was held in a
long narrow room, more a gallery, with a large table down the length of it. One side
was a blank wall, but along the other were a number of tall windows of plate glass.
At the top end of the room were several generals and admirals, both English and
American, most of whom had flown over from France that morning; at the other
end were such small fry as Brigadier Bruce White’s staff, and, surprisingly, myself.
Half-way through the meeting, a flying bomb sailed over; it gave the impression of
flying up Whitehall from end to end, it was unusually low and it made a great deal of
noise. The very senior officers from France asked what it was, and when told looked
thoughtful; the noise rose to a peak, I wondered if anyone’s nerve would break,
and, if so, would there be a scramble to get under the table. I’m happy to say that all
remained impassive, and a few seconds later it exploded somewhere in Soho.
Feeling that I had no more to contribute, I took French leave, and went back to
Russia Yard.
Soon after the first four ‘B’ type Phoenixes were afloat, I had been instructed
to close the basin, pump it dry, and prepare it for the construction of three more
units. Luckily, with the type of steel sheet piled entrance which I had devised, this
was easily done, although it had not occurred to me while it was on the drawing
board that it might be used more than once. In fact it was used four times. This
second batch were nearly complete by D Day, and were still in the basin, when,
following the report of Brigadier Bruce White’s team, orders came to construct a
heavily reinforced beam round the top of the structure, to take the tension set up
by ‘hogging’ if the ends of the units were undermined by the scour of tidal currents
flowing between adjacent swim-ends.
[During the process of floating out this second batch of units an unusual incident
occurred and the following account by Glossop is taken from the Proceedings of the
Institution of Civil Engineers (Glossop 1948).]
‘The day came to flood the basin, and they filled it with water. There
was a pencil mark on the units, and they watched it through the
dumpy level, expecting the units to come gently up as the water
rose, but they did not do so. They went on pumping water in, but
still the units did not come up. The pumping was continued until
the water inside the basin was above that in the dock outside, with a
difference of head of about 8 inches, but still they did not come up. By
that time there was about 1 foot more water than should have been
required to float them, and it was rather an embarrassing situation;
Selected JournalS

Entrance cofferdam to Russia Yard Basin.

one wondered what to do next. It then occurred to him [Glossop]

that a rather curious thing had happened. While building the first set
of units the area all round the basin had become covered with grout
from spillage and blowing out of the concrete pumps, so that it was
quite impermeable. The ground-water level, when they stopped the
pumps, was well below the bottom of the basin. They took the view,
therefore, that the units were probably still standing on perfectly dry
sand, so that, although surrounded by water, they were subject to
no uplift and that if they waited until the water in the ground rose it
would be all right. They knew how long it would take for the ground
water to rise, because they had made measurements on the first set
of units. They had to wait from noon to 4 pm, but within 10 minutes
of the calculated time up came the first unit, and the other floated up
after it within about 10 minutes.’
After D Day, when batch No. 2 were afloat, the basin was again closed, pumped
out, and was in preparation for re-use, when, for the first and only time, a bomb
struck the site, a V1, or flying bomb. Luckily, it happened in the evening after the
office staff had gone home, and the men were all working in the basin on the base
slab, well below ground level, and thus protected.
Greeves and I had been over at East India Dock, where Jameson and his team
were completing a Phoenix ‘A’, which had been started by another firm, who had not
been up to the job, and had been sent away. We were driving back to our office in Rus-
sia Yard and while in Redriff Road heard a bomb approaching. After we had turned
into the dock gates, and were getting near our site, the bomb’s engine stopped, and
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

so did we, for the cutting out of its engine meant that the bomb was going into a dive.
It exploded ahead of us, far enough for safety, but too near for comfort. As we drove
on we saw that the office had vanished; it had been blown to pieces.
It appeared that the bomb had fallen and exploded on a raft of timber baulks
which was floating alongside the dock wall, just opposite the office; the carpenters
had been doing repairs to the building, and when they heard the bomb’s engine
stop they dived into a large Anderson type shelter which I had had built alongside
the office. It was the only time that it was used, but it justified its existence, for it
certainly saved two men’s lives.
Just before the second batch of Phoenix units were afloat, we had been visited by
a party of senior officials from the Admiralty, who made a detailed examination of
our organisation and methods. This party included John Palmer, of Rendel, Palmer
and Tritton, whom I then knew only slightly, but now know well since for many
years we have both been members of the Smeatonian Society. Following the visit,
John Mowlem & Co. soon received instructions to prepare the basin for a third time
for an Admiralty contract, of the greatest urgency, for the construction of four very
heavy reinforced concrete barges, which was about to be awarded to them.
These barges were indeed large, but their most remarkable feature was the flat
bottom of concrete, about two feet thick and with very heavy steel reinforcement.
As with Phoenix, we achieved a high rate of construction, and the Admiralty
was well satisfied.
In due course we were told the purpose of these extraordinary craft. After a
counter measure to magnetic mines had been found in the method of ‘degaussing’
ships, the Germans developed a new type of mine, the ‘Oyster Mine’; it was
exploded by a device reacting to the slight pressure changes caused by the passage of
a ship. Evidently such mines, if laid in large numbers from aircraft off Arromanches
and Cherbourg, would have been a deadly threat to allied shipping and to the
flow of supplies to the armies in France. Some method of sweeping them had to
be found. That chosen, and there was little choice, was to construct expendable
hulls which would be towed by shallow draft tugs, and which were strong enough
to withstand the effect of several explosions immediately beneath them until they
finally disintegrated and sank.
As matters turned out these barges were never used. The ‘Oyster Mine’ was a
failure. If the detonator was so sensitive as to be set off by the passage of a ship, it
was also actuated by tidal eddies and other such natural phenomena. The Germans
soon abandoned it.
The fourth use of the Russia Yard basin was also for an Admiralty contract.
In planning the reoccupation of the naval basin at Singapore after the Japanese
had been driven out, it was assumed that the enemy, before retreating, would have
done all in their power to make the big graving dock unusable. To damage the main
structure of the dock would be difficult, but to destroy the steel caisson type gates,
without which the dock was useless, would be a simple matter.

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To construct a new gate in England and to tow it to Singapore would have been
a slow and hazardous procedure, and so it was decided to design a new caisson of
reinforced concrete to be built on site, largely of local materials, and to train a team
of naval personnel to build it.
As a training exercise, it was decided to build a reinforced concrete caisson in
the Mowlem Basin at Russia Yard, similar in pattern to that required for Singapore,
but smaller so that it could be used on the No. 6 graving dock at Portsmouth, which
needed a replacement.
Jameson and his senior foremen and tradesmen worked closely with the naval
team on this exercise. This unusual collaboration between service personnel and
civilians was very successful. As the caisson occupied only a small part of the basin,
we undertook to build a number of ‘docklings’ in the rest of the space. These were
small floating dry docks, suitable to take motor gunboats, and such small vessels.
They were constructed of precast concrete panels.

A prototype caisson of reinforced concrete of the type designed for Singapore,

under construction in the Russia Yard Basin.

The ending of hostilities

A few days after the German capitulation at Luneberg Heath, R.M. Wynne-Ed-
wards, then a Deputy Director at the Ministry of Works, asked me to call on him,
and invited me to join a Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee (CIOS)
Party (No. 536), to examine and report on the underground factories which were
known to exist in the zone of West Germany about to be occupied by the Russians.
I accepted.
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

The party consisted of eight members with an interpreter from the Ministry of
Works, and included Production Engineers from the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich,
an expert on ventilation from the Carrier Engineering Company, and two other
civil engineers, W.C. Ash, then a senior member of the staff of Sir Alexander Gibb
and Partners, and A.N. Duder, a New Zealander, on the staff of Wynne-Edwards.
I was included because of my knowledge and experience both in mining and civil
engineering, and I was asked to compile the Party’s report, which in due course I
A couple of days before, on 21 June 1945, I gave the third of the four lectures on
‘The Principles and Application of Soil Mechanics’. These lectures were delivered
at, and were later published by, the Institution of Civil Engineers. These lectures
had an astonishing success for at that time there was no text book in England on soil
mechanics. The volume was reprinted many times.
On 23 June I was given a pass, which said, amongst other things, that, ‘As a
member of staff of the Ministry of Supply, you are required to proceed to Germany
for special duties under SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary
Force)’. I was also ‘required to wear uniform …without badges of rank, but with a
Ministry brassard…’, and I was to be treated ‘…with the courtesy and consideration
due to an officer of the rank of Lieutenant Colonel’.
On 24 June we left the old Hendon aerodrome in a Dakota, bound for Bad
Oeynhausen. We were all feeling queasy after the typhoid injections, and the field
looked very small for take-off.
Bad Oeynhausen proved to be a pleasant small town, the headquarters of 21
Army Group, so daily, with sirens howling, a convoy of jeeps crammed with heavily
armed soldiers would tear through the streets, in their midst, an open car carrying
Field Marshall Lord Montgomery in all his splendour. It was evident, for the time
at least, that we had won the war. Bad Oeynhausen had been little damaged by
bombing, although the RAF had totally and neatly destroyed an arms factory on
its outskirts, without harming nearby buildings. We stayed for a couple of days in
the house of a prosperous cigar manufacturer, which had been commandeered as a
transit point for CIOS parties.
Our party was to work from two centres, Bad Oeynhausen in the west, and
Goslar in the east, and we were provided with military transport. Our instructions
were to visit all the many underground factories which had been identified by the
photo-interpretation section of the RAF. This unit had become so skilful that we
only found one factory not already known to them. At that site the engineer in
charge of construction had taken camouflage very seriously indeed, even going to
the length of hiding with tree loppings every truck load of broken rock the very
moment it was tipped on the dump.
From Bad Oeynhausen we visited, amongst other places, the Port Westfalica,
just south of Minden, at a point where the River Weser flows through a gorge in the
Weser-Gebirge. There we found three factories of which the most interesting was

Selected JournalS

an underground oil refinery with a capacity of 300 tons of topped crude oil a day.
The equipment had been transferred from a refinery in Hamburg, which had been
bombed. It was within a few weeks of going on-stream. One wonders what working
conditions in an underground refinery would have been like. The code name of this
refinery was Dach 1. Two others had been planned, but work on them had only just
started. On the east side of the gorge was a factory known as ‘Hammerwerke’, which
produced radio valves, and was equipped with machinery taken by the Germans
from the Phillips factory at Eindhoven. The third factory, ‘Denkmal Stollen’, was for
the manufacture of ball bearings.
From Bad Oeynhausen we drove eastward, through delightful country, well
farmed and judiciously forested, to our second base at Goslar. The most conspicuous
signs of war were the number of overturned cars and lorries, presumably pushed out
of the way by advancing tanks, and the astonishing number of trains and locomotives,
derailed. Many had toppled down embankments, victims of air attack.
It was evident that once the RAF had established complete command of the
air in central Germany, the enormous effort which had been put into underground
factories was almost entirely wasted, for it became increasingly difficult to get raw
materials to the factories and even more difficult to get the finished product away
from them.
Goslar, on the northern slopes of the Harz mountains, must be the oldest mining
town in Europe; it owes its existence to the Rammelsberg Mine, which, since the
tenth century, has worked a large deposit of complex ore containing, copper,
zinc and lead. The town itself has great character, and so have the inhabitants, for
they were the only people in Germany to defy Hitler, by refusing to accept the
Nazi greeting of ‘Heil Hitler’, and to stick to their own immemorial salutation of,
‘Gluck auf ’ (‘Happy out’, i.e. a happy return to the surface). Other metals exist
sparingly in the ore, but these, in the past, had been neglected. I met a metallurgist
from Imperial Chemical Industries. We talked about mining, and he took out of
his pocket a fair-sized metal ingot, which he told me was germanium, extracted
from the Rammelsberg ore in which it occurred, although in small quantities. The
Germans had discovered that it could be used to make very low friction bearing
metal alloys. He added that he had never before seen germanium, except in very
small laboratory specimens.
While at Goslar we visited the smallest and the largest of the underground
factories. The smallest, in an abandoned underground quarry near Halberstadt,
was known as the Champignon Cave, for before the war mushrooms had been
cultivated there. Its area was only 9000 square feet. It had been used for the
manufacture of parts, but not engine components, of Junker aircraft. The largest was
a very formidable establishment indeed; it was called ‘Mittelwerke’, and had been
excavated in a massive bed of anhydrite, beneath the Kohnstein near the village of
Niedersachswerfen, some six kilometres north of Mordhausen. It consisted of two
main parallel tunnels about 30 feet wide and 25 feet high, each about a mile and a

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

quarter long. These were connected by 46 transverse tunnels, the whole forming,
in plan, a ladder-shaped system. In the main tunnels were assembly lines for V1
flying bombs, and V2 rockets, and there they were, in every stage of construction,
hundreds of them.
A very great effort had been put into the building of these factories but it was
largely wasted and in the long run they would have been doomed. If the Germans
had been a few months ahead with their large programme for the construction
of jet-powered fighter aircraft, they might have gained a respite by checking the
air attack on railways and roads, but all the factories that I saw, except perhaps
Niedersachswerfen, would have been vulnerable to Barnes Wallace’s, ‘Tallboy’
bomb, and one at least of the senior men we met knew this.
On our return I was given a room at the Ministry of Works and wrote a detailed
report. I was left with the conviction that there were great possibilities for the use of
underground excavations for factories and storage depots, not only from the point
of view of defence, but for environmental and other reasons.
With the completion of all works at Russia Yard, I transferred myself to the soil
mechanics laboratory, now established in London. When work at Leiston came to
an end in December 1943, the future of the laboratory had to be settled. At first
only Sir George Burt had been much interested in it, but with the success of the
new method of pavement design, and our collaboration with ICI on the use of
resins for the stabilisation of soils, for which T.G. Clark was largely responsible, the
whole Board saw that there were wider possibilities than those of a mere testing
Suitable premises must be found, preferably in London and as soon as possible.
Sir George’s London establishment was a top floor flat at 123 Victoria Street,
but during the war he had taken on the first floor flat, in the same block, and had
converted it to use as an air raid shelter by strengthening it with heavy timbers
supported on ‘Acrow’ steel props. The blocks, on the south side of Victoria Street,
were the first to be designed, and built specifically as flats, on the line of Parisian
‘apartements’, in London. Consequently, they were spacious, and 123 served us
very well for a number of years until we outgrew it. Clark and Golder moved in and
slowly the staff increased to deal with the steady growth of business. At the same
time a company called Soil Mechanics Ltd. was registered, and thus the concept of
a firm devoted to the newly recognised branch of engineering, ‘geotechnology’, was
at last realised.

One of the outcomes of the war was a closer link between Mowlem’s and the Royal
Engineers, which led to the preparation of the first manual for the testing of soils.
In 1950 the War Office and the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors
agreed that every year a few chosen officers, of the rank of Major, from the School of
Military Engineering at Chatham, should spend 12 months in industry, six months

Selected JournalS

with a firm of consulting engineers, and six months with a contracting firm. In 1951
there was a trial run in which six firms took part, including John Mowlem & Co. At
that time I was responsible for several large contracts, including the new Shellhaven
Oil Refinery so when two officers, Bennett and Fitzgerald, were allotted to us I sent
them there, for it was a large and interesting job.
The refinery site was beside the Thames and underlain by a considerable depth
of soft clay and peat of Flandrian age, so in designing all deep trenches, shafts,
cofferdams etc., I made full use of our knowledge of soil mechanics, and strikingly
successful it proved to be. Bennett and Fitzgerald were intelligent and keen, they
saw at once the value of soil mechanics to practical engineers, a subject then
unknown to the army, and they asked me whether I would let them work for the
second six months of their term with Soil Mechanics Ltd., instead of going to a firm
of consultants, granted of course that they could get permission from Chatham. I
consented and they were allowed to spend six months at 123 Victoria Street.
In 1951 our soil mechanics laboratory at 123 Victoria Street, was well estab-
lished, and a leader in its field. Much of the apparatus was of our own design, and we
had our own systems of testing. As the turnover was increasing, and as young men

Glossop in December 1951 from the London John, the John Mowlem Magazine.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

were constantly brought in for training, there was a need for an in-house manual of
laboratory practice. Several members of staff had been given the job of writing one,
but all had proved incapable. At last I saw that an opportunity had come: I proposed
to Bennett and Fitzgerald that they should be given the free run of the laboratory
and every assistance to write a Code of Practice, and that when they left us they
should each be given a copy. With the support of T.G. Clark, the Laboratory Super-
intendent, they did a good job, though it was not 100% finished.
It had become obvious that to complete the manual could not be a part-time
occupation. After discussion, the Board of Soil Mechanics Ltd. offered the job to
T. W. Akroyd, a member of staff, and promised that he should be given full credit
for its compilation. Akroyd did an excellent job, so good that we decided to print
it, partly to be given away as a high-level form of publicity, and partly for sale if
anybody should feel disposed to buy it. When it appeared, Akroyd’s name was put
on the title page as author, for although his predecessors had left him a great deal of
well-classified material, it was his drive that brought it to a conclusion. It succeeded
beyond our wildest dreams, and for 20 years it remained a standard work on the
subject. Thousands of copies were sold and the profits were most satisfactory.
With the increasing complexity in the subject, particularly as a result of Professor
A.W. Bishop’s work on the triaxial test, it became obvious that the book should be
completely rewritten. This was done by a member of staff of the Mowlem subsidiary
Engineering Laboratory Equipment, K.H. Head. It has taken its place as the leading
work on the subject. [The three volumes were published between 1980 and 1985 and
have since been updated on a number of occasions.]

lateR JouRnals

These four journals cover the period from the end of the Second World War to 1960, when
Glossop began his diary. The portrait of Louis Leakey illustrates Glossop’s wide range of
interests and an unusual application of grouting for soils. The visits to the Norwegian
Geotechnical Institute and North America show his drive to learn from international best
practice in both soil mechanics and foundation construction. These extracts are from two
of the six reports on international visits made by Glossop between 1952 and 1968, which
are lodged in the Sheffield University archive.
The short account of the major highways project in Iran has been assembled from a few
fragments. The contract was awarded in May 1955 and abruptly terminated in December
1957. This was a period of political uncertainty in Iran following the overthrow of the
Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadegh. Mossadegh had come to power in 1951 having
campaigned on a single issue, the nationalisation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company,
later BP. His overthrow in 1953 was alleged to have been engineered by the CIA with the
support of the British Government.

a portrait of louiS leakey

Rudolph Glossop wrote a number of pen portraits of people he had known. This account
of his meetings with Louis Leakey provides an insight into his wide range of interests,
particularly that of natural history. The links with Leakey continued, as this extract of a
letter from him, probably in December 1965, illustrates:
‘Some years ago you gave me very great help in connection with
the preservation of the soil at the excavation we carried out of a
Mesolithic pit dwelling in England [at Abinger Hammer in Surrey].
You have also from time to time given me valuable help and advice
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

in connection with the preserving of soils and sections of prehistoric

sites in Kenya. For this I am most grateful.
The present letter is to ask you whether you would be willing to
give some helpful advice and possibly literature on the subject to
Professor Emil Haury of the University of Arizona.’
In 1903 L.S.B. Leakey was born in Kenya, at Kabete, a Mission Station
established by his parents, members of the Church Missionary Society, on the tribal
lands of the Kikuyu. There they reared and educated their family, who had as their
only playmates the African children of the settlement, whose difficult language they
spoke with fluency.
About 1920, he came to England with the intention of reading Modern Languages
at the University of Cambridge. He elected for French and Kikuyu; the university
authorities were much surprised, and they asked the School of African and Asiatic
Languages whether Kikuyu should be regarded as an academic subject, and, if so,
where could an examiner be found. The reply to the first question was that Kikuyu
was eligible, to the second that normally to find anyone with a sufficient command
of the language to act as an examiner would be impossible, but that fortunately a Mr
Leakey had recently come to England who was well qualified to do so.
While at Cambridge he accompanied an archaeological expedition to Kenya;
this determined the nature of his life work. After graduating, he returned to Kenya,
and in due course was appointed Director of the Corydon Museum in Nairobi.
In 1959 Louis and his wife Mary Leakey discovered skeletal remains of a very
early hominid, which they named Zinjanthropus, in the rocks of the Olduvai gorge,
an important contribution to the study of ‘The Descent of Man’, and one to be
followed by others, demonstrating the existence of man-like creatures two million
years ago.
Leakey died in 1972, but work on human origins has continued with increasing
success by his widow Mary Leakey, and their eldest son Richard.
I first met Louis Leakey [in 1950] while he was excavating a Mesolithic site in the
grounds of Abinger Manor, an Elizabethan house near Abinger Hammer in Surrey.
The estate was owned by a well-known businessman, Major Beddington Behrens,
whose name was then associated with the fortune which he has made out of ‘Bendix’
washing machines. A short distance away, and situated on an extension of the long
axis of the house, was a steep-sided earthen mound, described on the Ordnance
Survey map as a ‘tumulus’. From its shape, Beddington Behrens concluded, quite
rightly, that it was not a burial mound, and he persuaded the Surrey Archaeological
Society to excavate there. The mound proved to be an early motte, built soon after
the battle of Hastings, resembling one portrayed on the Bayeux Tapestry. It is now
regarded as a classic site of interest to military historians. The manor house was
built in the bailey.
Some time later Major Behrens picked up many flint fragments and microliths
in a paddock behind the house. He made a large collection of them, which he
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kept in built-in cabinets surrounding his study. He was delighted with this find of
apparently Mesolithic implements and claimed that his house was on the oldest
permanently inhabited site in Britain.
The County Archaeological Society did not take up the invitation to excavate
the site since no permanently occupied Mesolithic site was then known in the south
of England. Behrens was not satisfied; through his wide connections he found that
Leakey, Director of the Coryndon Museum, was on leave in England, and that he
with his wife and young sons were living in a furnished house near Abinger.
He invited the Leakeys to visit the site, which they did. They were impressed by
the large number of implements which Behrens had found, which suggested more
than just a temporary bivouac, and that the aspect and lie of the land, the proximity
of a spring, and well-drained soil favoured permanent occupation. Behrens
asked them to excavate, but they refused, since in a few weeks time they would
be obliged to return to Kenya. Behrens was not the man to be thwarted by such a
consideration; he announced that expense was no hindrance, that the only possible
cause of delay would be bad weather, and that he would order a large marquee to be
sent down by the Army & Navy Stores, and erected on site; beneath it they could
work unaffected by rain or wind. The Leakeys, carried away by his enthusiasm,
consented; the marquee arrived, and work was set in hand with a team of students
from the University of London.
The first operation was precisely similar to that used by gold prospectors, and
known as ‘shoading’. A line of pits was set out following a contour of the hillside,
and the number of flints recovered from each pit entered on a plan; a second
row of pits was put down parallel to, and uphill from, the first, and so on; a line
projected uphill, passing through the areas of maximum flint fragment distribution
on each row, must inevitably lead to the source of the fragments, and so it proved;
a pit dwelling was found. Then the marquee was erected and detailed excavation
The dwelling was excavated in the Upper Greensand; in it was a hearth, and
round it small post holes, which presumably carried a roof of thatch or hide. Many
implements were found. Behrens was delighted at this success, and, having heard
from Leakey of the outdoor museum which he had made at Orgesailie in the Rift
Valley in Kenya, where the finds were protected from the weather by sheds, and
could be seen exactly as they had first been revealed, he determined to do the
same thing on a tiny scale, and had a large wooden hut built over the pit dwelling.
Unfortunately the Greensand has only a very weak natural cement between the
grains; when the sides of the pit became dry, they started to shed sand grains,
and it was clear that the life of the pit in its original condition might be short. The
indefatigable Major Behrens consulted Imperial Chemical Industries, who told him
that the firm of John Mowlem & Co. Ltd. practised a method of hardening sand in
situ using ‘waterglass’; so to us he came, and in due course Sir George Burt told me
to call on Major Behrens to find out what this unusual request was about. As I left

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

his room he said, ‘What’s this man’s name, Glossop?’ I replied, ‘Major Beddington
Behrens, Sir.’ ‘Is it? Then I’ll bet you that within five minutes of meeting him, he’ll
tell you that he won the “Saddle” at Woolwich.’ Sir George Burt had been Master
of the Old Surrey and Burstow for years, and Beddington Behrens had hunted with
Next morning I reported to Sir George Burt and said, ‘It’s lucky that I didn’t take
your bet, it must have been nearly ten minutes before he told me that he had won
the “saddle” at Woolwich!’
Sir George was interested and agreed to my suggestion that we should stabilise
the pit dwelling for the bare cost of materials and labour, and the work went ahead
successfully. In those days I could occasionally get permission to spend money
in this way, charging it to ‘research’. The work went smoothly and was a success.
For a number of years thereafter, I would on occasions send small consignments
of chemicals to Dr Leakey, for the treatment of sites in Kenya and South Africa.
A notable occasion was when I took Sheila [my wife], down to visit the site. The
Behrens family was abroad, but there were two other visitors, Professor F.F. Zeuner
of the University of London, and Mrs Zeuner.
After visiting the site, we went to tea at the Leakey’s cottage, a real country tea
with a 2 lb pot of raspberry jam on the table. Soon Leakey, who had that whole-
souled and boyish enthusiasm for his subject which is often associated with the
scientific mind, was off in full spate, something of a showman, perhaps, but with
something original and very important to show.
I remember his sitting back from the table, holding an imaginary block of
stone between his knees, brandishing the jaw bone of some beast and fashioning
an imaginary hand-axe out of it, while giving a lecture on the skills required. One
of his stories was of how he demonstrated to the members of an archaeological
conference held in Kenya the methods of hand-axe hunters, which he maintained
were far simpler and more effective than they seemed to think. He knew of a place
where a couple of small antelope were in the habit of resting in the shade of a large
tree during the heat of the day. He went there early in the morning and built a ‘hide’
a little way down wind of the spot, and he also judged the way of escape they would
probably take if startled, and across he built an obstacle of branches, which would
check their flight for a few seconds. Towards midday he went to the hide, with a
hand-axe which he had made for the occasion. The antelope arrived and settled
down in the shade; he watched the movements of their ears, nostrils and eyes until
he was satisfied that they were no longer wary; then he broke out of the hide, and
dashed at them. They set off in the direction that he had foreseen, and as expected
were checked by the obstacle for just long enough for him to kill one of them
with the axe, and using the axe he skinned and butchered it. I seem to remember
that the operation took 20 minutes, including the time required to make the axe.
Zeuner then joined in the conversation, and, perhaps unwisely, said that he wanted
a rhinoceros skull. Instantly Leakey’s note book was out, addresses were exchanged

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and Professor Zeuner was assured that the skull would soon be delivered at Regents
Leakey’s insights into the way of life of very primitive men followed from
his own upbringing. He knew the problems that they had to solve, if they were
to survive as hunters, and he argued back to the way in which they made use of
the tools which they had evolved to deal with these problems, and this at a time
when stone implements were generally regarded merely as zone fossils, useful to
distinguish cultures where no organic remains had been found.
Our next meeting took place when I visited Kenya in 1952 to report on the
activities of the Mowlem Construction Company Ltd., our African subsidiary.
After meeting the staff, and having visited all the large contracts then in progress
in Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika Territory, I took a few days off to visit Leakey.
Fortunately, on this expedition I kept a diary, which has survived, so that I can
describe my meetings with him in some detail.

May 12 Monday (1952)

After lunch I called at the Coryndon Museum, a remarkable establishment with a
large extension nearing completion. I found Dr Leakey in the laboratory surrounded
by fossil mammalian debris. As might be expected there was much activity, and
a good many things happening at once. He showed me recent finds, perfectly
preserved fossil insects from a bed of coarse sandstone of Lower Miocene age in
the Rift Valley, and a large number of fossil seeds and fruits from the same beds.
These are not imprints but perfectly preserved three-dimensional fossils in calcite,
with every detail almost perfect. He says that they are unique and I do not doubt it.
One, a large caterpillar, looked as if it might be alive. It is difficult to understand how
mineralisation could have set in so quickly before any trace of decay.
He also showed me some of his favourite [live] specimens, one a bug which
lays its eggs on a plant stem. Those at the top hatch out with a greenish tinge, those
halfway down bright orange and those at the bottom a faded yellow. Thus the whole
group looks like a spike of flowers, with buds at the top and faded flowers at the
bottom. He told me that if you take them off, mix them up and put them back at
random within a few hours they sort themselves out into the correct order.
Another was a species of butterfly in which the sexes are dissimilar in appearance.
Of the offspring of any pair some resemble their parents, but many mimic other
species which are unpalatable to birds – not one other species but four. He has bred
37 generations in the laboratory, always from non-mimicking parents and finds that
the number of mimics is increasing. He regards this as an example of evolution at
work. To me this is most surprising as Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ does not
seem to be operating in the experiment.

May 15 Thursday
This morning I forgot contracting for a few hours, and as Dr Leakey’s guest visited
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

his famous Acheulian site at Olorgesaillie in the Rift Valley. At 7.30 am he called for
me at the Club with a Commer Van loaded with provisions, drinking water, and pay
for his African maintenance gang on the site.
From Nairobi the road runs south west, climbing gently up towards the
escarpment. Crossing a grassy plain with occasional acacia trees we saw, close to
the road, herds of wildebeest, of impala and of Thomson’s gazelle. He pointed out a
number of birds that were new to me. The cut-throat whydah, the pin-tailed whydah,
and two species closely related to the partridge, the yellow-throated francolin and
the red-necked francolin. We also saw a black-headed harrier eagle. This bird preys
almost exclusively on snakes; it seizes them just behind the head and has carried
them up to a height of about 100 ft and swallows them while on the wing. He has
seen a snake 5 ft long dealt with thus.
After the recent heavy rains the whole country is green; we stopped to look
at a delicate and beautiful species of Gladiolus with white flowers, known locally
as ‘Russian Dancer’. From the top of the escarpment the Rift is a wonderful sight,
looking south and west towards Tanganyika the road drops between 2000 and 3000
ft in a few miles, and after the rain last week it was in a truly appalling state; with
a less robust car or with a less experienced driver I doubt if we would have got
through. On the way down we saw zebra, and Klipspringers, a variety of antelope
rare in Kenya. Among the plants were a beautiful species of broom with large yellow
flowers and a wild lupin. We put up numbers of guinea fowl.
The site at Olorgesaille is of Acheulian age, and belongs to an African pluvial
period corresponding to the Riss glaciation in Europe in about 130,000 B.P. No
less than ten old land surfaces have been found in a series of lacustrine sediments
formed during the fluctuating levels of the lakes in the Rift Valley. Some of these old
surfaces have been excavated; among the finds are great numbers of hand-axes and
cleavers made from volcanic rocks no longer exposed in the neighbourhood, and
also bolas stones, sometimes occurring in groups of three, as they were assembled
when in use. There are also many bones of extinct varieties of giraffe, horse, elephant
and hippopotamus on which these Acheulian people fed.
Geologically the area is most interesting, with recent fault scarps barely touched
by erosion and running for miles cross country as cliffs. The occupation levels at
Olorgesaille are themselves cut by an Upper Pleistocene fault, which is clearly
After a furious drive we got back to Nairobi at 2 pm, and I was invited to lunch
by Mrs Leakey. They are a most friendly and charming family, and I great admire
them. Their house is much as one might expect, good watercolours on the walls,
and elsewhere a perfect chaos of children and Dalmatian dogs.

May 27 Tuesday
I took another day off, and spent it in the Rift Valley with Dr Leakey. We drove out
on the now familiar road to Nakuru, but I learnt several things that were new to me.

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Mount Margaret was the scene of the great initiation ceremonies held once every
seven years by the Masai. Early in this century they massacred an entire caravan
which had the misfortune to blunder onto the scene.
The small parasitic cone on the north side of the volcano, Longonot, was active
until about 100 years ago, and there is a very recent ash cone just each side of the
road. A pair of lammergeir nest on the cliffs of the volcano. Opposite Longonot
there is a road cutting with a Neolithic occupation level between two ash beds.
There are three Neolithic barrows on the east side of the road a little further on.
Just south of Lake Elmenteita we turned west and drove across the Rift. Here we
saw a magnificent and unusual sight, a flock of two or three hundred pelican on the
wing. On the ground they look ungainly, but their flight is powerful and majestic,
and wheeling above us they made a magnificent spectacle.
Our first objective was Gamble’s Cave. This is on a farm belonging to General
Bridges, now occupied by his daughter and her husband, Mr and Mrs Robinson, who
were most welcoming. The cave is in the hills behind their house. Gamble’s Cave was
cut by wave action at a time when Lake Elmenteita was 510 ft higher than it is now,
corresponding to the 200 ft beach of Lake Navaisha. At their base is a sandy beach
with rolled implements of the Lower Capsian culutre. This belongs to the Gamblian
pluvial, which corresponds to the Wurm II glaciation in Europe. Above it is 7 or 8
ft of cave-earth, crowded with implements and bones. These are of Upper Capsian
culture, resembling the Aurignacian of Europe – although in time they correspond
to Mousterian and Neanderthal periods. Next comes a layer of scree and rock-falls,
above which are early Mesolithic tools (Magosian). Next in sequence is a layer of
windblown sand deposited during a dry period, then a level of late Mesolithic cul-
ture, and finally more wind-blown sand with Neolithic implements.
On our way home we stopped at Enermit Drift, where a fine series of Upper
Pleistocene lake beds is exposed. A few miles south of Gilgil we saw lake beds
with a Neolithic site at present ground level, and beneath it Stibay culture
(contemporaneous with Capsian, but more primitive).
Our next objective was the gorge through which, at one time, Lake Navaisha
spilled over down the Rift Valley. Scenically it is fine, with vertical cliffs of
commendite about 300 ft high, a colony of vultures nests among them. Under the
commendite is a flow of black, glassy obsidian, which was mined for implements
in Capsian times, 30,000 years B.P, without doubt the oldest known example of
underground mine workings in the world. On our way back to Nairobi we saw
beneath the cliffs an exposure of the 700 ft beach of Lake Navaisha.
It was a good day for natural history, for I saw a large troop of baboons, a dyka
and rock hyrax. Of birds I saw, tawny eagle, black-shouldered kite, two species
of buzzards, vulture, ostrich, pelicans, flamingoes, ground hornbills, Kavirondo
cranes, secretary birds, dusky pigeon, pied chat, ant chat, bee eaters, glossy starling,
Masai starling, red-breasted starling, streaky serin, yellow serin, lark heeled cuckoo,
Jackson’s whydah, and finally a little bustard.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Back on the main road lay a black-lipped cobra, presumably hit by a car but
showing no obvious signs of damage. Leakey got out, approached it cautiously
from behind, watched it closely and then bent down, caught it by the tip of its tail,
gave a sharp tug jumping aside at the same time. It was dead.
To have spent two days with Leakey in the Rift was a wonderful experience.

My last contact was in 1957, when Karl von Terzaghi spent a few days in London
on his way out to Kenya, to visit the Sasamua Dam, then under construction, and
giving trouble, for the soil used in building it contained Halloysite.
Introductions between friends can be dangerous; it is unwise to assume that two
men, both of whom you like and admire, will necessarily get on well together when
they meet. In this case I took a chance, and gave Terzaghi a letter of introduction to
Leakey. All was well, they became friends, and Terzaghi was taken to visit Leakey’s
important discoveries at the Paleolithic site at Olorgesaillie.
Visiting Terzaghi at his home in Winchester, Mass., in 1960, he told me how
much he had enjoyed the expedition, and how happy he had felt, when quite
recently he had read of the discovery of Zinjanthropus, and knew that Leakey had at
last found human, or certainly hominid, remains, associated with an early hand-axe

the norWegian geotechnical inStitute 1955

Prior to the visit to the NGI in October 1955, Glossop had a number of contacts with
geotechnical engineers from Scandanavia. The new laboratory of Soil Mechanics Ltd. at
Chelsea, opened at the end of 1951, was considered one of the largest in Europe. Bror
Fellenius from the Geotechnical Division of the Swedish Railways Board visited in
October 1952 and found ‘your laboratory very interesting, not only to its extent, that was
impressive, but also as regards the practical way in which you worked’.
The relationship forged with Laurits Bjerrum continued until his early death in 1973
and a number of his letters have been included in a later chapter.
Bjerrium published two papers on the quick-clay slides mentioned by Glossop during
this visit in the March 1955 issue of Géotechnique and an account of the experiences with
the steel H-piles was published in the March 1957 issue.

October 3 Monday
I reached Oslo at about 6.30 in the evening. Bjerrum and his wife met me at the
airport and drove me out to the hotel which they had chosen – the ‘Holmankollen
Hotel’, which is built on a rocky hill just north of the city, and about 1000 ft above
sea level. I invited them to dine with me, which they did, and we ate a roast bird
called skinke, which I think was a ptarmigan, very well cooked with a cream sauce,
and, afterwards, cloudberries, which I had never seen before. They are said to be an

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acquired taste, but I found them good. They grow in the mountains, and only above
4000 ft.
The hotel is a large log-built building and is close to the ski-run where the
international competitions are held. It is on the edge of a large national park,
and is a centre for winter sports. From it there is a fine view over the city and the
fjord. It was the German headquarters during the war, and NATO now have their
headquarters somewhere in the woods behind it. There were a number of Canadian
and American Air Force officers staying there.
Before he left, Bjerrum said that he would arrange for Wold and Kjolseth to be
in his room at 9 am the next morning, so that I could interview them before leaving
for the laboratory.

October 4 Tuesday
Bjerrum picked me up at 9 am and we drove straight down to the Geotechnical
Institute. It is one of a number of buildings in a group devoted to various branches
of applied science, and soil mechanics is the most recent addition. Bjerrum only
started the laboratory four years ago. It is still housed in a large wooden hut, though
the permanent building has nearly been finished, and they expect to move in early
next year.
Wold and Kjolseth were waiting for me, and I spent about an hour talking to
them. Wold is evidently well educated and intelligent and has a thorough knowledge
of theoretical soil mechanics. I think he would be suitable for Persia, and could
deal with the more difficult foundation and bank building problems so long as
he worked under a practical engineer such as Wild. [George Wild first worked with
Glossop in 1932 on the Leicester Square underground station and was the senior director
on the Persian Roads project.] Kjolseth is very keen and has had good experience
under Bjerrum and would, I think, be quite capable of running the laboratory in
Tehran. Both, I feel, would be better in Tehran than outside, and if we need a soil
mechanics engineer down at Ahwaz I think that Olpinski would be the best for the
job. I gave them both forms of application and copies of our Terms of Employment
in Persia, and asked them to let me have the forms back next day.
Bjerrum then came in and we went out to see his establishment. Bjerrum was
trained as a civil engineer and worked for seven years with a firm of consultants
in Copenhagen. He then went down to Zurich and did post-graduate work under
Haefeli, remaining there for about five years until he was offered the post of head
of the newly formed Geotechnical Institute in Norway. He is intelligent and clear-
headed, and it is obvious that he is doing very good work and has built up a good
team around him; it is astonishing how much he has done in four years.
He first showed me their piston samplers, and at the same time made the
comment that he thought that in England our sampling methods were rather
crude. They have been developed for the London clay for which they were no doubt
satisfactory, but be felt that they were not good enough for working in soft clays,

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

and certainly would not do for Norwegian quick clays. I think that he is right, and
we would be well advised to buy two or three Norwegian samplers and test them in
England. He offered to let me have the drawings, but it would probably be simpler
in the first case to buy them ready made in Norway before embarking on making
our own.
He next showed me the type of vane test apparatus which he has designed. In
principle this is very similar to our own and the vane is carried in a housing and
can be protruded when the tube has been driven down to the depth at which it
is required to make tests. The interesting feature of this apparatus is the torsion
head. This is very well designed and a great deal better than anything that we have.
We have, of course, been aware of our own short-comings here, and quite a lot of
time was spent at Soil Mechanics Ltd. in preparing a design for torsion heads, not
dissimilar to the one which Bjerrum has perfected. However, I think that his has
now proved itself in practice, and we would be well advised to buy some of the
Norwegian heads for our own use.
Finally he showed me the piezometer tube, which he uses for pore water
pressure measurements. It differs from ours in that the porous portion is made of
sintered bronze and is consequently less easily broken than the unglazed porcelain
type which we use. He makes a great deal of use of these piezometers in the field.
We then went out into the main testing laboratory. The samples from the piston
samplers are extruded on to a perspex tray along which a strip of tin foil can be
drawn, so that there is no deformation of the soft clay as it leaves the sample tube.
The next step, which is standard practice, is that a fine sliver is cut along the full
length of the sample by sliding a frame with a fine horizontal wire along the tray
on which the sample is lying. This wire cuts the clay at a depth of perhaps 1 mm
below the upper surface of the sample. These slivers of clay are laid out on racks
and are allowed to dry, and are then examined as the structure of clay is revealed on
drying. Unconfined compression tests are made on an apparatus of British design
and manufacture, but the samples are trimmed to a square section before testing in
order to get rid of any clay disturbed while taking the sample.
With regard to the consolidation test, the consolidation press is similar to that
designed by Bishop, except that a special device is used for preparing the sample
since the quick clays are extremely sensitive to handling.
The most interesting features of the laboratory are the triaxial testing machines,
and here, I think, Bjerrum’s pattern is definitely an improvement on ours. Compared
with the Bishop apparatus, the device for measuring pore water pressures during
tests is very simple, and so also is the device for regulating and maintaining the
cell pressure. Bjerrum has also got a useful gadget for measuring the permeability
of compacted soils in the triaxial cell. This device enables a high pressure to be put
on the sample, and on top of that a small differential pressure for the permeability
measurement; the idea for high pressure is to compress any air bubbles in the
sample, which would have the effect of decreasing permeability.

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At lunch time we had a sandwich and a cup of coffee in the laboratory, and
Bjerrum told me of some work they were doing in connection with the rock falls
which have occurred in the Norwegian fjords. Many of the fjords are extremely
narrow. The cliffs on either side rise almost vertically to a great height, sometimes
to as much as 4000 ft, and therefore the water is very deep. Consequently, when a
large rock fall occurs, enormous waves are set up in the fjord, and records of waves
up to 200 ft high have been found. These waves, of course, obliterate any villages
situated on the low land alongside the upper reaches of the fjord, and in the past have
caused great loss of life. In most cases the control of such rock falls is impossible, so
the laboratory have been working on a method for giving warning when they may
occur, and one geologist is employed full time on this problem. He has been chosen
not only for his knowledge of geology, but because he is a first rate mountaineer,
as it often requires an experienced climber to get anywhere near the point where
fissures exist behind the loose masses of rock. The line on which they have been
working is to design an electrical apparatus which will record any slight movement
of fissures, as it is felt that where such enormous masses are concerned there must be
preparatory movements for some time before a big fall. Since the fissures on which
the apparatus is to be installed are often at a great height and in a most inaccessible
position, it would be impossible to connect them with the centre of population
by a cable, since this would almost certainly be broken by snow or ice falls during
the winter. Accordingly, the apparatus is self-contained, and contains a wireless
transmitter which transmits signals to a receiver stationed in the nearest village. If
there is evidence of a rapid increase of movement, this is obviously a warning of
possible danger, and precautions are taken. It does not follow, of course, that an
increased movement will be followed by a fall. Bjerrum also said that in some cases
the movement might be clearly due to water collecting behind a rock mass and
then freezing. This would have the effect of wedging it off, and the repetition of this
process might eventually lead to a fall. Where examination of a dangerous rock mass
showed that this mechanism might be the cause of movement, he felt that it would
be possible to put in tunnels or horizontal borings to drain pockets where water
might collect, but that in most cases nothing could be done to prevent an incipient
fall. I said I thought this was an extremely interesting application of geology, and
asked him if he would write an article for Géotechnique. He promised that he would.
We next visited the physical chemistry and physics laboratory, which is run
by Rosenquist. Unfortunately Rosenquist was away at some scientific meeting in
Prague, but I met his assistant, Moum. This department carried out a lot of work on
the corrosion of steel piles in the ground. In Norway this is important, since not only
are steel sheet piles used, but also nearly all the bearing piles put down in Oslo and
elsewhere are either H-section steel joists, or other steel fabricated sections. They
have developed a probe which can be pushed down like a Dutch deep sounding
probe, but which has a magnesium point insulated from the tube which carries
it, and this is pressed down into the ground, and the current flowing between the

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

magnesium point and the steel tube is measured by a galvanometer. The electrical
activity of the soil has been measured in the neighbourhood of old piles, which
have then been drawn and the amount of corrosion estimated. Investigations have
also been made on swords and other iron and steel objects which have been dug up
at one time or another and preserved in museums. As a result of this they are now
confident that they can predict the activity of any soil as regards its action on steel
piles, and, where the soil is shown to be dangerously corrosive, measures are taken
to protect the steel piles, either by burying a block of magnesium in the ground
or by feeding a low direct voltage current into the piles. This technique has now
gone beyond the research stage and is well-established practice in Norway. I think
that we would be very well advised to take it up and add it to our site investigation
department’s repertoire. It would also be worth following it up in connection
with ground water lowering. For example, at Gallions Lock we must have spent
thousands of pounds in renewing wells which have been attacked by the properties
of the ground water; it would be possible to stop this corrosion altogether. This is a
thing which I think we should certainly investigate.
By the time I had finished looking round the laboratory it was about 3.30 pm,
and as I had developed a bad headache, I excused myself and went back to the hotel
and lay down for a few hours.
At 8 pm I dined at a restaurant in the Observatorium Str. called ‘La Belle Sole’
with Mr Folkstad, who is the leading civil engineering consultant in Norway, Mr
Berntsen, the head of the firm of Berntsen, contractors who do a good deal of
building and foundation work, Mr Eide who is on Bjerrum’s staff and is responsible
for the consulting side, and lastly Wold. The dinner went on until 1 am in the
morning, and the conversation was exclusively about soil mechanics and foundation
engineering. Berntsen is obviously a man who is full of ideas, and described some
recent patents which he had taken out for moving shutters and other devices, some
of them obviously good, some doubtful, and some I felt slightly freakish. Altogether
a very enjoyable and interesting evening.

October 5 Wednesday
Berntsen arrived about 9.30 am and we drove down to the Geotechnical Institute
and picked up Bjerrum. The job we were to visit was the site for a County Hospital
at Stroemen, about 15 miles east of Oslo, where Berntsen has a subcontract for the
foundations. On the way out of Oslo we stopped to look at a contract for blocks
of flats which is being carried out by Berntsen Boe, S.A., value 20,000,000 kroner.
These are built of lightweight concrete blocks, 19½ in × 9 in × 8 in, with an external
cement rendering. Two types of blocks are used, ‘Ytong’ and ‘Siporex’; one is made
from the local alum shales, the other from concrete with the addition of powdered
aluminium. The workmanship was appalling.
The hospital site was typical of the coastal areas of South Norway. Although the
building is not very large, at one end of the site there was a mass of granite gneiss

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just below the surface, which was being drilled and blasted, and a few feet from it
they were preparing to drive H-section steel piles 40 ft to rock.
The clay areas showed an upper crust of fairly stiff-fissured, varve clay, of fresh
water origin, beneath which was typical Norwegian quick clay. According to
Rosenquist, the fissured structure of the upper clay is due to base exchange, the
sodium being replaced by potassium released from the rock minerals in the clay by
weathering. Why the potassium should produce the fissured structure is not known
(Norges Geotekniske Institutt, Publikasion Nr. 8.).
The piling was most interesting. The piles consisted of heavy H-section joists
18 cm × 18 cm in 18 ft lengths. On the leading end was welded a ‘rock point’ of 3 in
diameter bar, with a hard metal welded crown. These piles are driven with a 2500 lb
monkey, though there was a 4000 lb monkey on the site for hard driving. Eighteen-
foot lengths are welded on as required, and since the rock surface may be steeply
inclined, on meeting rock the pile is given a number of light blows to chisel a ‘seat’
or ‘notch’ for itself.
Since the piles are driven in 18-ft lengths, the frame is a very light affair, the
leaders being channels, without ‘strongbacks’. There was an electrically driven
winch, with two subsidiary winches for moving the frame, which is skidded on
spare piles.
The steel sections used as piles range from 18 cm × 18 cm to 30 cm × 32 cm,
and the Oslo Building Regulations lay down the section to be used for any length
of pile.
So long as there is no doubt about the effect of corrosion – and apparently the
Norwegians can now assess the degree of danger of corrosion on any site with
accuracy – this piling system seems to be most simple and effective, particularly
where pile lengths vary greatly over a site, for very little time is lost in welding
on extensions. We drove back to Oslo and stopped to look at some high blocks
of flats built by Berntsen with his patented system of moving shutters. These were
impressive, and I feel that we should do something about moving shuttering.
Jameson would be just the man for such an exploit.
We lunched at a famous old restaurant – ‘Blom’ – where Ibsen used to drink and
brood over the machinations of Hedda Gabler.
After lunch Berntsen left us, and Bjerrum and I set off to visit landslides. The first
we visited, at Bekkelaget, is a ‘collectors’ piece’ and has some remarkable features. At
this point there is a high cliff of ice-polished rock separated from the fjord by a level
plain perhaps 300 yards wide, with houses and gardens. The railway and the road
follow the base of the cliff, with the railway above and the road below. There was a
retaining wall between the railway and the road, and another between the road and
the level ground below it. The road and railway, though adjacent to the rock cliff,
were carried on fill resting on the ‘plain’, which consists of an upper layer of stiff clay
20 ft thick, resting on a bed of soft quick clay. The slide occurred in the morning,
and all was over in a minute or so. It consisted of a typical circular slide about 400 ft

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of Geotechnology

Typical Norwegian pile frame as used for driving steel joist piles. The piles are
driven in short and comparatively light sections, the frame is also of very light
construction and is easily erected, dismantled and manoeuvred.

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Above: H-beam piles 18

cm × 18 cm as used at
Stroemen. The rock points
are welded on to the end of
the H-beams.

Right: Steel piles in place

after driving; Bjerrum in the
light raincoat.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

long, which ruptured the retaining walls and lowered and tilted back the road and
the railway by 15 ft or so. There were seven cars on the road at the time, which were
capsized by the tilt of the road, though no one was hurt. A train approaching the
spot was stopped just in time, though one passenger died of fright. The only other
casualties were in a bus, which was just opposite the spot at the east end of the slide
where the retaining wall between the railway and the road was ruptured. Falling
masonry wrecked the bus and killed five passengers.
The extraordinary feature of this slide is the movement which occurred in the
level ground below.
An area of level ground 300 ft wide was pushed out bodily for a distance of 70 ft
towards the fjord, the crust of stiff clay sliding on the soft clay beneath it. This area
was bounded on either side by sharply defined shear planes, as can be seen by the
displacement of fences and roads which cross them. The movement did not reach
the shore, for the stiff clay crust buckled about 150 yards from the toe of the original
circular slip, and was thrown up into ridges. One house on the buckled area was
destroyed, but on the area between the shear planes, the toe of the circular slip,
and the region of buckling, everything – houses, trees and gardens – moved 70 ft
south without being damaged. One farmer refused to believe that he, his house,
family, garden, greenhouse, and a number of trees 60 ft high had slid 70 ft without
his knowing it. The legal problems of land tenure should be interesting.
The slide is essentially similar to the ‘compound’ slide at Chingford, and it has
inspired Bjerrum’s tame mathematician – whose name I have forgotten – to develop
a rigorous mathematical analysis of this type of slide; to the dismay of Bjerrum,
who thinks his talents might be used to better advantage!
We stopped to look at some of the rocky islands in the fjord with charming
houses on them, and then set off to see the slide at Ullensaker, 35 km north east of
Oslo. This slide is typical of the curious quick clay slides which occur in Scandinavia
and in the St Lawrence Valley in Canada.
The country in the neighbourhood of Ullensaker is a level plain underlain
by clay resting on bedrock. The clay was laid down below sea level during the
last glaciation, and, on the melting of the Scandinavian ice cap, was raised by the
isostatic lift of the land to its present position. Subsequently streams cut steep-sided
little valleys through it, and in places natural drainage through the sides of these
valleys has led to the leaching out of the salt in the pore water of the clay with the
formation of pockets of quick clay. The removal of the salt reduces the electrical
forces binding the particles of clay mineral together. The result is that although the
volume of the clay and its undisturbed shear strength are unaltered, it is in a highly
unstable condition, and is extremely sensitive to remoulding. If a fragment of such a
clay is examined, it seems to be a firm clay capable of taking a foundation load of say
1 ton/square foot, but on kneading it between the fingers it becomes a liquid.
Where a pocket of such quick clay exists in the side of a valley, a slide can occur
in the following way. A normal circular slide takes place in the stiff clay at the valley

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edge. This can be brought about by normal processes, stream erosion, for example.
This releases the quick clay and a succession of slides take place in it, the debris of
each slide becoming almost wholly liquid by remoulding. The liquid clay flows out
through the narrow gap formed by the original slip, and falls and flow continue until
the whole of the pocket of quick clay is exhausted.
In the case of Ullensaker, a total volume of 300,000 cubic metres of clay passed
out through the gap in a few minutes, and flowed down the narrow valley of the
stream for a distance of 2 km until it reached the point where the road crosses the
valley on an embankment. The liquid was too viscous to pass through the culvert,
and was dammed up to form a level plain behind the bank, completely filling the
The site of the slide is now a shallow frying pan shaped depression, its edges
bounded by clay slips, the bottom being almost level and only very slightly above
the stream bed.
A farmhouse which was situated in the slide area was moved down the valley
as far as the culvert, where its remains were found, and some of the farm animals
were with it and were rescued alive. The farmer had seen cracks on the bank of the
stream where the initial slide took place in the morning, and knowing the sinister
reputation of the district, took his wife to spend the night with neighbours. The
slide occurred at 11 pm the same day.
I asked Bjerrum if they had any evidence of the rate at which the leaching process
took place, and he told me that in fact in the case of one slide they had been able
to form a very reasonable estimate based on the examination of the microfossils
in the clay. This should make a good article for Géotechnique, which has been sadly
lacking in geological papers in recent years. I also asked him about the history of
the study of these slides, and he told me that as many had occurred in historical
times, the place name ‘Lierfall’ (‘Clayslide’) was not uncommon, and had given rise
to a family name of territorial origin. The word ‘quick clay’ was also old, and had
been translated into English as ‘quick clay’ by a Norwegian geologist as long ago as
It was a dull drizzly day, but I enjoyed the drive back through country, very like
eastern Canada, neat wooden farm houses on the clay land, and fir trees and silver
birch on the extensive outcrops of ice-polished rock. The only obvious difference
was the bracken, bright yellow in the shade of the forest, for bracken is not found
in Canada.
Bjerrum asked me to visit him after dinner, but I refused as I was still feeling
rather shaky, and went early to bed.

October 6 Thursday
Having decided that I was not up to any strenuous exercise, and that there was no
point in staying in Oslo for the weekend, I went down to the Scandinavian Airlines
office immediately after breakfast and booked a passage home on Friday. From
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

there I went to the Geotechnical Institute and arrived at 9.45 am to find Bjerrum
and Kjarnsli waiting for me. Kjarnsli is Bjerrum’s senior assistant, very intelligent,
and a good mountaineer. He speaks quite good English, having spent a research
year at Imperial College under Skempton.
The object of the expedition was a big new bridge over the River Glomma at
Frederikstad, but on the way we stopped at the little industrial town of Moss to see
two of Bjerrum’s jobs, one a group of grain silos founded on cylinders placed on
boulder clay and exerting a pressure of 8 tons/sq. ft., and the other the foundations
for a bascule bridge. Moss is situated in an area of end-moraine where there was a
pause in the retreat of the ice, and a re-advance; consequently quick clay may occur
between two beds of boulder clay.
We arrived at Frederikstad about 12.30 pm and had lunch at a restaurant called
‘The Tambouret’ in the old fortified town, which is picturesque (red squirrels
running about in the streets. One of the nice features of Norway is that the dog
population is small and well behaved; hence the bold squirrels, I suppose).
The Glomma river is the largest in Norway and typical of a river from forest
country, clear, dark water, the colour of tea, and very fast flowing. The bridge consists
of a steel arch, of the Sydney Bridge type, the deck being 60 m above water level.
This has been designed and will be built by a German firm, but the foundations for
the arch and the approaches are being built by the Norwegian contractor Selmer,
who, though over 80, is very lively and an excellent engineer.
The foundation conditions are typical of Norway, a steeply sloping surface of
extremely hard gneiss overlain by anything up to 80 ft of soft quick clay. The original
intention was to drive reinforced concrete piles, cast with a central circular duct,
so that when the pile reached bedrock a drill could be put down the duct, a hole
drilled into rock, and a dowel bar inserted and grouted in. Work was started on the
west bank. A large number of piles were driven, but many were damaged in driving,
and when others were driven in their place, those already driven were lifted up by
the displacement of the clay. Finally the quick clay was so remoulded by pile driving
that there was serious danger of a catastrophic slide involving the river wall. It was
decided to abandon this foundation, build another further back from the river, and
redesign the arch to the new span. The new foundation was of a form suggested by
the contractor. It consists of two parallel concrete walls, parallel to the axis of the
bridge. These walls extend to bedrock, a depth of 12 to 18 m, and as this is far below
the critical depth for the clay, the following method of excavation was adopted.
Each excavation consists of a row of small circular cofferdams in simplex steel
sheet piling. These cells are about 3 ft in diameter, and are grabbed out by means
of an orange peel grab. An interesting feature is the machine designed and built for
bending the joists to the right curvature on the site. As each cylinder is concreted,
horizontal bars are placed and these are bent up and then incorporated in the next
cylinder when that is concreted. This is to take any shears, on the pack of cards
principle, caused by the horizontal thrust of the arch. Following the trouble on the

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Fredrikstad Bridge: the junction of two caissons.

west bank, it was decided to use a different type of pile on the east bank. Instead
of using the H-beam section, which is common in Norway, a hollow square pile
was made by welding together two large section angles and providing them with
a foot and a rock point. The advantage of this is that the pile is hollow and a light
can be lowered down it to see whether it has been deformed at all while chiselling
into bedrock. Again, on the east bank, the number of piles in the abutment is very
large, and there was the danger of setting up a slide by remoulding the clay. To check
this, a large number of piezometer tubes have been inserted and these are measured
every day and the measurements reported to Oslo by telephone. If then dangerous
pore water pressures are built up, pile driving is stopped until they have dissipated.
Mr Selmer originally designed the hollow concrete pile with a bored dowell to rock
because he did not trust the chiselling process on such an important foundation
as that for a big steel arch. To settle this matter, Wold carried out a large number
of experiments on the site. Steel piles were driven to bedrock and the effect of the
large number of blows was measured. Strain gauges were attached both to the head
and to the toe of the pile, and continuous records were kept of the stress on the pile
during driving. After driving, the piles were excavated out and the effect on the rock
point in cutting its way into the rock was measured and photographed. The results
were very satisfactory and were certainly most interesting. As the rock is a very hard
granite gneiss, a very large number of blows were required, and, in some cases, 3500
blows were given without damaging the pile, to cut a deep enough notch in the
granite surface. All the work on these piles at Frederikstad is very interesting, and

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

I hope that Bjerrum will write an article for Géotechnique on the subject. [This was
published in Géotechnique, March 1957.]
On the way back we drove through the town of Sarpsborg, where there is a large
hydro-electric site and a big chemical factory which employs the power. This factory
is built on the site of a very old quick clay slide, and, by a geological freak, the river,
although it has cut itself a deep gorge in granite, is, in fact, separated from the factory
only by a clay ridge on which are found the road and railway. Since more has been dis-
covered about these clay slips, the owners of the factory have felt some concern about
the stability of this clay slope, and Bjerrum has investigated it pretty thoroughly.
I got back to my hotel at about 7 pm, and, having changed, went down to dine
with the Bjerrums. We spent a quiet evening, and I got home at about 10.30 pm.

October 7 Friday
I left Oslo at 10 am, flying in a British European Airways ‘Viscount’. The flying time
from Oslo to London was 2 hours and 40 minutes.

highWayS in perSia 1955–1958

In May 1955, following a lengthy period of negotiations, a contract was signed with the
Iranian Government to supervise a major programme of road construction. The project,
led by Glossop, involved surveying some 4000 miles of highway, preparation of contract
documentation and supervision of construction. To achieve this required the establishment
of a large laboratory for materials testing. The contract value was £30m of which a third
was to cover the provision of construction equipment.
Abruptly, in December 1957, the contract was terminated and an extended period of
discussions ensued to seek financial recompense. A handwritten note by Glossop provides
a brief account of this sad period:
‘The Persian Roads contract was the most significant event in my
life as an engineer. It was an opportunity to go a very long way indeed
but in the end I was associated with and largely responsible for a
failure. A failure in the face of overwhelming odds, but still a failure.
There were three phases, the first (1954–55) lasted for twelve
months during which I negotiated a contract with the Persian
Government and eventually in May 1955 saw it signed.
The second phase lasted two years. I built up a large organisation
in Persia and did a great deal of work under constant (political)
pressure. This ended in an explosion in December 1957 when the
Persian Government rescinded the contract.
The third phase lasted for no less than ten years until in September
1966 a final settlement was signed. So that when all the dust had
settled John Mowlem showed a total tax loss of £40,000. So we

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had done a great deal of work for no reward but had gained much
experience. The project established John Mowlem as international
There was one further event associated with this project recorded in the Minutes
of the Directors of Mowlem’s, held in the archives of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
The Minutes for 28 August 1956 report that Harold Harding was asked to resign as a
Director from 13 August. Contrary to instructions, he had held contractual discussions
with the Persian Roads client that had a material effect on the contract value. A knock-on
effect of this decision was reported by Burland (2008):
‘In 1958 (Hugh) Golder resigned from Soil Mechanics Ltd. (where
he was the Managing Director) “on a matter of principle” in protest
against what he understood was the arbitrary dismissal of his lifelong
mentor Harold Harding by Sir George Burt following disputes
between them concerning current road contracts in Iran.’
Harding had been a close colleague of Glossop since 1931 and both were appointed
Directors of John Mowlem in 1951, the first non-family appointments. Golder had joined
Glossop at Leiston in 1942 and the three had been instrumental in the development of
Soil Mechanics Ltd. Thus one can well understand the comment by Glossop that the
Persian Roads contract was the most significant event in his engineering life.

north aMerica 1958

The main objective of this visit to North America during September and October of 1958
was to attend the Sixth International Conference on Large Dams, held in New York. The
conference was followed by a study tour to the Mid West, visiting a series of dams and
control measures within the Missouri Basin. The third phase, the extract included here,
relates to the visits to foundation contracts in New York and Chicago. The final leg of the
journey was to the Palisadoes Airport contract being constructed by John Mowlen & Co.
in Kingston, Jamaica.

September 28 Sunday [Denver]

In the morning a few enthusiasts, including the Russians, the Japanese, Alan
Little, Stanley Serota and myself, went out to the Laboratories of the Bureau of
Reclamation, for our first visit had been a very short one. A number of staff very
kindly turned out to show us round.
We lunched at the hotel and then caught the afternoon aeroplane to New York,
getting there about midnight.

September 29 Monday
In the morning I relaxed after my strenuous middle-western tour. There was a letter

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

from E.C. Beck asking me to visit Palisadoes, so later I walked over to Fifth Avenue
and reserved bookings with Airanea.
Lunched with the Whites and Prentis, and had an interesting talk and then went
back to their office where Ned Prentis gave me details of a number of drilling rigs
which they use.
At 4 pm I called at the offices of Tippets, Abbet, McArthy & Stratton. This is a
consulting firm which has grown very rapidly in recent years (and now has a staff of
300), as a result, no doubt, of the US Government’s policy of financing work in unde-
veloped countries and seeing that American firms get the work. (Compare Kariba.)
John Lowe, a junior partner, introduced me to Abbet and also to General
Stratton, who had attended a lecture I gave at the Road Research Laboratory during
the war on pavement design, an odd episode in my life which I had forgotten about
till he mentioned it. We discussed Persia, and I told them briefly the truth of our
experiences there.
I then visited their soil mechanics laboratory, which is small but efficient. They
have a most interesting triaxial cell designed by a man at Harvard called Wartan.
Both Arthur Casagrande and Rutledge are said to be taking it up. Unfortunately
there was not nearly time to grasp all the details. (Nor did Little when he visited
them, so I am not alone in my failure.)
I then went out to Bronxville with Lane and dined with Mr and Mrs Lowe and
the Carneal Smiths – he is their soil mechanics man and visited Persia when they
were asked to take over our work there.

September 30 Tuesday
I called at 10 E. 40th Street, the office of Spencer, White & Prentis, at 10 am, and went
with Ed White to see a subway construction job at Chrystie Street and Delancey
Street, one block from the Bowery. The main contractor is the Cayuga Foundation
Corporation, with Spencer, White & Prentis as contractors for underpinning,
etc., and the Griffin Well Point Company for water lowering. The job is to build a
length of single-track tunnel crossing beneath an existing four-track tunnel, which
was itself built in 1906. The ground is glacial till with much fine sand, and a highly
dilatant silt (bull’s liver), and is about as bad as it could be. Water level is at about
the invert level of the old tunnel, so the crossover portion which is to be done by
Spencer, White & Prentis is below ground water level, but the responsibility for
lowering it does not lie with them but with the main contractor.
We first visited the big open cut, which is being carried out by the main con-
tractor. It is about 70 ft deep and 40 ft wide, and supported in the usual American
fashion with steel soldier beams, driven before excavation, between which horizon-
tal timbers are placed as excavation proceeds. In this case 24 in H-beams had been
driven at 12 ft centres (7 ft is more usual) and 12 in × 6 in timbers were used. Much
of the timber was second-hand from old structures, buildings, etc., and presumably
cheap to buy.

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The ground was drained by a new type of ‘Griffin’ well point, which works on
the principle of an injector, a small high-pressure jet carrying water to the surface.
The pressure water is at 140 psi and gives a 1 to 3 yield. Although the pressure side
of the apparatus is heavy and clumsy, and although the results at this site were not
entirely satisfactory (probably the soil was too fine for well point drainage anyway),
we should follow up this type of well point as it is not limited by suction depth,
and may fill the bill between shallow well work and deep well work. I saw a similar
device in use at Brussels some seven or eight years ago, but that was not marketed
and I could not find out any details about it.
It was evident from the look of the site that they were in trouble; some ground
had been lost and hay stuffed in between the timbers, and the bottom of the
excavation was in water-logged silt in which they were cutting a ‘grip’. White said
he thought that they were tackling the job the wrong way by using well points and
that it would have been better to use the ‘onion skin’ method of excavation, which
was developed by his father (see Underpinning Prentis & White, 1st Edition, pages
80–82). A filter sump had been installed, and I was told that the deepest point in
the excavation would be 110 ft. The struts looked a bit light and I was not sorry to
get out of the place.
We next visited Spencer, White & Prentis’s part of the contract, where the
new subway passes beneath the old subway tunnel. This crossing involves the
underpinning, not only of old brick buildings on either side of the street, but also of
the original subway tunnel itself, which is not a very strong structure, consisting as it
does of the original steel beams driven for the opencut excavation and subsequently
built into the concrete walls, with an 8 inch concrete invert slab. The new tunnel
passes immediately under the floor slab of the old one.
Roughly, the system to be adopted is the underpinning of the old subway walls
temporarily with ‘Pretest’ piles, one pile under each steel H-beam in the old wall,
and then to drive two headings on the line of the walls to the new tunnel. From
these headings pits will be sunk at intervals in which piers will be built, and the top
will then be taken out and steel girders placed on these piers and wedged up to the
underside of the existing tunnel. Finally the ‘dumpling’ will be taken out and an
invert put in. Except for the ‘Pretest’ piles, this is very much the way in which we
would tackle such a job ourselves.
I was very much interested by the ‘Pretest’ piling, since this was the original
invention of Prentis and White, which is described in their book Underpinning,
and which I think we might well use in this country more often than we do. The
first step in ‘Pretest’ piling is to put a small heading or excavation beneath the
existing foundation, and this, of course, requires a skilled timberman. The shell
of the pile, which in this case is a ⅜in steel plate rolled to a 16 in diameter (more
normally the plate is 0.41 inch thick rolled to 14 inch diameter), is jacked down
from the underside of the foundation in short lengths, the ground being removed
from within it by means of a small orange peel grab. These small grabs are very neat

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

tools and I think we would do well to buy some. The tube is cut in lengths on the
site with burning gear, and welded up as required during sinking. A two-cylinder
Simplex pump giving a maximum pressure of 5000 lb per square inch was in use,
and a pressure line carried to all the working places. When the pile reaches the
bearing stratum, it is concreted and the final test given with a hand pump which
can deliver at 10,000 lb per square inch. The pile is then wedged up against the
underside of the foundation and is concreted again. In silt it is not unusual for piles
to go down 2 ft on the test.
When I visited the site, ‘Pretest’ piling was in progress, but tunnelling had been
held up by the failure of the main contractor to lower the ground water by means
of his well points.
We had a long talk about the various types of cast-in-situ piles and drilled shaft
foundations, which are used both in the United States and in the United Kingdom.
Ed White told me that he thought for the London clay the Calwell rig was the best
tool, which I was glad to hear since we have already taken the plunge and bought
one. He was much interested in the Bade rig since it is better suited to the very
variable ground which is found in New York City, and which varies from silt to
boulders. They had played with the idea of buying a Benoto rig, just as we have,
but have turned it down on the grounds of cost, just as we did. It seems likely that
they may now buy a Bade rig. He told me that for drilling in clay they themselves
use the Calwell rig, and they had also hired and used a Williams rig and might at
some future time buy one of them, although it is a more expensive tool. There was
another type which they have used known as the ‘Crane’ rig, which is made in Texas
and which was an attachment which could be fitted to a crane to allow its use for
boring large diameter holes. McAlpine’s had heard about this ‘Crane’ rig from Ned
Prentis, and had bought one, and it is this which they are using without very much
success on the Shell Building in London, and which they have launched under the
name of ‘Economic Foundations, Ltd.’
Returning to the Calwell type of machine, White said that it was usual to send
a man down and that before doing so a temporary lining either of ¼ in plate or
corrugated metal was dropped into the hole by means of a crane. The formation of
a bell usually cost as much or more than did the drilling of the hole itself, and where
the specification called for the foundation to go down to rock, the bottom must
always be cleaned off by hand. Frequently the engineers rejected the weathered rock
at the surface, and excavation by hand had to be carried down for several inches or
more until sound rock was reached. It was very important to put in a good price for
this item, for it was difficult work.
The best type of belling tool gave a concave face upwards, but architects and
engineers often called for a 30º conical bell, and this as a rule had to be cut open.
Rotary rigs of this type were only really suitable for clay, and were no good in gravel,
though in certain circumstances they could drill through sand and gravel using a
heavy mud fluid instead of a casing.

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As regards concreting, the usual practice was merely to chute the concrete down
the hole, and there was no reason to fear trouble from segregation. In some cases,
engineers had insisted that perforated pipes should be placed in the hole during
concreting to prevent the formation of air traps.
With regard to the history of the method, White said it had started in Texas,
where they had very difficult swelling clays, and the original drills were quite
rough affairs like the ‘Crane’ rig made by local oil-well drilling firms. Drilled shaft
foundations had then been introduced to California, where they became very
popular, and where the Calwell rig was developed, and later taken up in the Eastern
States and Chicago. In Chicago they had had a great success and had completely
superseded the old Chicago Caisson type of foundation. Architects and engineers
were tending more and more to call for them throughout the United States, even in
many cases where he himself considered that they were unnecessary.
Finally, White told me of a job which they had recently completed for the
Simplex Wire and Cable Company, of Newington, New Hampshire, for a jetty. This
in fact was the fellow to the jetty which we built at Gravesend, since it was intended
for loading cable into the cable ship Monarch for the trans-Atlantic telephone
cable, just as ours was. The site was a difficult one with strong tides and only 4 ft
of soft clay overlying hard rock. The method used was to drill into the rock with a
percussion drill, insert a steel beam and encase it in concrete. This is evidently the
sort of thing that would be required at Oslo if we should get that job. Owing to the
high current velocities, the barge used in this case was fitted with spuds, as well as
ordinary moorings.
The rock was hard and the holes, which were 24 in or 30 in in diameter, were put
down by means of a churn drill, using a 3 ton string of tools.
One of the most interesting days I have spent for years. We have quite a lot to
learn from Spencer, White & Prentis, for the practical approach to certain types of
tunnelling invented by the first generation White and Prentis is still of great value.
It was a pleasure to see it, since for years I have known and admired their book. I
should like Collingridge to see this job if it can possibly be arranged.

October 1, Wednesday
I woke up to find it pouring with rain, so I spent the morning writing my notes.
About midday I went out, bought a raincoat, and found my way down town to the
office of Raymond International. Lunched with Morris, O’Connor and Lindsay.
We went out to the nearest restaurant in Cedar Street, for it was still raining very
hard. Conversation opened by Morris saying to me, ‘What do you know that we
don’t, and that we can do together?’. I said that we knew a lot more about grouting
and injections than they did, and described Dartford and Hong Kong to them. It
was agreed that on my return to London I should discuss the possibility of collabo-
ration between Soil Mechanics and Raymond with John Mowlem’s Board and get
in touch with them again.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

We also discussed various piling systems such as the Franki, the West, etc.
Evidently they have been in touch with West’s, but are doubtful as to whether to
take it up. I gave my views frankly and in some detail.
News had just come though about Kenya, and they were evidently pleased at
the prospect of working there.
Raymond’s are now a very big firm doing general overseas work but I got the
feeling that the nucleus of their business in the United States, which is piling, is not
going so well. Their system of piling requires expensive plant, so that the capital
investment there is considerable. This means that they must go out after work to
keep their turnover up, and their special piling system, like all such systems, is only
suited to certain types of ground, so that over-anxiety to get work can get them into
serious difficulties, as is certainly the case on the uptown job I visited recently.
Our more flexible approach is, I think, more likely to prove successful in the
Back to East 40th Street by subway – rough and ready but efficient.
Dined at the Harvard Club with both Whites, Ed and Bob, and Ned Prentis and
their wives. Then to the theatre to see ‘The Dark at the Top of the Stairs’.

October 2, Thursday
I walked over to the East Side Air Terminal, which is only a short distance from
the hotel, and took the bus to La Guardia Airport, arriving there at 7.30 am. It
was a non-stop flight to Chicago, passing over the Allegheny Mountains, and over
Lakes Erie and Huron. We arrived at 10.30 am, Chicago time. I went straight to the
office of Spencer, White & Prentis, and learned that Bob Dunlap was ill, and that R.
Bethell, who is normally in charge of their Detroit office, had come over to Chicago
to manage that office in the absence of Dunlap.
Bethell was most friendly, and evidently was keenly interested in foundation
engineering work. We first went over to the ‘Sherman Hotel’, where I left my bag,
then visited the first of his jobs.
This was a foundation for an extension to the First Federal Savings and Loan
Bank at the intersection of Dearborne and Monroe Streets, and next door to the
new building of the Inland Steel Company, which is the finest example of modern
architecture I have yet seen anywhere. The foundation was of the drilled shaft type,
and there was one Calwell rig working when we arrived. A crane rig had also been
at work, but was being loaded on to a lorry for removal to another site. The site had
been excavated to a depth of about 20 ft for a basement, by the usual American
methods of driving in soldier H-beams and then putting in horizontal boards
between them as excavation proceeds.
In this case the method of supporting the soldiers was unusual, for as Spencer,
White & Prentis had been responsible for the foundation of the Inland Steel
Building next door, they had tied back their soldiers to the foundation of the
adjoining building by means of wire bonds. The drilled shafts were put down

Later Journals

Above: First Federal Savings

Bank, Chicago: Calwell
rig at site. Note extreme
congestion of site.

Right: First Federal Savings

Bank, Chicago: Calwell rig.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

First Federal Savings Bank, Chicago: steel soldiers and horizontal timber laggings.

from the bottom of this excavation, through typical Chicago Lake clay down to
hard pan. I looked at the clay with interest. In colour it does not show any sign
of fissuring. I should say that it has a rather lower liquid limit than the London
clay, and it also contains occasional pebbles. There are, however, no concretions
such as the clay stones which we get. The so-called ‘hard pan’, which is generally
found at a depth of about 60 ft, seems to me to be the same clay but more highly
consolidated, and with strengths running up to 15,000 lb per square foot. It may
be an old land surface and have thus been consolidated by desiccation. However,
I did not have the opportunity to meet or discuss these problems with a trained
I lunched at the hotel with Bethell. In fashionable restaurants it appears to be
the smart thing to have the place in semi-darkness so that it was almost impossible
to see what one was eating. This used to be the custom in night clubs in London
years ago, but I cannot recommend it for a normal business lunch.
After lunch we visited another Spencer, White & Prentis site for the reconstruction
of an Elevated Railway structure near Wilson Avenue. The work is being carried out
for the Chicago Transit Authority. On this site there was 14 ft of sand overlying
the clay, and the method used was to put in a rolled and welded casing and to dig
inside it with the normal Calwell auger, and hammer the casing down from time to
time with the auger. This was obviously a slow and rather inefficient process, and
made particularly difficult by the fact that there is not much clearance between the

later JournalS

under-side of the driving and the ground. On this site it was proposed to put down
Calwell piles on a batter of one in six, but this work had not been started at the time
of my visit.
I dined at the hotel, and afterwards went to the theatre with Bethell.

October 3, Friday
Yesterday afternoon I had telephoned to Mr Gauntt, Director of the Case
Foundation Company, asking if I could visit him. He had explained that he was
leaving Chicago that evening, but that I was very welcome to visit one of their larger
jobs, a foundation contract at 1550 Lake Shore Drive, so after breakfast I took a
taxi to the site. This was an even more interesting job than the one which I saw
yesterday. On this site there is 25 ft of sand above the clay, and the drilled shafts are
being put down with the Williams rig, and not the Calwell.
The Williams rig is, in principle, the same as the Calwell, but it is a much heavier,
better designed, and more expensive tool. On this site there were two Williams rigs
working, one with a telescopic Kelly rod capable of going to 120 ft at one lift. The
machine is mounted on a heavy chassis with a turntable similar to that of a crane, so
that no time is wasted in dumping the bucket. Clearly it is a much more expensive
tool than the Calwell, but more efficient. In going through sand the bucket-type auger
is not used, but an Archimedean screw similar to that used on the Cheshire boring
rig. As boring proceeded, the bags of bentonite were thrown into the borehole, and
in this way the bore was carried down into clay without any casing. This upper part
of the boring was 12 inches larger in diameter than the finished boring in clay, and
on reaching clay a casing was dropped into the tube and hammered down to make
a seal. The bentonite slurry was then bailed out, using the normal drilling bucket,
and work proceeded after that in the normal manner.
When concreting, a light metal tube is placed in the outer casing, which is
withdrawn, the light metal shutter being left in.
I was shown round the site by Mr R. Mott and the superintendent, and also
had a talk with Mr Supina, a young soil mechanics engineer who is responsible
for sampling. Apparently, Supina goes down each hole when the foreman judges
that a clay of sufficiently high strength has been obtained, and takes a sample from
the bottom of the hole. He then, from visual examination of this sample, decides
whether it is strong enough. It would, of course, be very easy for him to take a
sample and test it in an unconfined pressure device, but the Americans are rather
behind us in such matters.
While on the site I heard that the Case Company originally started work with a
Calwell rig, and at one time had 26 Calwells in the Chicago area. This work proved
extremely profitable, and they are now scrapping their Calwells and turning over to
the Williams type of machine.
Martin told me that they use the Belling bucket, but in any case men must go
down to clear up, and in the case of the larger piles the bell is cut by hand, using air

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of Geotechnology

1550 Lake Shore Drive, Chiacgo: Williams gear with head frame for
Belling operation in the foreground.

Later Journals

Above: Lake Shore Drive,

Chicago: Williams rig
baling bentonite slurry from
a shaft sunk through sand.
The casing has now been
placed and the bentonite
grout is being bailed out by
means of the digging bucket.
Note winding gear in the
background over a hole
where men are belling out
by hand.

Right: 1550 Lake Shore

Drive, Chicago. Head frame
in place over a hole during
Belling operations. Note air
winch behind the man on
the left.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

spaders. On the site there was a neat rig with a tripod and air hoist mounted on a
checker-plate base which could be picked up by crane and put down over a hole
when Belling is ready to start.
Martin told me that in some cases bells up to 33 ft by 19 ft 6 in at the base were
being put down, and in such cases a certain amount of timber was put in if the
ground did not appear to be absolutely safe.
While on the site, I had a talk with Mr R.L. Moore, who is an engineer inspector
for one of the leading Insurance Companies (Kemper Insurance). He told me that
it was quite usual practice for men to go down in these cases and that there was no
reason why it should be hazardous in any way.
In the afternoon I went down to Raymond International’s office and called on
their Chicago Manager, Mr S.B. Howard. They had no foundation work going on in
the Chicago area at the moment, but I had quite a long talk to him about drill shaft
foundations, and he confirmed most of the points which I had learnt over the last
two days.
I caught the night aeroplane back to New York and found the traffic jams between
Chicago and the Airport infinitely worse than anything here in London.

selected diaRies and letteRs


On Tuesday 29 March 1960 Rudolf Glossop began a diary because, as he writes on the
20 August:
‘I was so horrified by the way in which this Derwent tender was
and continues in a short-lived diary beginning on the 1 January 1965:
‘Still less do I know why I suddenly gave it up on December 30 [1961]
just as the final victory was in sight… I think that to keep a diary one
must be fundamentally happy, however concerned one may be about
day to day affairs.’
The diaries were normally written daily with a fountain pen on squared foolscap paper
and are continuous until towards the end of 1961. The entries include both personal and
professional matters and in places resemble a scrap book.
The following extracts focus primarily on engineering matters and in particular
the events surrounding the technical and commercial challenges encountered during
the construction of Derwent Dam. The contract was awarded to John Mowlem in
January 1960 and their subsidiary Soil Mechanics Ltd. began a further phase of ground
investigation as the diary opens. An extensive account of the project is provided by Ruffle,
Buchanan and Rowe in the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers (Papers
7263-5 March 1970) and elicited a valuable discussion (March 1971).
The commercial challenges to John Mowlem were summarised by Glossop in the entry
for 5 October 1961. At that stage the losses amounted to £200,000 and could rise to
£1 million if the contractor was compelled to construct the original deep cut-off trench.
To put this in perspective the John Mowlem board minutes, held in the ICE Archive,
show that the profit after tax for 1961 was £303,000. In the event, a redesign allowed
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

construction to proceed in a straight forward manner and it is noteworthy that, given all
the challenges on the project, the final contract value of £5.2 million in 1965 was very
close to the 1959 tender price.
Other themes in the diary are the works in the London Docks which Glossop, with his
close colleague Ivan Greeves, had led from 1947 and the overall direction of Soil Mechanics
Ltd., and John Mowlem itself. In addition, at this time Glossop was writing two landmark
papers on injection processes (grouting) which were published in Géotechnique in 1960
and 1961.
These edited extracts can only provide a flavour of Glossop’s love of good food,
literature, art, music and theatre, as well as his passion for horse riding, fly fishing and
the love of his family, his wife Sheila and daughter Emma.
The diaries open with a visit to the Immingham Dry Dock, which was nearing
completion. In the Discussion to the paper on the project in the Proceedings of the
Institution of Civil Engineers Glossop remarked that he
‘could not remember a job where more happy relationships exist.
There had been full collaboration and the job had gone extremely
well’ (Glossop 1964).

A directory of people mentioned in the diary can be found on page 277.

diarieS 1960/1961
March 29 Tuesday
Lunched at home and left London by road at about 3 pm. Arrived at Lincoln about
7 pm. Rain, fog and wind all the way. A1 is now quite good except for the appalling
bottle neck at Stamford.

March 30 Wednesday
Drove to Immingham and went round the job with Barrett. The cofferdam is very
satisfactory, two 4 in pumps keep it dry. It moved about 15 inch at the centre and
very little at the ends. Work proceeds on the concrete round heads, the outer apron
and the abutment for the box gate.
Called on the resident engineer Wintsch, who is as concerned as we are at the
idea of giving an exact date for the opening.
Drove to New Holland and crossed to Hull on the ferry. The silt carried down
by the Humber must be an enormous quantity. Lunch at the ‘Beverley Arms’. Spent
an hour at the Minster, a most beautiful church; the towers of the west end are
magnificent. Drove through Thirsk and Northallerton to York, Scorton and joined
A1 again at Catterick Bridge. Spent the night at Scotch Corner.

Selected Diaries and letters

Immingham Graving dock, 30 March 1960.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

March 31 Thursday
Fog and rain but less cold. Drove through West Auckland and Tow Law to the site
of Derwent Dam. Leonard and North-Lewis who came up by train last night had
arrived just before me.
Our first site investigation borehole Ex. 7 is finished and Ex .8 is in progress. Ex.
7 shows that the lower laminated clay exists further to the north east than would
be expected from the Cementation Co.’s boreholes, which are probably incorrect.
When Ex. 8 is finished we will put down a third, Ex. 9, still further to the north east,
as it now appears likely that the lower laminated clay extends right across the valley.
This is a most important matter for if it does we have to deal with two independent
aquifers, one above the lower laminated clay and the other below it. It may be
impossible to drill through the lower aquifer with the reverse circulation machine,
in which case we must drill to the top of the upper aquifer with a Calwell machine,
and carry on down the conventional boring methods. The casing and tools for this
operation should be ordered at once, in case they are needed. In any case they will
be good stock.
Diamond drilling started today in Ex. 7. The 6 in diameter casing had been taken
by soft ground methods 10 ft into the supposed bedrock; an NX casing was lowered
to the bottom and coring started. At 3 ft 6 in a strong flow of clear artesian water
started. If all the rock is water bearing, it may not be possible to form any sort of
cut-off without first grouting the bedrock.
Lunch at the ‘Crewe Arms’ with Leonard, North-Lewis, Mennel and Jordan.
Spent the afternoon on the site. Wrote instructions that Ex. 9 should be put
down at chainage 1000 and very carefully sampled. If the lower aquifer exists at
this point, boring is to be stopped in the lower boulder clay and a piezometer tube
installed. In Ex. 8 a piezometer tube is to be installed in bedrock.
To revert to Ex. 7: if the lower laminated clay extends right across the valley,
there will be some residual water left on the top of the lower laminated clay in spite
of the ground water lowering wells, and this will be troublesome in sinking the
trench. I have said repeatedly that the trench should be started sufficiently wide to
allow for runners to be driven in such a case. I’d better say it again.

Derwent Dam (Site Instructions)

Future S.I. Holes
From the contract documents there was every reason to believe that very broadly
the soil profile across the valley consists of:
Alluvium and upper boulder clay
Laminated clay (impermeable)
Upper aquifer (permeable)
Laminated clay (not continuous across the valley)
Lower aquifer (permeable)

Selected diarieS and letterS

Boulder clay (discontinuous)

As shown diagrammatically in Fig. 1

The results of borehole Ex. 7 suggest that this may be incorrect and that in fact the
lower laminated clay is continuous across the valley, as shown in Fig. 2.

Obviously from the point of view of groundwater lowering this is a very important
matter, for if Fig. 2 is correct there is no direct communication between the
two aquifers. It has therefore been decided to put down one or two more site
investigation holes to prove definitely the extent of the lower clay, these will be Ex.
9. This will be situated at Ch. 1000; if the lower laminated clay is found in this
hole it may be desirable to put down a hole, Ex. 10 at Ch. 900 (near B.H. 0.2).
These holes shall be sampled very carefully.

Artesian pressures
If the conditions shown in Fig. 2 are correct, it will probably be necessary to
measure the pressures in the upper aquifer, the lower aquifer and in bedrock.
Clearly the pressure in the upper aquifer cannot be measured at Ex. 8 since this
hole is near the relief wells, which are now flowing, however there is no reason why
a piezometer tube should not be inserted into bedrock in Ex. 8.
To do this the hole should be put 10 ft into rock and a tube perforated for 5 ft
at its lower end, and well packed in with puddle clay so that there is no connection
between the rock and the lower aquifer.
In hole Ex. 9 a piezometer tube should be inserted in the lower aquifer. Hence
this hole should be stopped in the lower boulder clay. It is just possible that the
lower aquifer may be missing at this hole. If so, carry the hole into rock and we
must think again.
It may be necessary to put down a third S.I. hole to get a piezometer into the
upper aquifer, but his can be decided later.
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Relief wells (R.W. 1, 2, 3 and 4)

In view of the possible conditions which may exist beneath the site as suggested by
Ex. 7 it has been decided not to carry these boreholes down to the second aquifer.
They should all be bottomed up in the top of the upper aquifer.
Main Pumping Well No. 1 (the Test Well) should not be started until the
matter of artesian pressures has been cleared up.
R.W. 3 should be stopped and backfilled with gravel to the level of the underside
of the upper boulder clay.

Mr Mennel
Please instruct Jordan, Read and the other engineers that all levels of artesian
pressure etc. should be given as reduced levels. [signed 31/3/60]

Mr Mennel
With reference to my note of 31/3/60:
1. In sinking Ex .8 take a measurement of the artesian pressure in the lower
aquifer. Leave the piezometer in place for one shift to achieve equilibrium.* As
stated before the permanent piezometer should be installed in bedrock.
* Note: After measuring the static condition in the lower aquifer, start the pumps
in the relief wells and see if these affect the manometer reading. [signed 1/4/60]

S. 1 and piezometer boreholes

Mr Mennel:
Following our conversation please revise the previous instructions.
1. Place piezometer tubes in rock in Ex. 7 and Ex .8.
2. Bore extra holes for piezometer installations as follows:
a) two holes at about chainage 1550 into the lower aquifer.
Put the holes about 25 ft on either side of the centre line.
b) two holes at about chainage 1025 into the upper aquifer.
Piezometer installations should be neatly constructed and protected with a white
painted fence. A conspicuous sign should give their reference number. [signed

April 1 Friday
Spent the morning on the site and arranged a programme of site investigation
boreholes and piezometer points.
Called on Japp and discussed the method of driving the tunnel in shale.

April 4 Monday
Lunched at the ‘Queen’s’ with Skempton and enlisted his help for the Derwent
Dam. We will need all the help we can get before it is all over. He recommends
Professor Shotton of Birmingham for the geology.

Selected diarieS and letterS

Skempton said that the Pore Pressure Conference was very successful and that
he got Schofield to agree that there must be solid contact between the particles,
even of a clay.
Mayer is very worried as the French have to edit 200 papers in English (and
Pidgin English), for the Paris Conference in 1961. It has been agreed that it shall be
done in England for a fee.
Presented Skem with a gunmetal spike from Telford’s gates at St Katherine’s
lock, and a photostat of Batty Langley’s design for Westminster Bridge.

April 5 Tuesday
Board Meeting at 11 pm, after the formal business Sir George said that as I had
recently been to Derwent, he would like to know what I thought of it. I said that
the first two site investigation holes, Nos. 7 & 8, suggested that the information in
the contract documents might be wrong, and that in fact the lower lake clay and
the boulder clay might be continuous across the valley and that we might be faced
with the problem of sinking a cut-off trench through three independent aquifers
– the lowest in bedrock. It was agreed that though this might be a disadvantage
technically it might be contractually to our advantage.
Discussed Derwent with Leonard and North-Lewis; it was agreed that we
should get ordinary boring gear for deep wells on the site as soon as possible in case
the hydro rig cannot deal with the conditions of artesian pressure.

May 23 Monday
McLellan with no less than six of his staff are calling at Chelsea on Thursday to
look at samples from Derwent. E.C. Beck felt it might be better if I was not at this
first meeting. I said that I would ring Leonard tomorrow and discuss the borehole
results with him. McLellan is beginning to worry. Good.

May 30 Monday
Called on Sir George and had a chat with him. Saw Leonard in the afternoon, who
told me how the Derwent meeting went the other day. At the moment we are in a
strong position as our boreholes have shown the original site investigation by the
Cementation Co. to be most misleading.

July 12 Tuesday
I had a long talk with North-Lewis about the difficulty of sinking wells at Derwent.
We may end by bringing over Benoto rigs from France. I had gone into that geology
with Early and Jordon yesterday and it is utterly different from that which we had
deduced from the boreholes put down by the Cementation Co., which were grossly
inaccurate. I’m still very unhappy about this contract.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

July 13 Wednesday
At 11 o’clock there was a meeting of the Géotechnique Editorial Committee, Nash
in the Chair. The circulation is 2,200, the standard of the articles high, and we have
plenty of material in hand. After the meeting I looked at the proofs on my ‘Injection’
paper with Farmer; the illustrations have come out well.
In the afternoon I went to Chelsea and had a meeting with Meigh, North-Lewis
and Cashman on Derwent. At last I see a faint spark of light at the end of a very long

July 14 Thursday
A reply from Nash agreeing to my suggested policy for Géotechnique [that all
correspondence be seen by the Editorial Committee.] The history of Géotechnique is
interesting. It must be remembered that in 1939 the branch of engineering which,
I fear, will always be known in England as ‘soil mechanics’, was in the early stages of
development and of course during the war it was difficult, or impossible, to learn
what was being done in other countries. We had started a laboratory in 1939 and
had formed Soil Mechanics Ltd. in 1945. In 1947 I got permission from Sir George
Burt to visit European laboratories and I took Golder with me. We went to Paris,
where we met Mayer and Florentin; to Brussels where we met de Beer and also
Campus at Liège; Professor Kaes at Ghent, Huizinga and Geuze at Delft, Kjellman
and Jakobson at Stockholm, and Mögensen at Copenhagen.
Of all these people Geuze was the most entertaining and remains a personal
friend of mine.
During the evening I suggested that we should start a European journal of
soil mechanics and Geuze was enthusiastic (it is characteristic that in 12 years we
have never succeeded in getting an article out of him). At all our succeeding visits
in Scandinavia the subject was discussed and by the time we got home we were
committed to do something about it.
We composed a circular letter or prospectus in which we defined the scope of
the journal, said that it would be published twice a year, and asked for an annual
subscription of one pound. We had this letter printed and sent out about 300 cop-
ies. The response was such that we felt more than justified in going ahead. Almost
the first answer was from Bruce White, who actually enclosed £1.
My original idea was that we should issue a few pages of foolscap reproduced by
any standard process, but after the replies to our letter came in it was clear that the
journal must be printed.
We chose our contributors carefully and looking back I think the standard of
the first number was high, but we were nearly wrecked financially before we had
started, by de Beer whose painstaking article had about fifty diagrams of which
blocks had to be made.
The first major decision was as to who should be the publishers. To publish it un-
der our own names seemed in bad taste, so eventually we formed the Geotechnical
Selected diarieS and letterS

Society and asked Skempton, Cooling and Ward to become members. The Society
had no rules and no constitution and the members had no responsibilities. Skemp-
ton was a great help, but the others did nothing; but then they weren’t intended to.
After the articles had come in in manuscript we got an estimate from the Marshal
Press for (I think) 600 copies of the first number. It came to over £300 and the
problem arose as to where that was to come from. I went to see old Mr Berkeley the
Manager of the South Kensington Branch of Williams Deacon’s Bank and rather to
my surprise, on my surety, he opened an account for the Geotechnical Society and
allowed us to overdraw for the first printer’s bill.
We gave a good deal of thought to a name and at last narrowed it down to either
Edaphologia or Géotechnique. Skempton suggested Geotechnics but eventually we
chose Géotechnique.
The first cover and title page – in fact the whole format – was designed by Nancy
Skempton, and it remains practically unchanged to this day. It was Golder who sug-
gested using a colophon from Coulomb’s 1776 paper on earth pressures on the cover.
Later on, purists in typography objected to it, but I fought for it and it is still there.
We limited the languages to English and French, for German was unpopular in
Golder and I appear – with commendable modesty – on the title page as
‘Temporary Editors’. Much later I discovered that the founders of the Journal of the
London Mathematical Society had done exactly the same thing – but in Latin, about
90 years before.
We ran it – and I financed it – for two years during which time the circulation
rose to 700 in 30 different countries. The first two numbers had no advertisements
and barely paid for themselves, but in the second year we had them and ended
with about £200 in hand. All this involved a great deal of work and as I was not
then a director I could get no help from the firm. Several people criticised it and
I always answered, ‘splendid, our overdraft is £300, take responsibility for part of
it and become a joint editor’ – sound classical economics, but the offer was never
After two years, with an increasing circulation, it became an intolerable burden,
for the two of us did everything including addressing the envelopes and sticking
on the stamps, to say nothing of proof correcting and all the rest of the editorial
work. Eventually we decided to offer it as a going concern to the Institution of Civil
Engineers, and much – I think – to the credit of the Council, they took it.
An Editorial Committee was formed of which I was and am a member, and one
of our first moves was to make it a ‘quarterly’.
Now, 12 years later, it has a circulation of over 2,000 and can carry its share of
the Institution’s overheads and still show a good profit. The first volume is classified
by the British Museum Library as ‘very rare’ and the first two volumes have been
reproduced in electrotype by Dawson’s who pay the Institution of Civil Engineers a
royalty of 25% and sell them for about £5 apiece.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

The Geotechnical Society was left with £200 in the bank. We spent £100 on a
party for Terzaghi, who happened to be in England for his 70th birthday, the other
£100, or so, is still there.
Looking back, it was a comical thing to do, for two people who had no official
standing at all, and I can imagine that a number of scientific civil servants and
professors must have hated it. I’ve often wondered what impelled Mr Berkeley to
lend the money to finance it. I remember, one day, before it was handed over to
the Civils, I called on him and happened to say that the Geotechnical Society’s
account, involving as it did transactions for small sums in all sorts of currencies and
transmitted in a great variety of ways, must be an unprofitable nuisance to him. His
reply was, ‘Oh no! Mr Glossop, it’s the most interesting account that I have here.’ I
suppose that it was a nice change from the affairs of local tradesmen, and of the rich
widows of Manchester cotton spinners living in South Kensington.
Somebody once asked me why I did it and I said ‘For fun’, which was of course
the reason.

July 18 Monday
Sheila dropped me at Derwent Bridge. I walked up to the office and went round the
job with Burton and Japp. The surface plant is well laid out and the offices, concrete
mixers, etc. in good order. Work has started on the trench on the right bank.
I went down the shaft to the diversion tunnel with Middlemiss; they have lost
some ground and heavy pressure has come on to the steel ribs. The place has been

Portal of the river diversion tunnel with steel ribs and lagging.

Selected diarieS and letterS

made safe but great care will be needed in completing the shaft bottom and it seems
likely that cast iron lining will be needed for the tunnel. I spent the afternoon with
Mennel and went round the drilling rigs and then wrote a short report on the
present state of affairs, which is not very satisfactory.

July 21 Thursday
There was a meeting of the Governors of Camborne School of Mines at 10.30.
Len Thomas and Dennison were there and also the new Principal, Gorges, who
seems intelligent and civilised. A menacing letter from Brooks of the Ministry
of Education, not unjustified, as an answer to the silly provocative letter that the
Cornish Governors sent to him – without consulting the rest of us.

July 28 Thursday
In the afternoon Skempton and Bishop arrived at Chelsea to discuss the cut-off
trench at Derwent. The meeting consisted of Skempton, Bishop, Meigh, North-
Lewis, Mennel and myself. Early showed us his interpretation of our borehole
records. It was agreed that to sink a 6 ft trench is impossible; which is what I said
that I feared at the time of tendering.

July 29 Friday
In the morning I met Sir George and E.C. Beck to break the news about Derwent;
Henry joined us later. I told them that in my opinion, the trench could not be put
down by the method on which we had tendered and that the contract documents were
misleading. After a good deal of discussion Henry said that his qualifying letter had
been couched in such a way that we were not limited in the number of wells required
and presumably with a sufficiently close spacing of wells it would be possible to drain
the silt bands. I agreed to this argument, though of course the number of wells would
be ridiculous; nevertheless, we can use this argument to protect ourselves from hav-
ing to sink the trench by any other method at whatever the cost to ourselves. If this
appears to be a little bit ‘sharp’, it must be remembered that the correct engineering
solution to the problem, which we suggested in the first place – without success – and
which would save the client a great deal of money, is the use of grouting. It was agreed
that we should ask for a meeting with McLellan on Wednesday week.
A meeting of Mowlem (Civil Engineering) at 11.30. Nothing of importance.
After it I had a talk with Collingridge about his troubles in the tunnels at Derwent.
In the afternoon I went through all the samples from borehole Ex. 10 at Derwent
so as to satisfy myself that Early’s interpretation is correct.

August 3 Wednesday
To Head Office, a letter from Barrett to say that Immingham Dock should be
completed two weeks ahead of our last predicted date: i.e. almost exactly to the day
given in our tender.
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

After lunch I went to Chelsea and had a long talk with Meigh, North-Lewis
and Early about Derwent. Meigh has spoken to Bishop about the combination of
a concrete cut-off on the flanks and a partial cut-off in the centre section. Bishop
insists that the partial cut-off must be flexible and there must be a battered junction
between the two. North-Lewis is a bit worried, but I told him to cheer up, as I’m
sure that Early’s interpretation of the geology is correct.

August 5 Friday
Leonard called on me at Head Office and we discussed Derwent. Clearly Stage
1 is to compel Morton, Rowe and Isherwood to accept our interpretation of the
geology. I’m glad I brought in Professor Shotton (FRS!) at an early stage. I can see
myself going post haste to Winchester, Mass. to call on the old master – Terzaghi –
before this is all over.

August 8 Monday
In the morning a meeting to discuss Derwent. E.C. Beck, Henry, Leonard, North-
Lewis, Cashman, Early, Jordan and myself. A fine pickle we are in. A pretty
disgraceful performance. I told E.C. Beck I’d better go and see Terzaghi.

August 9 Tuesday
The whole day was devoted to a meeting to discuss Derwent. Those present:
Rowe (Soil Mechanics: Manchester University)
Morton (Geologists)
Kuffle (Resident Engineer: Derwent)
E.C. Beck
R. Glossop, H.A. Henry, Leonard, North-Lewis, Early, Cashman, Burton
McLellan’s party arrived at Chelsea at 10 am to look at the samples and then
went on to Head Office for the meeting. McLellan started by referring to our letter
describing our findings and his reply saying that there was in fact no different
between Morton’s description of the strata in the contract documents and Early’s
based on our boreholes. He added that he would like this matter to be discussed
from the technical point of view and without reference to the contractual aspects of
the matter and he would like Rowe to state their point of view.
We agreed, and Rowe then did his best with a very poor hand. He tried to argue
that the term ‘boulder clay’ has no real meaning.
Early replied very well and I helped him out at one stage over the presence of
sand lenses in the ground moraine. E.C. Beck then asked me to say what I thought
of the implications of this new interpretation. This I did, using the metaphor of a
layered cake. McLellan then said that he would like ‘on the assumption of a layered
Selected diarieS and letterS

cake’ to decide ‘where we go from here’. From then on it was tacitly assumed that
our geological section was correct. It was decided to put down test wells and a
trial shaft to see if ground water lowering was in fact possible before examining
alternative methods.
Henry had arranged an excellent lunch at the ‘Grosvenor Hotel’. Before joining
the party, I had a word with E.C. Beck and suggested that Rowe and I should call on
Terzaghi. He agreed.
In the afternoon the details of the drainage test were discussed in some detail.

August 11 Thursday
E.C. Beck agreed to our consulting Terzaghi over Derwent so I sent him a cable. I
caught the 6 pm aeroplane to Paris.

August 12 Friday
To Soletanche’s office with Leonard and Shaw present.
In the morning we discussed Derwent and the future of Soil Mechanics–
Soletanche Ltd.; in particular a London Office.
After dinner we took a taxi back. It proved to be dropping to bits and I never
thought it would get up the hill to our hotel. It reminded me of Terzaghi’s first visit
to London after the war, and I told the story to Leonard.
I suppose it was in 1946 or 1947 at a time when London was war-battered and
squalid and when food, clothes and petrol were still rationed. Terzaghi had been
consulted by the Government of India and was on his way there, but owing to a break-
down he missed his aeroplane and was obliged to spend the weekend in London
at a dreary hotel in South Kensington. Soil Mechanics Ltd. was in existence, but I
was not a director and indeed was fighting hard for its existence. However, I had
the wit to suggest that I should be given the job of entertaining him. We were then
living on the top floor of 6 Sloane Square (no lift). Sheila succeeded in producing an
excellent dinner in spite of all the difficulties and we asked Skempton.
This was the first time that I met Terzaghi and the evening was a tremendous
success. In fact we talked till 4.30 am. Then Skem and I set out to see him home. I
had a 1935 Morris car, supplied by John Mowlem & Co., but the battery had run
down and it would not start, although I spent a long time cranking it. Terzaghi was
delighted and said he hadn’t seen a car started by hand since 1920, or thereabouts.
There were of course no taxis and just as it began to look as if the great man had a
long walk ahead of him, an incredibly broken down lorry rattled into Sloane Square
and the driver started to hitch it on to the coffee stall which had a pitch, and no
doubt still has one, on the north side of the square. I offered the driver to leave the
stall for half an hour and take us to South Kensington. He agreed and we all three sat
in the lorry with our feet dangling over the back and set off for the ‘De Vere Hotel’,
or whatever it was. An adventurous journey for the motor was on its very last legs
and even on the level the driver had to keep changing down to keep going at all.
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Looking back I realise what an admirable man Terzaghi is to have stayed up till
dawn talking to two young disciples.
I do hope that he is well enough to take on the Derwent job.

August 15 Monday
A cable from Terzaghi to say he can’t help us over Derwent. [In January 1960
Terzaghi had suffered a second heart attack and was compelled to curtail his lecturing
and consulting activities (Goodman 1999)]
In the evening John Tunnard telephoned. He has finished 14 gouaches since I
last saw him and has sent them up to London for transport to New York. One of his
young buzzards took a large adder yesterday and he watched it finish it off and eat it
on a branch on the old pine tree. All finished in seven minutes. He says the buzzard
droppings are full of adder scales.

August 16 Tuesday
John Mowlem Board meeting. Sir George, Westacott, Gore, Kenneth and myself.
Only routine business was discussed till the end, when Sir George raised the subject
of Derwent. We all agreed that the minutes of the last meeting with McLellan should
be circulated to all parties.

August 18 Thursday
I spent the morning at Chelsea and went through the minutes of the famous
Derwent meeting with North-Lewis in great detail. To the Union for lunch.
In the course of the day I had a talk with Skipp about research. When the
Fylingdale Report is finished I want to concentrate on two things: the establishment
of a rock mechanics laboratory, and more work on polymer grouts. The nuclear
probes should be handed over to the Soil Mechanics Equipment Co., which we will
certainly form.

August 19 Friday
Noel Simons who has been doing post-graduate work with Bjerrum at Oslo has now
joined us. I had a short talk with him; I think he will make an excellent understudy
to Meigh.
Early came in to report on his visit to Derwent yesterday. He saw Banks and had
an opportunity of talking to him.
The whole afternoon was spent in looking in to our proposed scheme for
draining the silt at Derwent. I have very little hope of a successful outcome to this
experiment. As regards money, we are £30,000 out of pocket already and we have
no assurance that any of the work we are doing on the site will be paid for. I told
Birch and North-Lewis to start preparing a claim.

Selected diarieS and letterS

Excavations for the cut-off through the silt required ground water control.

August 20 Saturday
I tried to avoid thinking too much about Derwent but it occurs to me that McLellan’s
enthusiasm for us to try all sorts of schemes for water lowering may mean that he will
expect us to pay for them, whatever they cost. The sooner we closely examine our
legal position the better. I’m pretty sure that Soil Mechanics qualified themselves in
their letters, but were these qualifications transmitted to the client by John Mowlem
& Co? I don’t know.
I should know, but in fact the reason I started to keep this diary was because I
was so horrified by the way in which this Derwent tender was handled.

August 23 Tuesday
To Chelsea. Early has the results of the latest borehole at Derwent. They fit in
admirably with his interpretation, with that little extra feature which one had not
anticipated, but which once found is obviously right.

August 24 Wednesday
I got up at 4.30 am and drove out of the Square just as it was striking 5.00 am. A
miserable rainy morning and pitch dark when I started. I reached Immingham at
9.50 am, having stopped to breakfast at the White Hart at Lincoln. I went round the
job with Barrett and found everything in very good order. The demolition of the

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

cofferdam is nearly complete, so the Box gate, which will be launched on September
7 and towed to Immingham on September 8 or 9, will probably be stepped on
September 10 with no delay. It is being built by Head Wrightson at Gateshead. I had
a chat with Wise, the Managing Director of the Humber Graving Dock Co., who is
evidently very pleased with the way the work has gone, as well he might be.
It is almost certain that the dock will be ready to hand over on October 2, just
two days before the completion date written into the contract documents two
years ago. In those two years we have done two million pounds worth of rather
difficult work. The important decision was whether or not it was safe to take out the
dumpling in one operation. This depended on the resistance of the walls to sliding
and ultimately on the value of ø, the angle of internal friction, of the sand beneath
At 10.30 am we had a progress meeting – Finlinson, Wintsch, Barrett and myself
– all the others being on holiday. Only matters of detail were discussed.

August 25 Thursday
I went to Head Office and there found the page proof of my article for Geotchnique.
It didn’t fill me with shame and embarrassment as my technical papers usually do.
As a rule I can never bear to read them till several years after they’ve been published,
though when I finally do I find them tolerable. In this one the subject is almost
trivial, but the treatment is thorough, and, I should like to think, scholarly; certainly
I put a very great deal of work into it, and it is original in the sense that no one else
has touched on this subject.

August 26 Friday
To Chelsea where I had a long talk with Meigh and Early who are going up to
Derwent next week for a meeting with McLellan. I briefed them on the principles
of our case; this is important, for if things went the wrong way it might cost us half
a million pounds.

August 30 Tuesday
At the Board Meeting the question of Derwent came up, as well it might, for we are
now out of pocket to the extent of £245,000. Of course some finance is needed at
the start of a large contract, but not as much as a quarter of a million, and of course
there is no prospect of getting any of it back until the question of the cut-off is
As I anticipated this has brought everyone back to earth and we decided that
we must now ask our clients – ‘who pays for what?’ We have been very lucky; if the
geological section had been rather different we might have had the very greatest
difficulty in establishing a claim; as it is I believe the section to be so very different
that the contract is really broken, or so I trust. Much credit for this must go to Early

Selected diarieS and letterS

who has done a first-class job of geological interpretation from the eight boreholes
we put down.
After the meeting I had a long talk with Perrey about Persia, he thinks that I was
right in delaying an answer to their last letter. I sent the latest effusion to Peter Avery
for translation. I see in today’s paper that Sharif Imami is the new Prime Minister.

September 1 Thursday
At Head Office I had a long talk with E.C. Beck about the Federation of Civil
Engineering Contractors Research Committee and found that he too does not
approve of government laboratories doing work on management. My mind has
crystallised since I saw Wynne-Edwards and I’m against it.

September 2 Friday
Went to Chelsea and heard from North-Lewis and Early that the meeting at Derwent
went very well and that McLellan had agreed to pay for the water lowering tests. If
this really is so then to my mind the contract is broken and our main anxiety is over.

September 6 Tuesday
At 10.30 we had the usual Board Meeting. Later the regrettable fact that Derwent
is now in debt to the tune of £300,000 emerged (this is rather more than it should
be at this stage). Sir George asked why, and Henry leant back in his chair and said
‘It’s the ground water lowering.’ Sir George of course did not hear so after the
statement had been repeated a couple of times I said that in my opinion the chances
of groundwater lowering succeeding were exceedingly small and that although we
would make every effort, and that it would be a great triumph if we succeeded,
nevertheless in my opinion I thought we must be prepared for the method to prove
unsuitable. In my view I believed that the geology was so different from that shown
in the contract documents that the contract was virtually broken. Henry said he
wasn’t sure of this. I said that I wasn’t sure either, but following the last borehole
result I was pretty sure of it and it was to be devoutly hoped that it was.

September 7 Wednesday
In the afternoon I went to Chelsea, read the minutes of the last meeting at Derwent
and translated two research notes from Soletanche. I also had a long talk with
Meigh about future developments in site investigation and wrote to Head Office
recommending that we take on Mortlock as chemist.

September 26 Monday
At 10.30 am Skempton and Bishop arrived at the laboratory and we spent the
whole morning examining borehole samples and in discussing the problems of the
Derwent Dam.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

October 10 Monday
This morning a nice note arrived from Skempton saying that he had enjoyed
reading my paper on injection processes. This did me good for I always feel guilty
after publishing a technical paper. Also a letter from an American publisher to say
that Terzaghi had asked them to send me a copy of his new book. This pleased me
very much for I greatly admire him.

October 14 Friday
In the afternoon I had a talk with E.C. and R.I. Beck about the blocks of flats that
J.M. want to build at Sandgate, near Folkestone. Borings have shown an old landslip
beneath the site, and sooner or later I must give a decision as to whether it is a
reasonable risk to build there. I’ve been through the reports in detail but must visit
the site before I say yes or no.

November 14 Monday
At 5.30 pm I met Skempton in Emberson’s Bar in Pelham Street and we talked for
about 1½ hours, first about my visit to Harvard, but later and chiefly about cut-offs
in general and Derwent in particular. He has an excellent suggestion for a trench
cut-off excavated in bentonite slurry and backfilled with gravel. This has been done
to a depth of 80 ft on the Wanapum Dam on the Columbia River by Harza. He had
horrifying stories about Tittesford Dam, and of the cut-off trench at Stanford Portal
where at 100 ft in shale they have 12 in × 12 in struts at 5 ft centres failing ‘as if they
were in a testing machine’ and 6 in × 3 in polings are ‘bent like bananas’.

November 22 Tuesday
I had a short talk with McLellan, who raised two points. The first was that Simon
Carves were seriously behind with their subcontract for sand drains and were trying
to sublet a good deal of the boring.
His second point was that he heard that Mowlem’s had asked Soil Mechanics
Ltd. to look into the question of earth pressures and the design of timbering for the
trench, and, if this was so, he hoped that Soil Mechanics Ltd. would keep in touch
with Rowe. This came as a shock, for the question is a delicate one. I said that as I
had been unwell since my return from the USA I did not know about this enquiry,
either from the one side or the other, but that I would look into the matter on my
return to London. I added that it was my belief that since the meeting held on
August 10, 1960, Soil Mechanics Ltd. had kept in touch with Rowe, and he agreed
that this was so. I understand that the minutes of this meeting, as recorded by John
Mowlem & Co., have not been sent to McLellan, but there are a number of very
important statements from both sides in them which should not be lost sight of.
Having left McLellan, Burton and I went for a tour of the left bank works in the
following order:

Selected diarieS and letterS

The Outlet Channel This is a sad sight. It was designed with 3:1 slopes, but
as the soil is silt and the ground water level near the surface, the soil proved
hopelessly unstable at 3:1 and flowed into the excavation like a heavy liquid. Work
was stopped last August and J.M. & Co. argued that as the soil would not stand
during construction to a 3:1 slope, then its stability was a design problem and not
a constructional problem. This was accepted and a new design has been prepared
with a thick graded filter beneath the concrete lining on the sides and bottom of the
channel. Soil Mechanics Ltd. have been asked to prepare a scheme for ground water
lowering, and the new work will be repriced. The ground looks a little fine even
for vacuum drainage, and it might be a case for electro-osmosis. However, Burton
assures me that there is a coarser stratum in depth which will act as a horizontal
drain. I must discuss this with Cashman on my return to London.
Downstream Tunnel Portal Much trouble has been experienced here owing to
the weathered rock. However, it is now safe and in good order, and a bottom pilot
heading is being driven in very masty shale to a distance of 40 ft ahead of the face,
at which point it will be broken up into a full face.
After lunch I called on Japp and we visited the cut-off trench on the right bank
of the river. Work here seems to be going well, and it is unlikely that there will be a
deep kame channel here, of which there was a remote possibility.

November 24 Thursday
To Chelsea where I had a long talk with Early about the sandstone–shale contact
in the tunnel at Derwent. Cementation’s boreholes show it 10 ft lower than it is,
which profoundly influences the method of tunnelling. Morton is now trying to
argue that the shale isn’t shale but fine-grained sandstone. Early argued that it is
fissile and in common parlance, and from the engineering point of view, it is shale.
McLellan insists that Early and Isherwood must decide whether from the academic
point of view it is shale or not. (Sinister manoeuvre?) Early has taken samples at 1 ft
intervals and is submitting them to wetting and drying tests. I examined them and
they are clearly ‘shale’.

December 8 Thursday
Wynne-Edwards telephoned to say that Terzaghi is very ill: I wrote to him.

December 16 Friday
Handed over the manuscript of ‘Injections, Part II’ to Miss Newman to type a final

December 20 Tuesday
After the Board Meeting we had a long discussion on Derwent in E.C.B.’s room.
This was precipitated because Johnson of Simon Carves has asked for a meeting

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

tomorrow to discuss their subcontract for sand drains at Derwent, and Julius
Kennard, the consulting engineer, is coming with him. Simon Carves, who had no
previous experience, put in a low price for these drains using two Failing drills. Soil
Mechanics also quoted but were higher. Simon Carves have made a sorry mess of the
job and have drilled 39 wells so far when they should have completed 1400 odd.
The party consisted of E.C. Beck, Henry, Westacott, Perrey, Leonard and myself
– our main talk was what Simon Carves were likely to say, and what our policy
should be.
The situation is curious. Although SC are nominated subcontractors, we are
responsible for their work as we raised no objection when their tender was accepted.
In fact we could not have done so since one of our subsidiaries also quoted and we
could scarcely object to their price, which was lower than ours, or to their standing
as a firm. It was decided that we must listen to their tale of woe and then offer to help
them in any way possible, at the same time pointing out that we should look to them
for redress, if we lost money as the result of their delays. I took the opportunity of
saying that I felt that the trouble over the sand drains was really a secondary matter,
and that the whole problem at Derwent came back to the fact that the geology was
not as shown on the contract drawings.

December 23 Friday
In the morning a meeting was held in E.C.B.’s room to brief Leonard before his
meeting with McLellan.
It was finally decided that Leonard should volunteer no opinions unless asked for
them. This meeting was important for it is the first time I have dragged a discussion
of Derwent before the Board, or at least four of them. My greatest anxiety has been
not only that the job is being mishandled but that the Board are not informed of
what is happening.

December 28 Wednesday
In the afternoon to Chelsea where I worked on geotechnical monographs. It is
astonishingly difficult to get young engineers to write.

January 14 Saturday
I worked on my final draft of ‘Injections, Part II’ all morning. A letter arrived asking
permission to publish a translation of ‘Injections, Part I’ in the Annals des Ponts et
Chaussées, with a preface by Kerisel. I confess that I am extremely gratified.

January 25 Wednesday
In the evening Arthur Casagrande gave the first Rankine Lecture at the Institution
of Civil Engineers to a good audience of about 450. The subject was ‘Seepage under
Dams’. He is following the new Terzaghi anti-grouting line, but it was a most useful
Selected diarieS and letterS

and interesting paper. Gratifying to the small group who started to work on soil
mechanics to see such an occasion.

January 26 Thursday
At the office all day. Casagrande, Skempton and Leonard lunched with me at
Pruniers. In the afternoon Leonard and I had a long meeting with E.C. Beck at
which we discussed the future of Soil Mechanics.

January 31 Tuesday
Caught the evening aeroplane to Paris.

February 1 Wednesday
A delightful sunny day. I spent the whole day at a Management Meeting with
Soletanche. Lunched at ‘Le Grand Veneur’ (6 rue Pierre, Demoures) with Ischy,
Le Sciellour, Champion, Cambefort, Florentin, Leonard, Jacobs and myself. A very
jovial meal planning a counterattack on Casagrande’s Rankine Lecture.
Flew home and got in about 8.30. Tired, leg painful. [RG had recently fallen from
his horse during an early morning ride]

February 4 Saturday
We left Winsham at 11.00 am and drove to London through Crewkerne, Dorchester,
Blandford and Salisbury, where we lunched at the ‘Haunch of Venison’.
In the evening I started work on the paper that Ischy and I are to write for the
Institution of Civil Engineers.

February 8 Wednesday
With Leonard and North-Lewis to Paris for a meeting with Soletanche. Lunched at
‘Le Bourget’. The meeting went on from 2.15 pm to 7.45 pm. Dined at ‘La Fruite’,
stayed the night at the ‘St James and Albany’.

February 14 Tuesday
Board meeting uneventful. At 11.30 am a meeting of the Federation of Civil
Engineering Contractors Research Committee; it seems to be an effective body.
Back to Head Office where I had a long talk with Gore and Westacott about
Derwent: at last everyone is getting worried.

February 20 Monday
To Chelsea where I discussed Derwent with North-Lewis. He says that TW4 has
found boulder clay and that rock is some 10 ft deeper than we anticipated. I told
him that it was essential that Soil Mechanics and John Mowlem’s had a meeting
before another meeting was held with McLellan.
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Leonard called and we went together to see E.C. Beck. Westacott and Henry
came in and a long talk about Derwent developed. He agreed that he had allowed
for 3 in. timber in the trench, against Soil Mechanics’ advice. But we seemed to be
in agreement that we must soon have a showdown with the client.

February 22 Wednesday
Saw Akroyd about the high-pressure triaxial tests which he is carrying out on rocks
from a dam site in Nigeria. The rocks are strong and exhibit energy-releasing failure,
i.e. they go off like a bomb and are damaging the piston of the testing machine.
Finished an article for London John on ‘Research’. [London John is the Mowlem
house magazine.]

February 23 Thursday
In the morning I had a long talk with Leonard, Meigh and North-Lewis about
Meigh’s report on earth pressures in the trench at Derwent; the results are not so
different from those given to Head Office at the time of tendering.

February 27 Monday
To the Royal School of Mines with Early, where I met Garret and talked about the
Levant Mine. Called on Bishop who says Casagrande advised McLellan to alter the
design of Derwent, and saw Gilbert Wilson and Prof. Read.

March 8 Wednesday
In the morning I spent some time with Skipp going through our research pro-
gramme on chemical grouts. The papers for the Tyne tunnel have come in; there is
a provisional item of £500,000 for ‘ground treatment’.
Banks has asked for a preliminary estimate for a grouted cut-off at Backwater.
Our borings are well ahead there and the geological picture is being built up, and
makes sense, as it must if the work is done carefully.

March 13 Monday
A meeting of the Federation C.E. Section Executive Committee at 11.00 am at the
‘Savoy’ followed by lunch and the annual general meeting in the afternoon. My
duties limited to shaking hands and saying grace. [RG had been appointed Chair of
this Committee]

March 20 Monday
Lunched at Head Office. In the afternoon a meeting with Henry, Leonard and Early
to go through the geology of Derwent.

March 23 Thursday
All day at the Roads Research Laboratory with the Federation Research Committee.
Selected diarieS and letterS

They have proved to their own satisfaction that sand drains (for accelerated consoli-
dation), are wholly ineffective; I doubt if they are right.

March 24 Friday
At 11.30 am Skempton arrived at Chelsea and we went through all the Derwent
pumping tests. They prove effectively enough that there is little connection between
the various aquifers.

March 29 Tuesday
I have now kept this diary for a year, though it has turned into a mixture of a scrap
book, a photograph album and a diary with a few autobiographical episodes.
In the afternoon we had a meeting at Head Office to prepare for the visit of
McLellan tomorrow to decide on the next move at Derwent. Everyone quite

March 30 Wednesday
The whole day was spent with McLellan discussing Derwent. We lunched them in a
private room on the top floor of the new hotel in Sloane Street, the ‘Carlton Tower’,
all very American, but the food was very good.
At first we went over the old ground of draining the silt and Leonard and I said
we were very unhappy about the scheme. Eventually McLellan produced a drawing
and said ‘What do you think of this?’ It showed a partial cut-off to the laminated
clay under the toe of the dam and linked to the central core by a horizontal blanket
of impermeable material. Grouting in the lower aquifers. I was more relieved than
I can say, and at once said I thought it an excellent idea. So ends a long and very
anxious episode.

April 12 Wednesday
I lunched with Birch and Meigh at the ‘Pier’ and in the afternoon discussed Derwent
with Meigh, North-Lewis and Early.

April 13 Thursday
At 10.30 am North-Lewis, Early and I had a meeting with Henry to decide on our
policy over Derwent. Henry made the excellent suggestion of having the upper
partial cut-off as a single row of sheet piles. If in 50 or 100 years time this gives
trouble, it can easily be replaced since it is under the toe of the dam. Indeed it could
be renewed without draining down the water.

April 13 Thursday
I spent the afternoon at Chelsea and arranged for Skipp to go to Paris representing
Rock Mechanics Ltd.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

In the evening to the Institution of Civil Engineers to hear the Duke of

Edinburgh give the Graham Clarke Lecture, which was most interesting and very
well delivered.

April 17 Monday
At 11.30 am Skempton arrived at Chelsea to see the new proposals for Derwent. He
likes them, as I do. I lunched with him at ‘The Queen’s’.

April 26 Wednesday
In the evening to Burlington House to hear Skempton deliver a paper to the Society
of Antiquarians on 18th century cotton mills in Derbyshire. It was most interesting
but there were few people there – perhaps 30. I spoke, perhaps a little flippantly for
the Antiquarians.

April 27 Thursday
Discussed the Derwent grouting scheme with North-Lewis. Lunched alone at ‘The
Queen’s’. Finished correcting the last draft of ‘Injections, Part II’. I hope others don’t
find it as boring as I now do.

May 5 Friday
In the afternoon a meeting with North-Lewis, Cashman and Early to examine
Rowe’s report on Derwent.
I propose to send Skipp and Early to Blackwall to investigate the failure of
resorinal to set. Time we had a research programme for well filters.

May 12 Friday
A gloriously sunny day. I drove with Kenneth Burt to Dungeness Nuclear Pow-
er Station where Soil Mechanics have a subcontract for ground water lowering.
Value £200,000+. About 60 wells, the deepest 130 ft. A most successful affair and
the key to the foundation contract. We have lowered the water 70 ft. In the pump
house shaft there are two lenses of clay which have formed perched water tables;
these have given a little trouble, but nothing serious. Fossil wood in the clay. I
must tell Zeuner about it – I called on MacAlpine’s agent, Settle who was well

May 23 Tuesday
A holiday. Hurlingham. In the afternoon rested as I must make a rush trip to Levant
Mine tomorrow.

May 24 Wednesday
I left home at exactly midnight and got the ‘Queen’s Hotel’ at Penzance at 1 minute
Selected diarieS and letterS

Crane ship Ebury working off Levant Zawn.

to 8.00 am. I breakfasted with Tabener and Clayton and went with them to Sennen
and at 9.00 am went off in Nicholas’s boat with Comr. Wardle, Tabener and the
two divers. A beautiful sunny day with very little swell. Razorbills and shags fishing
round the boat and fulmars prospecting for nesting sites along the cliffs. We
anchored about 500 ft off Levant Zawn and the divers spent the morning working
in the little caisson which they are sinking over the breach so as to find bedrock
beneath the sand at the point where the water escapes on a falling tide. They soon
reported that they had got to bedrock at one end and brought up specimens of
veinstone with cassiterite in it. The other end was stuck on a boulder and in fact
they spent the rest of the day clearing it. Yesterday a big basking shark got curious
but they got rid of him by sticking a crow bar into his gill.
They came up at 12.30 pm bringing a large rock crab they had caught, which
they gave to me. I lunched at the ‘Sennen Hotel’ with Batchelor and we agreed to
concrete four 2 inch dia. grout pipes into the caisson when bedrock was reached.
After lunch Clayton went out with the divers and came to the conclusion that he
could take a ship in there. I went with Tabener to Levant Mine in the afternoon.
We climbed down the cliff path into the zawn and went into the adit as far as the
skip shaft, where he has fixed a self-recording water level hired from the Institute of
Oceanography. The cliffs are covered with pink thrift in full flower.
In 1922, as a student at the Royal School of Mines, I worked in the Levant Mine
for six weeks. It was a year or two after the man-engine disaster and they were trying
to make enough by working patches of high-grade ore to equip a new winding shaft.
We walked down the cliff path, into the adit and then climbed the ladders in the
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

pump shaft to the 170 fathom level 1000 ft below adit. The shaft was steeply inclined
and there was just room for the ladder way alongside the 12 in × 12 in timbers
of the pit work of the pump, sliding up and down on its 8 ft stroke. The lode was
narrow and we drilled holes ‘single-jack’ with a 3½ pound hammer. After the shift
we walked the ladders to adit which took ¾ of an hour, singing Methodist hymns all
the way up; then, drenched with sweat, up the cliff path to the dry-house.
I got back to Penzance at 4.00 pm, changed, and left for London at 4.40 pm
getting home at almost exactly 00.40 am on Thursday morning. I had driven big
miles and done an 8½ hour working day in 24½ hours. We boiled the crab before
going to bed.

May 25 Thursday
Spent the day with the Research Committee of the Federation of Civil Engineering
Contractors on a visit to the Hydraulics Research Station at Wallingford. Extremely
interesting. Allen, the Director, is a good chap.

May 26 Friday
Most of the day spent on the tender for the Tyne Tunnel, a £7,000,000 job, which
goes in next week. At 4.00 pm a Management Meeting of Soil Mechanics Ltd., at
the end of which I had a short sharp migraine.

June 2 Friday
In the afternoon a meeting of the Joint Building and Civil Engineering Committee
at the Ministry of Works. In the morning Tabener called to report on Levant. The
weather broke before they could fill the caisson with concrete. I think that we should
expose the whole of the breach and concrete it before going any further.

August 1 Monday
Meeting with Greeves, North-Lewis and Davis at Chelsea to decide on the use of
grouting at Levant Mine. Greeves to tell the divers to put down more trial holes
through the sand. The divers should have started today removing seaweed.

August 23 Wednesday
I spent the whole day at Chelsea finishing the paper for the Institution of Civil
Engineers (An introduction to alluvial grouting), and dealing with other matters as
they turned up. When it was finished, I telephoned Bannister at the ICE and told
him that he should have it by the end of the month. While I was speaking, Mrs
Elton came in with Ischy’s comments, which I will consider tomorrow.

September 27 Wednesday
I left London about 10.30 am by road for Derwent, accompanied by Skempton.

Selected diarieS and letterS

While driving down the Barnet by-pass I suddenly noticed that the oil pressure was
reading zero. When I opened the bonnet, I found there was no oil in the sump, and
the entire engine was covered with oil, which had evidently sprayed out through a
broken connection in the oil system. Luckily I was only about 100 yards or so from
the ‘Comet’, so limped in there and telephoned Head Office, who promised to send
another car out. Skempton and I had an early lunch of sandwiches and sherry, and
discussed the Derwent problem. After about 1½ hour’s wait we started off again,
and after that had an uneventful run up the Great North Road, arriving at the ‘Lord
Crewe Arms’ at Blanchland in time for dinner. The completion of the Stamford by-
pass and Doncaster by-pass has made a tremendous difference to travelling north
on the A1.
Leonard and Meigh were already at the hotel when we arrived, and after dinner
we had another council of war.

September 28 Thursday
We all four drove down to the site, where we met Bishop, and while the others
looked at the well installations, I drove over to the cut-off trench on the south bank
with Burton, and inspected it as far as possible without going down. This trench
is now down to a maximum depth of 70 ft, chiefly through boulder clays and
sand and gravel. The south end of the trench is now in shale, but the north end
has not yet reached bedrock. The 3 in horizontal timbers are showing a decided
deformation, and in one or two places have broken. The present state of affairs is
not yet dangerous, but it is quite clear that the trench could not be continued below
a depth of 100 ft with 3 in timbering. Indeed, where the trench is intended to go
below 100 ft, it will almost certainly be necessary to start with 4 in timbers from the
top, and possibly to go up to as much as 6 inch at depth. A draw-back of this type
of timbering with horizontal boards is the difficulty of withdrawing the boards in
alluvial material preparatory to concreting, and already there has been a nasty fall of
ground at the south end of the trench. Fortunately the men were out of the trench
taking their tea-break at the time. This portion is now being recovered by means of
runners and walings.
I got the impression in conversation both with Burton and Japp that even if it is
possible to drain the ground by means of wells, they do not relish the prospect of
going to the full depth of the trench with this type of timbering, and obviously fear
that a lot of timber will have to be left behind which, of course, will not be paid for.
Our party, consisting of Skempton, Leonard, Meigh, Cashman, Bishop and my-
self, then drove over to Sunderland. Leonard had already telephoned to McLellan
asking his permission to bring Bishop and explained that Skempton wished to have
him there. We took a room in the ‘Grand Hotel’ at Sunderland and had sandwiches
and coffee while a last examination was made of all the arguments put forward in
Rowe’s report and in our own.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

The meeting was held in the Board Room of the offices of the Sunderland and
South Shields Water Company, and the Water Company was represented by Mr
McLellan, the Managing Director of the Water Company who acted as Chairman,
Mr Serpel, the Chief Engineer, Mr Ruffle the New Works Engineer , and Dr Rowe
the Soil Consultant. The meeting went on for some three hours and the pressure
was pretty high the whole time, although everybody was polite and no tempers
were lost. There is no point in making any detailed notes here, since Cashman
kept a careful record, and I am satisfied that we will be able to prepare accurate
Skempton really dominated the meeting and undoubtedly impressed everyone
in the room. He and I in fact played a doubles with Rowe and McLellan; Skempton
carried the main theme of the argument on theoretical grounds, and I was able to
add occasional comments based on practical experience and on geology. By the end
of the meeting, Rowe volunteered the statement that it would not be possible to get
the water down in the silt on the south side of the valley within 15 or 20 ft of the
underlying clay, and although he would not admit that the north side, where gravel
aquifer exists, was just as difficult, we maintained that it was, and I think it is fair to
say that he admitted that this bed of silt could not be completely drained either.
McLellan began by saying that the meeting was to be devoted wholly to
scientific topics, but it was not long before he was referring to the contract and
saying ‘This discussion is being held against the background of a Contractor who
has undertaken to sink a trench to bedrock.’ McLellan’s theme was that ‘geological
labels’ were not important, and that what counted was the results of the piezometer
tests, and that Rowe’s analysis of them suggested that as regards soil draining there
was no essential difference between the section shown in the contract drawings and
in our own section.
It is obvious from what I have said above that we succeeded in refuting nearly all
Rowe’s arguments, but I felt it most important to try and establish the correctness
and importance of our interpretation of the geology of the site. I did not argue
the point at the beginning of the meeting when McLellan first mentioned it, but I
returned to it once or twice during the discussion, and gave it as my opinion that
no soil mechanics problem could be examined correctly other than against its
geological background, and that quite apart from ‘geological labels’ the very mode
of genesis might be important. I finally got McLellan to agree that our section gives
a ‘sound picture of the lithology of the valley’.
The meeting broke up at about 5.30 pm. Drinks were served. Skempton and
I had a friendly talk with McLellan, chiefly about holidays in France, the Pont de
Gard, Roman achievements in water supply, and so forth. I then took my party back
to the ‘Grand Hotel’ and we retired to our private room and discussed the whole
meeting again, in order to make sure that Cashman had got a complete record of
what was said. By the time this was over it was dinner time, and we all dined to-
gether in the hotel.

Selected diarieS and letterS

I then drove Skempton to Newcastle to catch the night train, and the remainder
of the party went back to Blanchland.
I got back to the hotel at 11 pm to find that McLellan was speaking to Leonard
on the telephone. He had asked for me, but of course I was out. He had rung up to
say he would like a meeting on Friday to decide ‘where we go from here’.

September 29 Friday
In the morning Leonard and I went down to the site and I rang Head Office, as I
felt that the meeting proposed by McLellan might be outside my Terms of Refer-
ence. Unfortunately E.C. Beck was on the train to Sheffield, and it was clear that
I would not be able to contact him there before the meeting started. I therefore
had a word with Gove, told him what had happened, and said that I could scarcely
refuse to attend this meeting, and perhaps he would let the other Directors know
what was happening. It then occurred to me that as McLellan had rung me up the
night before, he might really wish to talk to me alone, so I wrote a short note in
my own hand and sent it over to him at the Resident Engineer’s Office, asking him
whether he would like to have a personal chat with me to decide on the agenda for
the afternoon’s meeting. He replied that he would come over to our office and call
on me at 12 o’clock.
I began our discussion by saying that I was sorry I had been out when he
telephoned, and explained I had been to see Skempton off on the night train. I went
on to say that I should be glad to attend another meeting with him, but as I did not
wish to go beyond my Terms of Reference I should be glad to know what he had
in mind to discuss. He answered that he felt the problems of Derwent were still
90% in the field of soil mechanics, and that following yesterday’s purely scientific
discussions he would like now to consider other implications in practice.
He then went on to say that Rowe still attached great importance to the flat
draw-down curve obtained by pumping in the gravel aquifer. I at once replied that
since Skempton had gone back to London, and since he was our adviser, I felt it
would not be right for me to carry on yesterday’s arguments, which I had hoped to
be conclusive, in his absence. If on the other hand he and Rowe wished to re-open
this question, I would gladly arrange for Skempton and myself to attend another
meeting as soon as possible. He said he could understand my point of view and that
perhaps it would be a good thing if Rowe, Skempton and myself held a meeting.
I then went with Burton and Leonard to a little public house called ‘The Manor
House’, where we had a sandwich and beer. I should add that McLellan had said he
would like Burton to attend the meeting in the afternoon.
McLellan opened the afternoon meeting by a brief and unsatisfactory summary
of what had happened the day before, and then plunged into the attack at once on
exactly the lines we had foreseen. He asked me how we would propose to deal with
the water in the silt when sinking the trench to bedrock, which he reminded me
was what Mowlem’s had contracted to do. I realised at once that he had got me in

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

a corner of the ring, and that Terms of Reference or no Terms of Reference, I must
fight my way out at once as best I could.
I replied by saying that as he had started with a short summary of our discussions
to date, I should like to give my own version. He looked slightly surprised, but was
of course obliged to agree. I said that in any complicated state of affairs, such as this,
it was first necessary to state the problem clearly before attempting to solve it. I said
I felt that in this case the problem could be defined in terms of the points on which
there had been some measure of agreement at our meeting on Thursday, that it to
say, firstly that it would not be possible to get the water in the upper aquifer within
15 to 20 ft of its base on the south side; secondly that our geological section gave
a ‘sound picture of the lithology’; and thirdly, that although we were not in entire
agreement on the point, I felt we were at least all satisfied that the silts on the north
side could not be completely drained.
I then went on to say that these facts being accepted, the problem of sinking a
deep trench was fundamentally different from that envisaged in the pre-contract
period. The existence of a continuous bed of water-charged silt at depth could
not be treated as a minor variation in the geological profile, to be overcome by a
modification of our original scheme using water lowering, by the addition of some
other expedient.
I said that it had been my opinion now for some months that since the
geological picture was, in my belief, fundamentally different from that accepted
in the pre-contract period, the time had come to re-think the whole of Derwent
Dam foundations from first principles. At a meeting which I attended on March 29,
he, McLellan, had produced a drawing of an alternative design showing a partial
cut-off under the toe of the dam. As soon as I had seen it I had been delighted to
realise that he had been considering the problem from first principles, and the more
I had thought about this new design of his the more convinced I was that it was the
proper engineering solution to the problem. If this was indeed so, then any other
attempted solution must be at the best second rate, and I asked McLellan whether
he was still thinking in terms of this alternative design of his. He said he intended
to discuss it later.
Towards the end of the afternoon he turned to a discussion of the alternative
partial cut-off under the toe, and I was amused to see that all his staff, including
Rowe, suddenly became far more cheerful and relaxed because they knew that at last
our discussion made engineering sense, and I think it is fair to say that everybody
around the table carried on a friendly and useful discussion as to the best way in
which this scheme could be carried out.

September 30 Saturday
I got up early and went for an hour’s walk beside the Derwent. A curlew was flying
down the valley, calling, and when I whistled to him he turned back and circled
round answering me. I was pleased as I can’t as a rule hit on their note well enough to

Selected diarieS and letterS

make them do this. Incidentally, some of the starlings on the Blanchland chimney-
pots mimic the curlews.
After breakfast I went down to the job with Leonard. He went over to the Soil
Mechanics office, and I went through the tunnel with Middlemiss. The tunnel
is now practically through, and work is proceeding on the concrete lining of the
invert, and is about to start on the upper portion. The concrete mix now accepted
by the engineer is reasonably workable, and was going through the pneumatic
placer satisfactorily. The tunnel looks a fine piece of work, and the girders are
very accurately placed. Undoubtedly Middlemiss and Campbell have done a
splendid job under very difficult circumstances, and, as Japp said to me, every 3
ft advance was a really dangerous operation until the first supports were in. One
man was killed, but this was pure bad luck and not directly connected with ground
In the afternoon Leonard and I drove over to Hexham and looked round the
Abbey, which I believe is one of the most famous in Britain, among the early Abbots
being Saint Wilfred and Saint Cuthbert. There is not much of the original structure
left, other than the Saxon crypt. The organist and two of his friends were taking
turns to play Bach fugues with great brilliance, and I felt sorry that Skempton was
not there. From Hexham we went on to the Roman Fort at Housestead and walked
along the wall. As Leonard said ‘This may be a difficult and anxious job, but at least
it is in nice country.’
We spent the evening discussing the implications of our two meetings with
McLellan, and I think we both came to the conclusion that some progress had been
made. Certainly we have not lost a single point to him.

October 1 Sunday
In the morning I wrote a letter to E.C. Beck, giving him a short account of what had
happened, which Leonard promised to deliver by hand. He and I went for a walk
on the moor, getting back in time for lunch. After lunch he left for London and I for

October 3 Tuesday
I got away early and crossed the Forth on the first ferry, thus getting to Dundee
at about 10.30 am. The scheme in which Henderson is interested is at Montrose.
Here there is a large tidal lake, the Montrose Basin, immediately behind and west of
the town. It is fed by the South Esk and is connected with the sea through a short
narrow channel. The City Fathers of Montrose hope to raise the sum, which is now
estimated at about £150,000, to put a half-tide dam across the outlet, thus creating
an artificial lake (the present one dries out at low tide), in which dinghy sailing,
water ski-ing, etc. can be carried on, and increasing the attraction of Montrose
as a holiday resort. I told Henderson that I would be glad to discuss schemes for
carrying out the plan if and when it materialised.
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

I was sufficiently interested in his ideas to drive on to Montrose to look at the

site. The job will not be an easy one, but I see no reason why it should not be carried
out if the money is forthcoming.
From Montrose I drove to Alyth, left my bag at the ‘Lands of Loyal Hotel’,
and went on to the Belatty site on the Blackwater river, where Soil Mechanics–
Soletanche are doing a large number of site investigation boreholes, and a trial
block of alluvial grouting, on the site of the dam which is to be built by Babtie, Shaw
& Morton for Dundee City.
The total value of this preliminary work is about £110,000, and includes a mile
of temporary road with a Bailey bridge over the river; 25 trial borings, and the trial
The work is being carried out by Stark and Read under North-Lewis. Work
started on August 15 and I think that they have made good progress. They have sur-
veyed and built the road and erected the Bailey bridge on rubble masonry piers. It is
a nice looking job, in spite of the weather. The boring is also going on satisfactorily.
Mr Banks visited the site last week and was satisfied with what he saw.
It had been my intention to stay another day at Alyth, but I was so much
concerned with what I had seen at Derwent that I decided to leave next morning for
Derwent, spend a few hours on the site, and then visit Prof. Shotton, of Birmingham,
on the way home.

October 4 Wednesday
I started early and called in on Grant again in Edinburgh, to tell him what I had seen
at Montrose, and I also bought two haggises and a bottle of malt whisky. I got to
Derwent about 2.00 pm and went down the cut-off trench with Burton. We spent
some time down there and had a good look at everything. It is clear that the shale
softens up when exposed, and in my opinion the sooner we can bottom up that
section of trench and get the concrete in, the better, for if the shale softens much it is
probable that it will begin to exert heavy pressures on the timbering at the bottom.
There is one heavy flow of water of between 200 and 300 gallons per minute, which
is coming out of a horizontal parting in the shale. This is being dealt with by one
Flyght pump.

October 5 Thursday
It will be remembered that a year ago, when it became clear to me that the geological
section at Derwent would be of very great significance to the outcome of the
contract, I recommended an independent geological consultant, and after making
enquiries came to the conclusion that Prof. Shotton, FRS is the most prominent
British authority on the Pleistocene period. I approached him and he consented to
act for us, and in fact visited Chelsea twice and inspected the borehole samples with
Early. Since then we have had no more dealings with him, and I thought it just as
well to renew our contact and make sure he was still on our side.
Selected diarieS and letterS

My meeting with Prof. Shotton took place at 3.00 pm at the University. I had a
long and interesting talk with him, and it is clear that he is perfectly happy about our
geological interpretation.
I arrived at Harrogate about 7 pm, and decided to spend the evening putting
together the notes that I have made on Derwent in the last few days, so as to clear
my mind on the subject.

1) The present State of Affairs at Derwent

The contract is for the construction of a rolled-fill earth dam with a maximum height
of 120 ft, a total length of embankment of 3,000 ft, and a volume of 2,600,000 cubic
yards. The cut-off trench is 6 ft wide, and is intended to be sunk through glacial and
fluvio-glacial deposits to bedrock, at a maximum depth of about 200 ft, and then
20 ft into rock.
Our tender was submitted on 14 November 1959, and the contract was awarded
to us on 19 January 1960.
Three schemes were submitted by us for the cut-off: by Soletanche grouting, by a
trench sunk with the aid of freezing, and by a trench sunk by the aid of ground water
lowering. In the last case it was explained, in a letter which accompanied our tender,
that it could not be expected to lower the water to within less than 20 ft of bedrock,
and that the trench would be completed by the use of ‘chemical consolidation’ if the
ground was suitable, and there was evidence on the contract drawings to suggest
that it was; otherwise some other expedient should be used, with the agreement of
the Engineer.
The Engineer accepted the third alternative, and John Mowlem & Co. decided
that the ground water lowering should be carried out by Soil Mechanics Ltd., who
should work as part of the Mowlem organisation, and not as subcontractors; hence
they have had no right of separate negotiation with the Engineer.
The bank building and main items of excavation were sublet to Shellabear,
Price, Ltd., and the tunnelling was carried out with the help of staff seconded from
Mowlem (Scotland) Ltd.
The cut-off trench is, of course, by far the most difficult part of the whole
operation, demanding a high degree of engineering knowledge and skill.
Boreholes put down by Soil Mechanics Ltd. at the start of the contract showed
a geological section markedly different from that communicated by the contract
drawings, and this fact was brought to the attention of the Engineer, in a letter dated
17 May 1960, and the significance of this new section as regards ground water
lowering was mentioned in a letter to him dated 2 June 1960. As a result of these
letters the Engineer called a meeting in London on 10 August 1960, at which he
instructed us to carry out more pumping tests from trial wells. These negotiations,
etc., will be described in more detail in Part 2 of these notes.
Following the meeting of 10 August, work on the installation of the ground water
lowering system was stopped, and very soon progress on the main contract was also

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

affected. In fact work on the main contract was thereafter confined to the portions of
the cut-off trench on the flanks of the valley, to the diversion tunnel, and to the still-
ing pool, the outlet channel, and other works downstream of the tunnel portal.
This state of affairs has continued for about a year, to the complete disruption of
our original programme, and, subsequently, we are faced with a very heavy loss on
the on-costs, which have been out of all proportion to the work completed.
The cold truth is that if we are compelled to carry out the original scheme we
stand to lose nearly £1,000,000. It remains to be seen what can be recovered from
the wreck, and how.
To sum up:
(i) Our losses to date amount to about £200,000, and if we are
compelled to carry out the original scheme of a cut-off trench
to bedrock they may eventually reach a figure to the order of
£1,000,000. If we persuade the Engineer to accept a new design
for a partial cut-off, by invoking Clause 12(2) or otherwise, we
will escape a very heavy loss but cannot hope to break even.
Our only hope of making a profit, however small, is to break
the contract on the grounds of misinformation.
(ii) The original site investigation on the centre line of the dam
was badly carried out, hence the contract documents were
misleading and we now believe that our scheme for sinking the
cut-off trench by water lowering is no longer practicable.
(iii) This is a fortunate circumstance for us, since the sinking
and timbering of the trench was grossly underestimated.
Nevertheless we are heavily out of pocket, for the whole
progress of work has been disrupted for a year, while the
Engineer has endeavoured to prove, by pumping tests, that
our contention that groundwater lowering is not practicable is
wrong. If we are proved right, and the design of the trench is
altered, we can only recover our money by a claim.
(iv) We have lost heavily on the tunnel work, but here again the
geological section, as shown on the contract documents, has
been proved incorrect. But the Engineer, while admitting the
error, has stated categorically that he will not admit a claim on
this plea.
(v) The ground conditions on the site of the outlet channel are such
that ground water lowering had proved necessary, and this was
not allowed for in our tender. Fortunately it was clear from the
design that the Engineer had misjudged them and the work is
being completed to a new design. We are completing the work
on day-work rates, but cannot make a profit on them.

Selected diarieS and letterS

2) Causes of the Present Situation

The causes of this unenviable situation are to be found (a) in the pre-contractual
period, and (b) in the post-contractual period.
I will deal first with (b), since these are perhaps of less serious import. The
implications of (a) involve a criticism of our methods of planning and estimating as
they now exist. I will discuss them later in Section 4 of these notes.

Post-contractual causes
These can best be examined in the light of the progress of the works, and of the
discussions, and the exchanges of letters, which took place with the Engineer from
time to time.
The original tender of Soil Mechanics Ltd. to the parent company for ground
water lowering included a sum for four trial boreholes, and for pumping tests
from a trial well. These were intended to provide accurate data for the design of a
ground water lowering installation. This was explained to the Engineer in a letter
dated [no date given]. Work on these boreholes started on 28 February 1960, and
the fourth was completed on 28 May 1960. They revealed a geological structure in
the overburden on the centre line of the same which differed in important respects
from that suggested by the contract documents, and my opinion at the time was
that these differences were of absolutely fundamental significance, and that in view
of them the use of ground water lowering became impracticable.
A letter was sent to the Engineer on 2 June 1960 drawing attention to these facts,
as a result of which he called a meeting in London on 10 August 1960 to discuss
them. At this meeting two important statements were made by us:
(i) That the strata on the centre line exhibited a layered structure,
more permeable beds alternating with much less permeable
(ii) That under the circumstances the use of ground water lowering
was no longer the optimum engineering solution to the problem
of sinking the trench.
It might well be argued that at this stage in the proceedings, the fundamental
differences in the geology of the site from those suggested by the contract drawings,
should have been pressed home there and then, and Clause 12(2) of the General
Conditions of Contract invoked, demanding a new approach to the problem with
the negotiation of new prices; but rightly or wrongly this was not done. Also,
although a careful record was prepared of what had been said at this meeting, we
sent no copy of these minutes to the Engineer, nor did he send a copy of his minutes
to us.
In fact, as a result of the meeting, and indeed at it, the Engineer instructed us to
install more wells and piezometers, and to carry out a further series of pumping tests.
He also asked that the staff of Soil Mechanics Ltd. should closely collaborate with his

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

own engineers in carrying out and interpreting these tests, and that we should give
him the benefit of our experience, knowledge and advice. To all this we agreed.
The results of the additional pumping tests were examined at meetings called
by McLellan on 29 December 1960, and 29 March 1961, and on each occasion he
concluded that they were inconclusive and issued instructions for an extension of
the testing programme. Thus, as I have already stated, this programme has continued
for about a year, and has not only been very costly in itself, but has completely
disorganised both the programme of works of the main contractor and that of Soil
Mechanics Ltd. In fact, all these extra tests have given results in accordance with
those to be expected in accordance with our interpretation of the geology of the site,
as expressed at the meeting held on 10 August 1960, and indeed, before that date.
Finally, on September [no date given] we received a letter from the Engineer
enclosing a report by Rowe on the pumping tests to date, and minutes of the meeting
held on 29 March 1961, and requesting that Soil Mechanics Ltd. should submit a
report giving their own appreciation of the tests by [no date given] September, 1961.
This gave us but little time, and yet it was clear that Rowe’s report represented weeks,
if not months, of work. With the permission of E.C. Beck I invited Skempton to act
officially as our consultant in these matters. The Soil Mechanics Ltd. appreciation
was then prepared by Skempton, Bishop, Leonard, Meigh, Cashman and myself,
and on [no date given] September this report was dispatched, together with a reply
to McLennan’s letter, both signed by myself. Both showed a decided stiffening in
our attitude.
Rowe’s report purports to demonstrate that all the pumping tests show that
Soil Mechanics Ltd.’s views on the geology of the site are irrelevant, and that as
regards response to pumping from wells, the ground water behaves as might be
expected from a study of the original contract drawings. On the other hand, the Soil
Mechanics Ltd. report argues that ground conditions are now known to be such
that ‘we see no hope of creating this condition,’ (i.e. adequate drainage of the soil)
‘which is essential to safety, within a reasonable period.’
A meeting was held at Sunderland on 28 September 1961 between representatives
of the Water Company and of Soil Mechanics Ltd., at which Rowe and Skempton
were present, to discuss the implications of these reports, and although I believe
that we somewhat weakened Rowe’s position, the fact remains that our views were
not wholly accepted. If their views prevail, the consequences to us will be grave
To sum up, the post-contractual causes of our troubles are, in my opinion, due
(i) The fact that the Engineer will not accept that his original site
investigation was badly done, and that the whole work has
been disrupted, largely at our expense, for a year.
(ii) We have followed a policy of appeasement and failed to press
home our advantage a year ago by invoking Clause 12(2). Our
Selected diarieS and letterS

position is now no stronger than it was then, and it is harder for

the Engineer to retreat, for about £250,000 has been frittered
away in the meantime.
(iii) We may have lost the confidence of the Engineer by not
accepting his invitation to collaborate with him.

3) Future Action by John Mowlem & Co. Ltd.

Our only possible hope of escaping from this contract without losing a very large
sum of money indeed lies in the fact that we have shown the geological data on
the contract drawings to be misleading, so that our originally suggested method of
sinking the cut-off trench is impracticable.
It would seem that in the light of all this we must take the following action:
(i) Win the geological battle over the cut-off trench; those over
the tunnel and the outlet channel have been won already so far
as the basic facts are concerned.
(ii) Get an alternative design for a partial cut-off accepted.

4) Measures to prevent a re-occurrence of such a situation

It is clear that if we are to avoid further incidents of this kind, and it will be difficult
enough to avoid the worst consequences of this one, changes must be made in the
top management of the Civil Engineering Department.
We need a young and intelligent Chief Engineer with administrative ability, and
the gift of leadership. Such a man would get the best out of the excellent men whom
we have in this department, and incidentally weed out a few passengers. He would
also collaborate with our various subsidiaries, who with their specialised knowledge
can contribute much to our success in the field of civil engineering.
My own view is that Westacott should be invited to take over the department
for two or three years, during which period a suitable successor can be chosen and
trained to take over.

October 6 Friday
Cleared the very considerable accumulation of letters on my desk. I also had a talk
with Gove and Westacot and told them that I thought Westacott should take on the
job of Chief Engineer for two or three years.

October 16 Monday
In the evening I met Skempton and I went through the minutes of the first Derwent
meeting with him. He hears from Kennard that McLellan intends to change to a
partial cut-off.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

November 8 Wednesday
Caught the 12 noon aeroplane to Paris with Leonard, North-Lewis and Angel, and
in the afternoon we had a useful Board Meeting with Ischy, Giron and Le Sciellour
which went on till 7.15 pm.

November 9 Thursday
To rue Logelbach where I spent the rest of the morning with Ischy going through
our joint paper: obviously he has not read it before, and now, at this late stage,
wants to change it all, because it is not sufficiently ‘Cartesian’. I said that by English
standards it was already very Cartesian indeed.

December 1 Friday
am meeting of John Mowlem (C.E.). Lunch in Head Office. p.m to the Ministry of
Works, meeting of the Joint Building and C.E. Board. To Chelsea to see Leonard
about Soletanche.
[With the effective resolution of the issues at Derwent Dam the Diary ends at this

Selected letterS
Rudolph Glossop maintained annual files of personal business correspondence which
are held by his daughter Emma Slack. The letters included, from Laurits Bjerrum, Karl
Terzaghi and Alec Skempton, illustrate the nature of these longstanding friendships.

Laurits Bjerrum
The four letters from Bjerrum follow on from the visit made by Glossop to the Norwegian
Geotechnical Institute in 1955, an extract of the account of this visit is included in the
Later Journals.

Selected diarieS and letterS

Laurits Bjerrum
Norwegian Geotechnical Institute
Oslo-Blindern, Norway

May 27, 1958

Dear Glossop

In connection with an important tunnel work in Greece, I permit myself to contact

you in order to ask you to do me a favour.

The problems are as follows:

An important tunnelwork – diameter 12–15 metres – had to be carried out in an
area where very meagre information was available concerning the rock conditions.
No borings were made in advance in order to clear up the rock conditions, and
according to the specification one should believe that the rock was sound and stable
and that no special difficulties should be encountered.
Shortly after the construction had started, the rock conditions proved to change
abruptly from the stable, intact rock at the surface and to disintegrated materials
like sand, gravel, broken rocks etcetera. Instead of a normal tunnel procedure in
stable rock, the construction had to be changed completely. The blasting had to be
made stepwise with establishment of a full support with steel and timber blocking.
Several difficulties were encountered during the change in procedure, and to this
a number of rock falls from the roof occurred.
By changing the procedure the contractor, however, succeeded in developing a
method of tunnelwork which granted that the tunnel could be completed without
risk of labour. Since then there have been only minor technical difficulties.
However, a very important economical problem has to be settled. The prices in
the contract were, of course, based upon the assumption that the rock was intact
and stable. The change in identity of the job has, of course, resulted in a considerable
additional cost for the contractor. The client is, however, not inclined to refund the
contractor his additional expenses.
Our Institute has been asked to prepare a complete geological report of this job
and also to evaluate if the procedure used by the contractor is justified under the
given circumstances. Moreover, we have been asked to collect experiences from
similar cases in other countries.
In this connection I ask you if you have met with similar cases in your practice
or if you know about previous decisions under similar circumstances. For instance,
there might be some Court Decisions which are of interest to us.
Moreover, we are trying to collect information concerning what is practice in
the various countries and also to find out how the standard contracts are set up
for such type of works.
I would be very grateful if you could send me a couple of lines and tell about
your experiences, eventual to give me some references to publications or to persons
I may contact for more detailed information. I ask you to excuse me the trouble I
give you with this matter.
Sincerely yours,

Laurits Bjerrum

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Laurits Bjerrum
Norwegian Geotechnical Institute
Oslo-Blindern, Norway

March 7, 1964

Dear Glossop

Re: Tunnelwork in compressed air.

In connection with the design of the Oslo Subway Line we are at present studying
a section where we have to do with a rather deep excavation and where we
consequently are faced with the problem of doing the job under relatively high air
pressure to keep the bottom of the excavation down.
The pressure we are speaking about is 2 atm excess pressure. Our client has,
however, expressed some fear to use such high pressures and he is somewhat
afraid of which medical requirements might be necessary to do the job. I am now
permitting myself to ask you to do me the favour and send me some general
information about the use of compressed air as used in practice in England today.
We would be interested in knowing what you consider normal high pressure
for compressed air work. Furthermore, what you would consider exceptional and
where special measurements are to be taken.
We would like also to know whether you have a set of medical regulations
for compressed air work which specifies the various precautions required by the
Finally I would like to know whether there is some tunnelwork going on in
Great Britain the coming summer where a relatively high pressure is used, with
the purpose of recommending our client eventually to visit England to see work
of this type.
You would do me a great favour if you would help me to get a true picture of
the actual conditions.

Thanking you in advance. With my best personal regards.

Yours sincerely

Laurits Bjerrum

Selected diarieS and letterS

Laurits Bjerrum
Norwegian Geotechnical Institute
Oslo-Blindern, Norway

March 25, 1964

Dear Glossop

Upon my return from USA I found on my desk your letter dated March 10th .
I am very happy for your reply to my questions and for the enclosed
It was just the type of material we wanted and it satisfies our demands

Thank you for taking the trouble.

Yours sincerely

Laurits Bjerrum

Laurits Bjerrum
Norwegian Geotechnical Institute
Forskningsvn. 1, Oslo 3, Norway

April 19, 1966

Dear Glossop

I have a problem which I would like to have you helping me with. In connection
with the construction of a new bridge across Littlebelt in Denmark we are facing
the situation that the two towers of the suspension bridge will be supported by a
caisson lowered down over a group of driven piles. The connection between the
caisson and the piles will be made in compressed air at a depth of about 20 m of
water (60 ft).
They have not made any compressed-air work in Denmark for quite a time
and the consulting engineers are therefore interested in finding out what the
regulations and practice concerning compressed-air work are, and specifications by
the health authorities about time of working, time of sluicing out and so on.
I am now contacting you, asking you to do me the favour and send a set of

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

the regulations that exist in London and eventually your own specifications for
compressed-air, to the consulting engineers: Dr techn. Chr. Ostenfeld and W. Jönson,
Skjolds gade 8-10, Copenhagen Ø , Denmark.
However, I would like you to verify the practice which I experienced when I
went down in one of your tunnels at Tilbury. At that opportunity the sluicing out
from the high pressure used in the tunnel was made by a very rapid depression
when we went out of the lock leading down to the tunnel. From there we were
transferred to the medical lock and compressed again for finally to be decompressed
gradually and slowly according to a certain system. This procedure is of course
very advantageous, as it does not require the time for decompression occupying the
main lock. I have, therefore, mentioned this system to Dr Ostenfeld and advised him
to study the use of the medical lock for this purpose to reduce the occupancy of the
main locks as much as possible.
I would be very grateful if you would drop Dr Ostenfeld a couple of lines and
eventually send a copy to me concerning this problem.

I send you my very best regards, also to your wife, hoping to see you soon. I thank
you in advance for helping me with this question.

Yours sincerely

Laurits Bjerrum

c.c. Dr tech. Chr. Ostenfeld

Karl Terzaghi
The correspondence with Karl Terzaghi begins in 1945 and extends until close to his
death in 1963. His links with John Mowlem & Co. began in April 1938 and Sir Robert
Wynne-Edwards, the Mowlem agent at Chingford and a close friend of Glossop, has
prepared a note of Terzaghi’s involvement which Glossop has included in his paper ‘The
Influence of Terzaghi on Civil Engineering Practice in England’. This note, the report
by Terzaghi and all the records of John Mowlem & Co. for the Chingford contract are
now lodged in the archives of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Terzaghi also provided
assistance to Mowlem on the difficult piling conditions at Abbotsinch, north of Paisley.
The note on his site visit of the 22nd April 1939 ‘Foundations for the proposed aircraft
depot near Abbotsinch near Glasgow’ is included in the library of Soil Mechanics Ltd.
Glossop last met with Terzaghi during a business visit to New York with Philip Beck
in February 1962 and is described in his journal for Monday 5th February:
‘I telephoned Arthur Casagrande, who asked us to dinner and said
he would try and arrange for us to visit Terzaghi. …we dined at the
Harvard Faculty Club with Arthur and Eugene Fachon. After dinner
Arthur, Phillip and I went on to Winchester Circle.

Selected diarieS and letterS

I was delighted to find Terzaghi in high spirits with all his old fire, in
spite of his age, 78, and the loss of his leg. He told me he intended to
send a couple of articles to Géotechnique on rock mechanics, which is
decidedly a sign that the journal has made the grade.’

Karl Terzaghi
3 Robinson Circle

April 2, 1945

Dear Mr Glossop

Your very kind letter of February 20th and the manuscript of your paper on
Particle Size in Silts and Sands reached me in a period when the piled-up work
almost exceeded my bearing capacity. I should be Vancouver, BC, Winnipeg, Chicago
and Montreal at the same time. Therefore, I read the paper only once, with the
intention of studying it more carefully at a later date, because I intend to participate
in the discussion.
My impression is that you have performed a very useful piece of work and
I agree with most of the conclusions. You make a very definite stand for the
MIT system, and so do I, in the book which will appear, I hope, before long. Your
observations regarding drainage led to about the same conclusion as my own.
Mechanical analysis of clay seems to be a waste of time and money, but we both
agree that the mechanical analysis of very fine sand and silt is a must-test.
I was favourably impressed by the thoroughness with which you considered the
pros and cons in connection with each item. It gives weight to your statements.
Since your paper contains a great amount of useful information in a small amount
of space, it will not fail to have its effect on thoughtful readers and I look forward
to seeing it in print before long. I wish to add that your little group of research
workers in the field of soil mechanics can be justly proud of your accomplishments.
Whatever you have brought out so far has head and tail – which means a lot in
this field.
It was very good to see again the good old ‘91 Ebury Bridge Road’ on a letterhead.
Please remember me to my friends in the firm and to our dear influential
bureaucrat, Wynne-Edwards.

With kindest personal regards.

Very sincerely yours

Karl Terzaghi

Copy to Skempton

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Karl Terzaghi
3 Robinson Circle

March 22, 1953

Dear Mr & Mrs Glossop

I wish to thank you most heartily for the lovely flowers which have been delivered
at my home a few days ago and for the greetings which came with them. Five weeks
ago, when I was grabbed and deposited in the hospital I realized that this was not
my first heart attack. I experienced the first one three years ago, while I was coping
with a vicious landslide in Brazil. Since there was no physician at the site I had to
proceed in accordance with my own medical instincts. I absorbed a generous double
scotch whisky (a poor relation of the Navy Liqueur) mixed with hot water, slept
ten hours like a log and next morning I declared myself perfectly cured.
This time the situation is seriously aggravated by the deplorable fact that I fell
into the hands of an expert physician. If I had kept quiet as I did in Brazil I would
have saved myself a lot of fuss and trouble. However, I had to admit that there is
hardly any difference between the way the physician handled me and the way of
how I handle dam foundations and similar propositions. As a matter of fact I got
a great kick out of the curves which showed in what a rotten state I was to start
with and how conditions improved as a result of my meek submission.

Kindest regards and once more – many thanks!


K. Terzaghi

Selected diarieS and letterS

Karl Terzaghi
3 Robinson Circle

December 5, 1957

Dear Glossop

Enclosed you will find the draft for a paper on ‘Consultants, Clients and Contractors’,
to be published by the Boston Society of Civil Engineers. Since you have been
sitting for years on the fence between two of these parties, you have had a unique
opportunity for observation and probably, off and on, for cynical silent comments.
Therefore, I would greatly appreciate it if you would give the readers of the paper
the benefit of your experience and judgement in the matter by participating in
the discussion.
I still remember with delight the cordial hospitality of Mrs. Glossop and yourself,
extended to me during the strenuous days of the London Conference. I do hope
that I may some day welcome both of you in my home on the western shore of the

With kindest personal regards, I remain.

Cordially yours

K. Terzaghi

Rudolph Glossop

November 10, 1959

Dear Professor Terzaghi

In September this year I went over to Ireland to the opening of an oil refinery
at Cork, and afterwards spent two weeks on holiday, exploring the west coast. For
most of the time I was staying at a very comfortable hotel, once a country house
belonging to the Guinness family, which is situated between two large lakes, Lough
Mask and Lough Corrib, in the counties of Galway and Mayo.
Lough Corrib is almost 30 miles long, and is separated from the sea at the town
of Galway by short rapids. Lough Mask is about 15 miles long and lies about 5
miles due north of Lough Corrib. The country is underlain by the Carboniferous
Limestone, and the entire flow from the catchment area of Lough Mask passes

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

through caverns and appears as strong springs at the north end of Lough Corrib.
About 1850 the Government, to provide employment during the potato famine,
decided to build a canal to connect the two lakes, and thus give uninterrupted
navigation from Galway north.
The line chosen for the canal, which is 4 or 5 miles long, unfortunately traverses
Carboniferous Limestone the whole way. The work consists of a trench 35 ft wide,
and often as much as 20 ft deep, cut in solid limestone. It was completed in every
detail, including the locks, before an attempt was made to fill it. When finally the
time came to do so, all the water escaped into caverns and fissures in the limestone
and the canal remained dry, and has done so ever since.
Since engineering follies of this magnitude in limestone are comparatively rare,
I thought that you might like to have copies of some photographs which I took of
the place.
Perhaps the most astonishing sight is that which is shown in photograph No.
2. [not included here]. This is of the basin at the north end of the canal, which is
separated from Lough Mask by a barrier of limestone perhaps 1 ∕ 4 mile wide. When
this barrier was eventually cut through the water rushed into the basin, but
never filled it sufficiently to enter the canal, since it all escaped into the cavern
system. The photograph shows clearly the strong flow which has been going on for
100 years, and in the distance you can see the sluice gates at the north end of the
dry canal.
No doubt a full account of this unhappy episode could be built up from
Government records if one had the time.
What the curious structure consisting of a low masonry wall in the centre of
the canal, which can be seen in photograph No. 1 [not attached], is intended for, I
do not know.
The country around is very beautiful, and the fishing is very good, but the canal
itself is rather a melancholy place.
We are all very busy over here, and have now recovered from the loss of Harding
and Golder, which you can imagine made a heavy strain on the organisation.
However, Leonard is extremely good on the administrative side, and we have a
younger man called Meigh, who has the right mentality for work in soil mechanics,
and combines a good knowledge of theory with a very practical approach to his
problems. We have recently formed a joint company with Soletanche, and are
carrying out some important contracts with them, both in Hong Kong and in the
British Isles. They are very nice people to work with and we get on well together.
I had a chat with Wynne-Edwards on the telephone the other day and hope to see
him soon. I gather that he is celebrating the birth of his fifth grandchild, and can
be said to have qualified for the degree of Patriarch.
As you have no doubt heard, Mr E.B. Beck died last year, but Sir George Burt is
still in excellent health and in the office every day.
We are looking forward to seeing you in Paris for the Conference.

With kind regards

Yours sincerely

R. Glossop

Selected diarieS and letterS

Ruth D. Terzaghi
3 Robinson Circle

November 19, 1959

Dear Mr Glossop

In the absence of my husband, who is in British Columbia, this will acknowledge

and thank you for your fascinating letter of November 10 and the interesting
photographs of an engineer’s folly. I am sure that one or the other of these will one
day find its way into a lecture on engineering geology.

Sincerely yours

Ruth D. Terzaghi

Karl Terzaghi
3 Robinson Circle

December 5, 1959

Dear Glossop

Thanks for your letter of November 10, with photos attached. I have seen two dams,
one in Puerto Rico and one in Mexico, which was built on limestone which looked
on outcrops like Swiss cheese. No subsoil explorations whatsoever were made, and
the reservoirs are fairly tight. I also know of several dams (two in Spain) where
the rock conditions were explored by consultants considered as competent, and the
water leaks out of the reservoir as fast as it comes in. In a discussion on this subject,
at an annual meeting of the ASCE, I was asked what I would do if my client would
insist on knowing in advance whether or not a given limestone formation would
retain the water. My answer was as follows ‘I would request borings and percolation
tests, some more borings, and still some more, until my client is bankrupt. There
would be no more problems.’ Such is limestone! I had my first contacts with it some
fifty years ago and remained scared ever since.

Cordially yours

K. Terzaghi

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Karl Terzaghi
3 Robinson Circle

April 10, 1960

Dear Glossop

Thanks for your sending me the manuscript of your historical treatise on grouting,
Part I. Since I did not even know that grouting was practised as early as 1850,
everything in the paper was brand new to me. I am looking forward to the sequence
as well as to your pending visit to the USA. I do hope your trip will take you
through Boston.
Kindest regards from house to house.

Cordially yours

K. Terzaghi

Karl Terzaghi
3 Robinson Circle

July 20, 1960

Dear Glossop

I gather from your letter of July 11 that there is a gap in your knowledge of the
history of grouting, centering about the beginning of our century. The habit of
wasting one’s money on requiring a patent on grouting with chemicals started
about 1880. Since that time an astonishingly large number of patents have been
issued, but none of the wishdreamers made any money until Joosten came along
in 1925.
In 1930 when I reviewed the situation I found out that it was almost impracticable
to invent a ‘cocktail’ which was not yet patented prior to that time. I induced Rush
to concentrate under my supervision on a fairly thorough investigation of the
physical properties of the silica-gels. One of them was used by Rodio in Bou Hanifia,
although I myself arrived at the conclusion that none of them will last forever
and I designed the foundation for the dam in such a manner that it would do its
duty even without any grout curtain. For this reason, I do not wish to have my

Selected diarieS and letterS

name connected with the grouting at Bou Hanifia. My only one really constructive
contribution to ‘grouting’ was the determination of the lower limit of the grain size
for sand, which can still be grouted with Portland Cement (1936, First Intern. Conf.,
Cambridge, Mass.). Since little attention was paid to his paper, a great deal of money
is still being wasted on planting ‘cement potatoes’ in sand.
The grouting in Ghrib was done by ‘Les Travaux Souterrains’, a subsidiary of the
François Cementation Co. Ltd. (now the Cement Co. Ltd., London). According to the
information I got from them (please don’t quote me) the François process originated
about 1909 in the following manner: François made a good living by sinking mining
shafts (mostly in England) through fissured water bearing rock on a lump sum
basis by grouting with Portland Cement. In 1908 he started to sink a mining shaft
in closely jointed rock. Although large quantities of water invaded the shaft, the
rock did not take any grout. At that stage he started to experiment frantically and
purely by trial and error. Among others he tried to ‘lubricate’ the walls of the joints
with what he called ‘Vaseline’ (Al sulphate) – and he succeeded, but his nervous
system was worn out. Hence after the job was successfully completed, he sold his
patent to a company – The Franç. Cem. Co. Ltd. – joined their Board of Directors, but
his interests slipped irrevocably from grouting to Scotch whisky.

Please let me have an advance copy of your Bibliography. I may discover some
further gaps.

Cordially yours
K. Terzaghi

Rudolph Glossop

August 4, 1960

Dear Professor Terzaghi

Thank you very much for your interesting letter of July 20th. There is much in
it which is of interest to me. In particular it confirms that Joosten was the first
person to make a success of alluvial grouting and, also, that by 1930 patents seem to
have covered all the substances suitable for such work which were then known.
I was also glad of the information about your work at Bou Hanifia, and the
history of Ghrib, and, also, your short sketch of the life and times of Monsieur
François. Needless to say I will not quote these interesting details.
I hear from Monsieur Ischy that you have not been well recently and all your
friends in John Mowlem send you their best wishes for a rapid recovery.
At the moment we are involved in a contract for an earth dam in the north of
England founded on 200 ft of complex glacial deposits which the client is trying to
persuade us to sink a 6 ft trench through to form a concrete cut-off. As you can

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

imagine this is a source of some anxiety to me and I am hoping that in due course
he can be persuaded to adopt a more modern approach to the problem.

With kind regards

R. Glossop

Karl Terzaghi
3 Robinson Circle

October 18, 1960

Dear Glossop

I acknowledge with thanks receipt of your letter of October 11 and the reprint of
your paper on ‘Injections, Part I’. I hope you make good headway on Part II, which
is the tough one. I suggest, for a closure to Part II the following: ‘If a contractor
makes a good living out of injections alone, he must be either profoundly dishonest
or profoundly ignorant – probably both.’ That is the conclusion I draw from thirty
years of intimate contacts with this branch of engineering.
I would be delighted to see you in Cambridge at the occasion of your pending visit
to the USA if you can manage this side trip without too much inconvenience. I shall
be at home in the week commencing about November 1 and expect your phone call
from New York, preferably between 8 and 9 am, before I leave the house.
Thanks for your good wishes concerning my health. I am no longer as mobile as I
used to be, but otherwise – still rather aggressive. My kindest regards to Sir George
Burt and my friends at John Mowlem!

Cordially yours
K. Terzaghi

Rudolph Glossop

November 15, 1960

Dear Professor Terzaghi

I am writing to thank you and Mrs. Terzaghi for the very pleasant evening I spent
at your home. It was a great pleasure to me to be able to visit you there at last.

Selected diarieS and letterS

I must thank you too for the copy of the book ‘From Theory to Practice in Soil
Mechanics’ which was waiting for me on my return to England. Not only am I very
proud to have a presentation copy of this work in my collection, but also it includes
so many papers of permanent value which are not easy to find elsewhere.
I was interested to see the reprint of ‘The Effect of Minor Geologic Details on the
Safety of Dams’. This was the first paper of yours I ever read. A copy came into my
hands when I was working on a copper mine in North Mexico in 1930. I learned
some valuable lessons from it which I have never forgotten, and carried the paper
around with me for a good many years until – as always happens – it was borrowed
and never returned. It should be a ‘must’ for all young engineers.
My wife joins me in sending our very kindest regards, and if it is not too early,
all good wishes for Christmas and the New Year to Mrs. Terzaghi and yourself.

Yours sincerely
R. Glossop

Karl Terzaghi
3 Robinson Circle

February 26, 1962

Dear Glossop

I acknowledge with thanks receipt of your letters of February 13 attached to the

airplane view of the killer dam and of February 20 which accompanied the reprint
of the second instalment of your paper on grouting. The airplane view confirms
quite strikingly my concept of the mechanism of the failure of the abutments of
thin archdams. (See my discussion of A.C.’s [Arthur Casagrande] Rankine lecture,
which will be published by Géotechnique before long.) In this connection you may
be interested in a short article which I published in the February 15 issue of Eng.
News-Record (pp. 58 and 59), dealing with the failure of the Malpasset Dam. Your
paper on grouting is a most valuable contribution to the history of civil engineering
but it must have been an exasperating task to collect all the information assembled
in your paper.
While I was reading your paper it occurred to me that the following items may
be of interest to you. On p. 261 you write about a procedure for the solidification
of very firm sand by injecting cement grout through one set of drillholes and
pumping water out of a second one. This procedure was successfully used on a
sewer job in Providence, Rhode Island, and you can find a detailed description of
it by R.L. Harris, published in Engineering News in 1892, or 18 years before it was
‘patented’ by Lombois. On p. 265 you mention the grouting of the foundation of
the Hales Bar Dam, about 1913, at a time when I was in the US. The procedure

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

was strikingly successful and I was deeply impressed. However a short time later
the leakage started again to increase, and in 1930 when TVA [Tennessee Valley
Authority] bought the dam the beneficial effects of the grouting operations had
disappeared completely.
Thanks for your news items concerning Géotechnique! I received a very nice and
comforting letter from the chairman of the panel, but the fact that Géotechnique
has not yet reviewed the book ‘From Theory to Practice in Soil Mechanics’, published
in October 1960, is still shrouded in mystery.

We were very happy to welcome you at our home and hope that you will come
again before long.

Cordially yours
K. Terzaghi

Karl Terzaghi
3 Robinson Circle

October 11, 1962

Dear Glossop

Two years have elapsed since a script copy of ‘From Theory to Practice in Soil
Mechanics’ was sent to Géotechnique. Yet the book has not been reviewed and I
presume that it never will. I don’t care any longer, but to satisfy my curiosity I
would greatly appreciate your disclosing to me the reason for this rather unusual
The other day Messrs. McNaughton and McDonald called on me in Winchester
in spite of their crowded schedule, and I enjoyed their visit very much. At that
occasion I learned with pleasure that our good old friend Wynne-Edwards may be
lifted before long to the summit of the Institution.
I was delighted about the prompt attention my last papers for Géotechnique
have received. I am now returning again, at least for a while, to Soil Mechanics and
particularly my activity in the preparation of a second edition of my two books
on Soil Mechanics of 1943 and 1948. The undiminished demand indicates that they
serve a useful purpose in spite of the fact that parts of these books are already
deplorably out of date.

Kindest regards to yourself and to my friends in London!

Cordially yours
K. Terzaghi

*Glossop prepared a review of this volume, which was published in Géotechnique, March 1963.
Selected diarieS and letterS

Karl Terzaghi
3 Robinson Circle

December 17, 1962

Dear Glossop

Your kind letter of December 1 came to me as a great and most pleasant surprise.
During my lifetime I was always so deeply interested in developing and practicing
my profession that I hardly kept track of the many honors which were showered
upon me as a by-product of my activities. However I was, and still am, very much
concerned about the manifold undesirable consequences of the results of my
labors, foremost among them the tendency to forget the differences between theory
and reality. In the book you reviewed the editors have admirably succeeded in
demonstrating, by appropriate selections from my writings, the role which should
be assigned to theory in engineering practice to prevent it from becoming a liability.
Hence when the book came out, I hoped that it would open the eyes of many
of those soil mechanicians who were intoxicated by ‘Theoretical Soil Mechanics’
and believe all our problems can be solved by applied mathematics supplemented
by laboratory testing. Your fine and thoughtful review will certainly attract the
attention of these wishdreamers. It will appear at a time when the effect of the
preceding reviews has already worn off, and I thank you for the time and labor
you have spent on preparing it.
I have temporarily disengaged myself from rock mechanics and I am working
on a radical revision of ‘Soil Mechanics in Engineering Practice’, which has been
translated into five languages. The sales records show that the book is still going
as strong as ever, in spite of the fact that several parts are very much out of
date. Most of the readers are practicing engineers. Therefore the book gives me
an excellent opportunity to emphasize the empirical aspects of the subject. College
teachers seem to shy away from it and the reasons are obvious. They do not like to
advertise how little we really know.
Thanks for the assorted news about my friends in England, particularly those
about good old Wynne-Edwards. Ruth joins me in my very best Christmas and New
Years wishes to yourself and Sheila!

K. Terzaghi

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Alec Skempton
The letters from Alec Skempton cover a period of over 40 years. Glossop gives an account
of their first meeting in A Short Biographical Essay, which introduced the volume of
Skempton’s Selected Papers (Glossop 1984). At the instigation of Glossop, Skempton
succeeded Terzaghi as a consultant to John Mowlem & Co. in 1946. A number of reports
prepared by Skempton and colleagues at Imperial College are included in the Glossop
Archive at Sheffield University, and in the Diaries there is an account of his involvement
on Derwent Dam. Given that both men lived and worked in close proximity their letters
tend to be short and informal, and illustrate how they shared information on technical
issues as well as on historical matters, a passion of both men.

Alec Skempton
Deepdale Avenue

July 31, 1953

My dear Silas

I have at last come to a decision which I should have made several weeks ago –
namely, that you would make a far better President of the International Society
than I. On Sunday night it became clear to me, and my thoughts during the past
few days have confirmed the impression. Indeed, after Terzaghi himself, I can think
of no-one better for the job than yourself.
I have written to Terzaghi telling him this, and I hope you two can meet on
Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning (Aug 4th or 5th) when he will be at
the ‘Park Lane Hotel’.
I sincerely believe the Society will prosper more under your leadership than
mine. You and Terzaghi have been, and still are, the main sources of personal
importance to me. I lack the dynamic quality so necessary for such a position – a
quality which you have in full measure. Moreover I have hardly travelled about
the world at all.
Dear Silas, please believe what I have been saying, and be sure that I will do all
I can to give you what help I can.

Yours sincerely

Selected diarieS and letterS

Alec Skempton
University of Illinois
College of Engineering


May 15, 1954

Dear Mr & Mrs Glossop

The usual type of sand drains are, so far as US practice is concerned, driven
pipes with a flap valve, filled with sand as the pipe is being driven, and the pipe
(including flap valve) then withdrawn, with air or steam pressure applied to the
top of the sand. The steam is from a steam boiler in pile drivers worked by a steam
engine; for petrol engine rigs compressed air is used. The valve is a steel plate about
1” thick at the edge and thickened in a dome form on the bottom. It is stiffened by
cross ribs about 1” to 1½ ” deep on the upper face and one of these is extended to
form part of a hinge, the other parts of the hinge being two rings welded on to the
pipe, and a pin. The hinge is quite a loose fitting job, and the valve is held in position
(horizontally) by the ribs which are chamfered at their ends and provide a rough
and ready centering device.
The sand is fed in through a branch pipe, from a hopper which can be lowered to
the ground to be re-filled with sand, then raised again into position.
General experience here indicates that sand drains work very well in alluvial
deposits (as at Chew Stoke, for example, in England), but there have been several
instances of unsatisfactory performance in organic soils and peat. This statement
is probably not applicable to organic soils and peat containing horizontal layers
of silt and/or sand. But there is a strong feeling against their use in thick organic
I am now beginning to get a fairly clear picture of the soil mechanics position
over here – and it differs in many ways from ours in England.
The various organisations carrying out drilling, testing etc. can be classified as

1) Drilling* Contractors – with no lab.

Raymond (piles and drilling)
Srague & Henwood } (rock and soil drillers)
Pennsylvania Drilling Co. } “ “ “

2) Drilling* and Testing ** Contractors (i.e. with a lab)

None do these jobs only; although most of the firms in
Category 3) will act in this capacity if required.

3) Drilling* and Testing** and Consulting

Greer & McClelland (New York and Texas)

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Soil Testing Services (Chicago)

Emtis Engineering Co. (New Orleans)
B.K. Hough (New York – he runs this firm as well as
being a Prof. at Cornell)
Mann, Johnson, Associates (Dallas)

* includes, in all instances, boring, sampling, standard penetration tests, etc.

** all usual lab. tests.

These firms act as consultants, normally doing their own drilling and testing. They also
act as drilling and/or testing contractors for other consultants or public authorities.
They are, within limits, prepared to operate anywhere but naturally their practice is
centred in the region of their headquarters.

4) Consultants, with a lab. Only for their own use

Moran, Meuser, Rutledge } (New York)
O.J. Porter } (New York)
Dames & More } (California, with branches elsewhere)
(all chiefly soil mechanics consultants)

Knapper, Tippits, Abbett & McCarthy (New York)

And other general civil engineering consultants.

Obviously these firms employ drilling contractors from categories 1) and 3).

With regard to category 3) – of which we have no examples in England – Greer

& McClelland are simply a partnership, not an incorporated company. But this,
I believe, is not typical and most of those are companies in the legal sense, and
differ from Soil Mechanics (for example) in that over here there seems to be no
objection to their acting as consultants as well, provided of course that the reports
(where they are acting as consultants) are signed by an engineer licensed as such
in accordance with State and Federal Law (equivalent in England to Corp. Member
of ICE)
Far more consulting work is done here, than in England, by the University
people. Hough, at Cornell, has gone to the limit of running his own drilling and
testing firm. More usually the University people do the testing and calculations, and
have a drilling contractor on the job. Less usually they have the testing work done
by a firm (such as Greer & McClelland, Soil Testing Services, etc.).
Moran, Meuser & Rutledge represent a development toward which Guthlac
[Wilson] was tending but which does not I think otherwise exist in London. We could
have at least one such firm in London with great advantage. They are foundation
engineers who do their own testing (although purely routine work is often let out
to a testing firm) and design, and take complete responsibility as consultants for
the job itself – or at least the foundation side of it.
With regard to drilling, much use is made of a rig mounted on a truck, often
associated with another truck carrying a winch and water tank and having
powerful four-wheel drive and very low gears to haul the drilling truck over

Selected diarieS and letterS

difficult ground. The water tank is for the drilling mud and, again, much use is
made of the uncased hole with mud. Bentonite is used for this – but often any
suitable local clay or powdered fire-clay is employed in place of bentonite.
A lot of work is done with 2” Shelby tube sampler in clay and the standard
penetration test in sands; and, even, as a lower limit, only the standard penetration
is used. Where more money can be spent, 3” piston Shelby sampler is used, both for
clays and, with drilling muds, for sands.
A great proportion of the jobs seem to be foundations (earth dams are almost a
monopoly of the USB Reclamation and The Corps. of Engineers) and for foundations
the routine is standard penetration + unconfined test for clays + (occasionally)
oedometer tests. The geology over here is such that a large variability exists in soil
types even in a small area and this has led to the development of the all-purpose
routine penetration test and accounts for the comparative absence of what we
might call ‘classical’ soil mechanics. In a great many cases these soil conditions are
so complicated that calculation can give no more than a very rough indication of
the solution to a problem.
With earth dams being handled almost exclusively by the two big government
organisations, and with this variability of soils in the ground, laboratory testing
has, in general, not developed so far as in England. Especially in this time in
triaxial technique. Moreover, few of the testing firms are associated with a large
civil engineering contractor – nor do they seem to do work in the way of piling,
geotechnical processes, etc. – and they have to charge heavily for laboratory testing
– as this and drilling have to bear most of the overheads. Consequently the cost of
investigations on a commercial basis is very high, and hence, alas, the widespread
procedure of University people doing much of the testing for their own jobs.
By the time the trip is finished I will probably have a clearer impression of what
we might usefully adopt, or adapt, from US practice; but at present I would say it
is chiefly in drilling (use of mud, 3” piston sampler, rig on truck etc.) that we have
much to learn.
Socially, the trip is a great success. Everyone is most kind and generous; no-one is
aggressively political (except to be anti-McC [Senator Eugene McCarthy]) or at least
when we are around, and we are having a really marvellous time. The lectures are
being very well received – both soil mechanics and history, of which I am giving
almost equal numbers.
All anecdotes, impressions and so on, had best wait for our return.

Nancy sends her love and so do I, to both of you and Emma.


Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Alec Skempton
Imperial College of Science and Technology
Department of Civil Engineering
South Kensington
London SW7

June 30, 1954

Dear Silas

When did ground water lowering first find application for foundations of buildings?
I have in mind that Sichardt used this technique for the Berlin State Opera Building
in 1928, but that well points were used in 1927 in New York for the Harriman
Can you help me?

Yours sincerely

Alec Skempton

Imperial College of Science and Technology

Department of Civil Engineering
South Kensington
London SW7

May 6, 1959

Dear Glossop

Regarding your query on the shear strength of peat, I think perhaps one of the
most useful papers, and one which has fairly extensive references, has just been
published by MacFarlane in the Journal of the Soil Mechanics and Foundations
Division, ASCE, February 1959. Previous to seeing this paper I had got together
one or two references, but I find they are all included in MacFarlane’s paper. In
addition, however, we are writing to Hanrahan in Ireland in case he can add any
more references and I will let you know when we have heard from him.

Yours sincerely

Selected diarieS and letterS

Alec Skempton
Deepdale Avenue

August 2, 1966

Dear Silas

It will add greatly to the enjoyment of my visit to Birmingham if you are there. I
hope Shotton will be also.
I have to do a PhD oral exam on the same trip and don’t know the details yet,
so I can’t say exactly when I shall have to travel; but will let you know as soon as
things are fixed.
The weather up here is rather variable but we have had several beautiful days –
most of which have been spent at Robin Hood’s Bay mapping the remarkable joint
patterns exposed on the scars (wave-cut platforms) there. It’s too early to see the
overall picture, but at any rate both Nancy and I thoroughly enjoy being there
‘with a purpose’.
So far as Newcastle is concerned I may not be able to get there. I am terribly
behind with a lot of work; especially three papers to be written with research
students before they scatter to various points of the world. There is also a lot
of preparation for the Birmingham lecture, most of which is new, unpublished
stuff. The Sevenoaks job is still in full blast. We now have a fantastic section at
the front of the Hythe escarpment showing valley bulging (or its equivalent at
an escarpment), landslipping and massive solifluction. This job is quite the most
complicated field investigation I have ever seen – I have been on it now almost full
time for a year and there are still many unresolved problems. Even Monmouth is,
by comparison, fairly straightforward.

Love to you both


Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Alec Skempton
Imperial College of Science and Technology
Department of Civil Engineering
South Kensington
London SW7

April 17, 1970

Dear Silas

I read your Aberfan review just before it went to the printers, thought it was OK
and, as it was rather late for the June issue, passed it for page proof stage. The page
proofs will be ready fairly soon and can be altered very little.
Miss Davis would prefer to keep it in the June issue, but if you insist it could
be removed. However, my impression was that you had thought out the review
very carefully and had taken a lot of trouble in writing it. So I still feel it should
go in print.
Not everyone will agree with everything you have said, but surely this doesn’t
matter so long as you have carefully considered the opinions you express.

Yours sincerely

Alec Skempton
16 The Boltons
London SW10

April 12, 1971

Dear Silas

I remember you asking for a reference to Rennies’ use of the steam engine for
driving piles.
This is mentioned by George Rennie, Proc. Inst. C.E. 3 1844 p. 201:

8 H.P. Boulton & Watt engine, 1801–2 for driving piles of the cofferdam of
the Bell Dock entrance of the London Docks.

He also mentions his father using a 6 H.P. engine in 1804 to drive piles for the
cofferdam at the entrance to Hull Docks. 1300 whole timber piles were driven, in
6 weeks to an average depth of 16 ft in the ground.

Selected diarieS and letterS

The reference is rather late, but I think George Rennie is very reliable and
I have just about finished a short (16 pp) history of the Smeatonians which
the Civils are proposing to print in time for the June dinner; but there is enough
material for a small book and I am trying to find a publisher. The records of
the Society are practically complete from 1771 to 1971, and a careful check with
attendance at dinners and membership lists, shows that the election of every
member for 200 years is noted in the Minutes.

I look forward to seeing you during your next visit to London.


Alec Skempton
Imperial College of Science and Technology
Department of Civil Engineering
South Kensington
London SW7

November 28, 1980

Dear Silas

I think you will be interested, and amused (in relation to the Civils ‘of little value’) to
know that a valuation of the pre-1900 books in our Department collection amounts
to rather more than £50,000; mostly from the Great George Street basement – and
excluding the Encyclopaedia which went to our History of Science Dept.
Have you a couple of spare offprints of the compressed-air paper?

Yours ever

[Skempton and Glossop helped to save a large number of books that were being cleared from the
basement of the ICE]

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Alec Skempton
16 The Boltons
London SW10

December 5, 1989

Dear Silas

I am writing a paper on the History of Earth Dams in Britain. Chingford gets a

mention, of course, but I am rather vague about the plant used there; possibly
crawler tractors, Athey wagons and scrapers, without sheep-foot or other rollers? I
expect your memory is much better than mine.
Is there anyone in Mowlem’s who might be able to find the specifications for
Chingford, and also King George VI ?

Love to you both


Alec Skempton
Imperial College of Science and Technology
Department of Civil Engineering
South Kensington
London SW7

June 22, 1992

Dear Silas

I have just read your article in QJEG on the Engineering Group, and am writing
to say how much I enjoyed it.
You must be unique in having been in at the birth of two journals, and indeed
the father of one!
I am heavily engaged on a long (and hopefully the final) paper on Carsington.

Love to you both


Selected diarieS and letterS

Rudolf Glossop
West Cornwall

June 27, 1992

Dear Skem

Thank you for your letter. I am glad to learn that you approve of my article in the
QJEG on the History of the Engineering Group of the Geological Society. At 90 yrs
and 6 months it will probably be my last contribution to Geological literature since
I have no more to say on the subject, but it is certainly optimistic as is justified by
the way in which Géotechnique continues to prosper and is certain to do so until
the end of the century and probably a good deal longer.
I expect you will be going to the dinner at the Guildhall on July 1st and I wish
I could be there. However, next morning I shall wake up a Fellow of the Royal
Academy of Engineering, and that will gratify me very much.
So the investigation of the failure of the dam at Carsington is almost complete,
how fortunate that the bank slipped before there was any water impounded behind
Sheila and I do hope to see you down at Brane this year, the best time would be
after the school holidays when Emma and the family return to Middle Fen.

Sheila joins me in sending love.


selected wRitinGs

The following writings of Rudolph Glossop have been selected to illustrate his unique
contribution to the development of geotechnical engineering within the UK. The first
three articles provide an account of the establishment first of the British Geotechnical
Society, and its journal Géotechnique and later the Engineering Group of the Geological
Society and its journal, the Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology.
The second series of articles illustrate the profound effect of Karl Terzaghi on the
early development of geotechnical engineering in the UK and acts as a complement to
the account by Judith Niechcial in the biography of her father Alex Skempton (Niechcial

1 the developMent of geotechnology

1.1 Geotechnology and Géotechnique
This paper was one of four written to mark the 25th anniversary of the British
Geotechnical Society at a meeting held at the Institution of Civil Engineers on 4
December 1974 (Glossop 1975). Some of the material for the paper was gathered
from an entry in Glossop’s diary for 14 July 1960.
A valuable record of the people involved in the early development of the British
Geotechnical Society was compiled by Professor John Burland and published in a
special issue of Géotechnique to mark the 60th anniversary of the journal (Burland

Selected WritingS

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Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of Geotechnology

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Selected Writings

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Selected Writings

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Selected Writings

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Selected WritingS

The following two articles chart the development of the Engineering Group of
the Geological Society of which Glossop was the chair between 1966 and 1969.
During this period the Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology was launched, and
in 1997, on the 30th anniversary, the Geological Society established the prestigious
Glossop Lecture and Award to recognise the contribution that Glossop made both
to the formation of the Engineering Group and its journal.
A collection of papers on a number of prominent figures, who contributed to
the development of engineering geology in the UK, including Glossop, is included
in the Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, May 2008.

1.2 The Engineering Group of the Geological Society (1969):

‘Engineering geology and soil mechanics’

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of Geotechnology

Selected Writings

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of Geotechnology

Selected Writings

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

1.3 The Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology (1992)

Selected Writings

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of Geotechnology

Selected WritingS

2. karl terzaghi: MeMorieS and reflectionS

2.1 John Mowlem–Siemens Schuckert Partnership: Annual Report 1939
A copy of this Annual Report was located in the Glossop Archive in Sheffield
University. Glossop had annotated the front page ‘This was the start of S.M. Ltd’
and it is probably the report referred to by Glossop in his article ‘Geotechnology
and Géotechnique’.
Karl Terzaghi had presented his influential James Forrest lecture at the
Institution of Civil Engineers on the 2 May 1939 and the influence on this Annual
Report is apparent. Sir Harold Harding has left a vivid impression of the evening
(Harding 1952):
‘Those of us who were fortunate enough to hear him [Terzaghi]
deliver his lecture …will recall the impact his strong, but curiously
impersonal personality, and the thrill and feeling of real excitement
which he produced in a way not often felt in these surroundings.’

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

John Mowlem & Co. Ltd.

Siemens-Schuckert Partnership.

Soil Mechanics
On examining the a c t i v i t i e s of this department
during the last year i t is evident that i t is no longer
solely concerned with the development of two unrelated
processes, Chemical Consolidation and Ground Water
Lowering, but that these processes are examples of the
successful application of a new branch of engineering,
“Soil Mechanics”, which offers a wide field for the
development of such special processes.
The history of this subject may be said to date
from the publication of Terzaghi’s “Erdbaumechanik”, in
1925; since that time it has developed with great rapidity,
not only by research, but also by the incorporation of much
existing knowledge of other sciences such as chemistry,
physics and geology - facts inaccessible to the practising
engineer or of which the p r a c t i c a l s i g n i f i c a n c e had
not been recognized. I t is true that in the past, a
number of textbooks of “Engineering Geology” had been
published, but these were merely elementary surveys
of physical geology, of general i n t e r e s t , but quite
without effect on engineering practice.
Soil Mechanics, on the other hand, includes a large
body of knowledge immediately applicable to foundation
engineering, and has already had a marked influence on
The subject may be divided into two branches:-
1 . The investigation of the mechanical strength of
soils in their natural state, or under the conditions
to be imposed on them by the engineer, thus furnishing
reliable d a t a f o r t h e d e s i g n o f s t r u c t u res, and
the study of such phenomena as,

Selected WritingS

a) The settlement of b u i l d i n g s .
b) The s t a b i l i t y of embankments and cuttings.
c) Earth pressure on retaining walls.
d) Boring capacity of piles.
e) The flow of ground water, e.g. under dams built
on permeable strata and after the installation of
ground water lowering systems.
2. In devising processes by which the properties of
soils can be modified, generally by increasing their
cohesion or by decreasing their permeability. Examples
of such processes are,
a) The compaction of f i l l s .
b) The stabilisation of road surfaces.
c) The consolidation of noncohesive soils, (sand and
gravel), by the injection of grouts or of chemical
d) Ground water lowering.
e) Electrical hardening of clays. (This is s t i l l in
the experimental stage).
f) The freezing process, which although known for
almost a century, obviously belongs here.
Apart from these particular applications soil
mechanics may be said to be rationalising foundation
engineering. In the past much has depended upon guesswork
and on the personal foibles of the engineer. In future,
with a better understanding of soil properties this will no
longer be the case. Design will be preceded by a thorough
examination of the site, and specialist processes, now
so often called in only as a last resort after trouble
has developed, will be incorporated in the design, as at
Richmond Bridge and Mile End Road station.

Possibilities of Commercial Development

In the following notes it will be convenient to use the two
branches of the subject defined above, while

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

(1)The Investigation of Building Sites etc.

Terzaghi in his James Forrest l e c t u r e to the
I n s t i t u t e of C i v i l Engineers, pointed out that in
the past d i s a s t e r s due to ground conditions were
looked upon as “Acts of God” for which the designer
could not be held responsible, but he concludes
“This excuse, however, w i l l c e r t a i n l y not hold for
ever and the time i s approaching when the Courts
w i l l decide against the designer who refuses to
take notice of the existence of s o i l mechanics”.
On the continent i t i s c e r t a i n l y the case
that no work of any magnitude i s undertaken without
a thorough examination of sub surface conditions,
and firms e x i s t , notably that of M.G. Rodio of
M i l a n and P a r i s , which carry out much work of this
kind, combining i t with s p e c i a l i s t processes such
as chemical c o n s o l i d a t i o n .
We s h a l l , therefore, be prepared to carry out the
Many t r i a l borings in this country are carried
out in a slovenly manner by firms unaquainted with
modern requirements.
At the time of writing, we have completed 116
boreholes (mostly 8 in. diameter) on the Chingford
c o n t r a c t , t h i s t o t a l footage being 2,500. From
these borings we have extracts 590 undisturbed
samples of Lond
on Clay. I t i s
proposed to give a l l chemical consolidation
foremen a thorough t r a i n i n g , we will thus have
the nucleus of an organisation well equipped for
such work.
At the present time the B.R.S. at Watford have
the only laboratory capable of carrying out the
standard t e s t s on s o i l p r o p e r t i e s . Should the
demand for such t e s t s increase they w i l l not wish
to be burdened with much routine work which will
i n t e r f e r e with t h e i r prime function, research.

Selected WritingS

They would no doubt be glad to recommend an outside

firm to carry out these t e s t
We are equipping a small laboratory at Chingford
where much valuable experience has already been
gained. During the year the following reports have
been prepared.
(1) Swinnerton: Report on shear strength of
samples of Keuper marl.
(2) County Borough of Eastbourne: Proposed method
of construction for a pumping station basement in
water bearing ground.
(3) City of Aberdeen: proposed application of
chemical consolidation to the Bridge of Don widening.
A method of investigating the bearing c a p a c i t y
of piled foundations has been developed in Holland .
It i s f u l l y described in the Proceedings of the
International Conference on Soil Mechanics. The
advisability of developing i t in t h i s country should
be considered.
A) Chemical Consolidation
Although we are s t i l l the leading fi r m f
or chemical
consolidation in England, competition i s increasing
and the Francois Cementation Company now advertise
chemical consolidation in the Journal of the
Inst i t u tion of C i v i l Engineers. It would, therefore,
be advisable to acquire the rights to the Guttman
Process and the Lanzer Process in order to prevent
them being acquired by other firms
We a r e e q u i p p e d a n d h a v e s t a f f c a p a ble of
carrying out cementation of fissured rock, grouting
of masonry etc .
Clay Injections
With the Chingford laboratory in operation , we
can undertake clay i n j e c t i o n s . The demand for these
is likely to be l i m i t e d .

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

from the American W e l l Point System, but will

continue to be of value. The Deep W e l l system is
unaffected by this competition
(2) The necessity of keeping boring foremen and gangs
together for processes 1 and 3 above, suggest the
d e s i r a b i l i t y of taking up bored p i l e s . Bored sheet
piles and pre test piling might also be developed.
(3) With trained boring . gangs i t would be possible
to tender for the Freezing process where this is
(4) Chemical Consolidation
Clay Injections.
We are now equipped to carry out a l l these
processes. I t would be advisable to acquire
the rights of the Lanzer Process of chemical
consolidation as this has definite field of
application and is receiving some publicity in
(5) Soil Stabilisation
This has been widely applied abroad for roads
and aerodrome runways. When our laboratory i s fully
equipped such work could be undertaken.
Advertisements have appeared regularly in the
Journal of the I n s t i t u t i o n of Civil E n g i n e e r s . I n
a d d i t i o n t w o a r t i c l e s have been published.
“Modern Processes in the Support of Excavations”
“The Engineer” Harbour & Docks Supplement, May
19th, 1939, H.J.B. Harding & R. Glossop.
This was a general review of specialist processes
including Injection processes, Ground Water Lowering
and Freezing.
“Recent Applications of the Ground Water
Lowering Process”
“The Engineer”. April 28th,1939. H.J.B. Harding
& R.Glosso
It is hoped during the coming year to publish
a r t i c l e s i n “ The Railway Gazette”, “The Morning
Magazine” and “The

Selected WritingS

2.2 ‘From theory to practice in soil mechanics’: book review

In October 1960, a volume of the writing of Karl Terzaghi was published to celebrate
his 75th birthday and is mentioned in three letters to Glossop from Terzaghi. On 26
February 1962, Terzaghi writes that
‘the fact that Géotechnique has not yet reviewed the book...is still
shrouded in mystery.’
Later, in October of that year, he continues on this subject:
‘Two years have elapsed since a script copy of “From theory to
practice in soil mechanics” was sent to Géotechnique. Yet the book has
not been reviewed and I presume that it never will. I don’t care any
longer [Terzaghi was very ill at this stage] but to satisfy my curiosity
I would greatly appreciate your disclosing to me the reason for this
rather unusual attitude.’
In response, Glossop himself prepared a review which was published in
Géotechnique in March of the following year, 1963. Terzaghi’s letter of 17 December
1962 expresses his thanks for the review and makes clear his anxiety. In essence, it
was his hope that a new volume would receive a wide readership and help restore
the balance between theory and practice. These three letters can be found in full in
the section Selected letters.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of Geotechnology

Selected Writings

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

2.3 Karl Terzaghi: a personal tribute

Karl Terzaghi died on 25 October 1963, just three weeks after his 80 birthday.
This tribute by Glossop describes some of his encounters with Terzaghi and was
published in Géotechnique in March 1964 to complement the obituary by Arthur

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Selected Writings

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Selected WritingS

2.4 The place of site investigation in foundation engineering

The influence of Karl Terzaghi on the development and practice of geotechnical
engineering in the UK is outlined in the following two papers by Glossop. In the
first (Glossop 1964), prepared shortly after Terzaghi’s death, Glossop refers to
Terzaghi’s concern about the imbalance between theory and practice (see letter 16
December 1962).
With this in mind, Glossop sets out his own approach to ground investigation
and includes two short case studies, the second of which provides an introduction to
the well-known failure at Walton Woods during construction of the M6 motorway
that led directly to the concept of residual strength.
The following paper is reproduced with kind permission of the Midlands Soil
Mechanics and Foundation Society.

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Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy



Inaugural Address by Mr. R. Glossop

Since the early days of Soil Mechanics there have  he considered both these subjects should belong,
been two ways of looking at the subject: one that it  Since preparing my notes for this address I have 
is a branch of applied mechanics, and the other that  found a letter which I received from him in Decem­
it  is  a  branch  of  engineering  geology,  made  more  ber,  1962,  in  which  he  said,  referring  to  “From 
effective by a quantitive approach based on experi­ Theory to Practice in Soil Mechanics”:­ 
mental data. “I was, and still am, very much concerned about 
There can be no doubt as to the opinion of its cre­ the manifold undesirable consequences of the result 
ator, the late Professor Terzaghi, for he was by his  of my labours, foremost among them the tendency 
very nature a geologist. to forget the differences between theory and reality. 
Speaking at the 4th International Conference held  In the book …, the editors have admirably succeed­
in London in 1957, he said of his early work at Is­ ed in demonstrating, by appropriate selections from 
tanbul in 1916, “I. realised … the sub­surface ma­ my  writings,  the  role  which  should  be  assigned  to 
terials  encountered  at  the  sites  of  construction  op­ theory in engineering practice to prevent it from be­
erations were divided into categories such as coarse  coming a liability. Hence when the book came out, I 
and fine sand, or soft and stiff clay, each of which  hoped that it would open the eyes of many of those 
included  materials  of  widely  different  engineer ing  soil mechanicians who were intoxicated by “Theo­
properties.  Hence  I  concluded  …  that  engineer ing  retical Soil Mechanics” and believe all our problems 
geology  cannot  possibly  become  a  reliable  tool  in  can be solved by applied mathematics supplemented 
the  hands  of  earthwork  engineers  unless  and  until by laboratory testing”.
we acquire the capacity to assign to each mate- I do not wish to give the impression that his at­
rial of the earth numerical values which make it titude was that of a bigot – far from it. No one has 
impossible to mistake it for another one with sig- made  greater  contributions  to  the  theory  of  these 
nificantly different engineering properties.” And  subjects  than  he  did;  but  he  constantly  insisted  on 
later in the same address he said, “ … I realised, in  the importance of their geological background and 
the spring of 1918, that the adaptation of engineer­ on the necessity for a proper balance between field 
ing geology to engineering requirements could only  observation, laboratory work, and theoretical analy­
be accompli shed by systematic experimentation.” sis.
Those who knew him will agree that he warned  Now after these introductory remarks I will try to 
us  time  after  time  against  the  danger  of  an  over­ demonstrate the truth of his doctrines by examples 
theoretical approach to problems in soil engineering,  taken from my own experience.
and that he constantly emphasised the importance of  The investigation of the site of an important en­
thorough and competent field work. gineering project should, as a rule, proceed on the 
Towards the end of his life he took a strong dis­ following lines:
like to the term “Rock Mechanics”, although at that  (1)   A thorough geological reconnaissance should 
very time he was publishing a series of most valu­ be made, first by consulting any literature on 
able papers in Géotechnique on subjects which most  the area which may exist, followed by a visit, 
of  us  would  describe  by  that  name.  I  believe  that  to map exposures and thus form an idea of its 
this  was  due  to  a  fear  that  by  extending  into  rock  structure by the orthodox methods of field ge­
mechanics  the  quantitive  approach  to  engineering  ology. In some cases of major works, and par­
geology,  which  he  himself  had  introduced  in  soil  ticularly in the case of roads and motorways, 
mechanics,  theoretically­minded  engineers  might  aerial photo graphy may be of the utmost val­
get  themselves  into  trouble  if  they  overlooked  the  ue at this stage, for example, by revealing old 
im portance of field work, for where engineering pro­ landslide areas.
blems  involve  the  mechanical  properties  of  rocks,  (2)   Following  this  reconnaissance  a  programme 
field work is even more important than in the case  of preliminary trial borings can be made from 
of soils; and the effect of their mistakes might be to  which a picture of the geological structure of 
retard the growth of that new science of engineering  the site can gradually be built up. In some cas­
geology, to which he looked forward and to which  es geophysical methods can be a great help.

Selected WritingS

(3)    uring the progress of boring, samples, both 
D Borings may thus be made far from the actual site 
disturbed  and  undisturbed,  will,  of  course,  at places where, at a first glance, it seems unjustified 
have  been  taken  of  the  various  types  of  soil  to carry out investigations; but more than once the 
encoun tered, and cores recovered in the case  result of such borings have revealed important and 
of rocks. After the first borehole it is usually  unexpected features of the situation.
possible to form some idea of the number and  “In addition to the borings, bulldozer cuts, shafts, 
location of the samples which will be required  and observation of groundwater levels, play an im­
as the work proceeds. portant  role  in  this  phase  of  the  investigation. The 
At a very early stage a decision can be made as to  subsoil exploration is combined with an attempt to 
how  far  observations  on  ground  water  con ditions  get as much information as possible concerning the 
will be required, and also how far in­situ methods of  natural  groundwater  conditions  in  the  area. There­
testing, such as deep sounding and the use of such  fore the measurements of gradients and discharges 
devices as de Noel cell can be used with advantage. are  started  at  an  early  stage  of  the  field  investiga­
(4)  As  the  borings  proceed  samples  will  be  de­ tions. It is surprising to see how many conclusions 
scribed  and  classified  and  a  decision  can  be  concerning  the  permeability  of  the  subsoil  of  the 
made  as  to  which  materials  should  be  tested  dam site can be drawn from such field data.
in the labora tory, and on the type and number  “It is characteristic that he never prepares a
of tests which will probably be required. The  detailed program for his subsoil explorations in
number of tests will be governed by the nature  advance. On  most  jobs  he  starts  with  only  a  few 
of  the  engineering  problem  and  by  the  com­ borings. Every bit of information furnished by these 
plexity of geological structure of the site. borings is carefully studied and evaluated as it is re­
(5)  Finally  the  methods  of  theoretical  soil  me­ ceived,  and  the  program  for  further  exploration  is 
chanics  will  be  used  to  determine  the  reac­ developed  step  by  step  as  the  geological  informa­
tion of these soils and rocks to the conditions  tion accumulates. Consequently, every one of the
which will be imposed upon them by the pro­ exploratory operations furnishes significant re-
jected structure. sults. No efforts are wasted.
This statement is perhaps stiff and academic, and  “In his study, he collects all the information and 
I  should  like  to  follow  it  by  a  quotation  from  Dr.  prepares simple sketches and small­scale diagrams 
Bjerrum’s essay “Some Notes on Terzaghi’s Method  which show only the essential features of the find­
of Working”, which he published as a chapter in the  ings. He continuously re­examines and, if necessary, 
book “From Theory to Practice in Soil Mecha nics”,  revises his opinions of the geology of the site; and 
which appeared in 1960 on the occasion of Dr. Ter­ he  is  always  prepared  to  change  his  mind  even  if 
zaghi’s 75th birthday. he has previously expressed his opinion in written 
“Terzaghi’s work on a difficult dam project always  reports”.
starts  with  a  study  of  the  topography  and  geology  “As a consequence of the careful study of the re­
of the entire area surrounding the site. During this  sults of the exploratory operations, supplemented by 
part of the work he uses the library intensively. If he  his observations in the field during his frequent vis­
cannot obtain all the information which he requires  its to the job, he acquires a profound knowledge of
in order to obtain a fairly clear picture of the geol­ the site. No essential detail escapes his attention and 
ogy of the area, he visits the area himself to secure  he knows by heart the configuration of the terrain, 
the missing information. The intimate know ledge of  the results of the borings, and all the data concerning 
the geology of the whole area is as necessary for his  the groundwater conditions.”
work as the subsoil exploration which follows. I    now  propose  to  examine  a  number  of  cases 
“On  the  basis  of  observations  made  during  his  where,  for  one  reason  or  another,  troubles  have 
visit  to  the  job,  the  results  of  a  few  preliminary  arisen,  either  through  departing  from  these  princi­
borings,  and  his  study  of  the  general  geology  of  ples, or from lack of knowledge, excusable or inex­
the  region,  he formulates a working hypothesis cusable, of the phenomena involved. Such troubles 
regarding subsoil conditions at the site, serving may be classified in four ways: (i) engineering fail­
as a guide in later exploratory work. He then sets  ures due to the fact that no proper site investigation 
up  a  program  for  additional  borings  and  for  field  has been made in accordance with modern practice; 
observations.  Some  of  the  borings  are  intended  to  (ii)  cases  where  boring,  sampling  and  laboratory 
provide  detailed  infor mation  required  for  design  testing have been carried out, but without the back­
purposes,  but  some  might  be  included  in  the  pro­ ground  of  a  full  understanding  of  the  geology  of 
gram only in order to test the working hypothesis.  the site; (iii) cases where there has been a sufficient 

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

under standing  of  the  geology  of  the  site  followed  A contract was then placed with a firm specialising 

by com petent boring, sampling and laboratory test­ in such work for two site investigation boreholes to 
ing,  but  where  trouble  has  arisen  from  a  failure  to  a depth of 100 ft. While the first of these boreholes 
apply  the  theoretical  principles  of  soil  mechanics  was being sunk another blow occurred in a section 
to  the  problem  in  a  correct  manner;  and  (iv)  there  of the wall excavation, and it was decided to make a 
are cases which may be described as those of excep­ full investigation of the site.
tional  difficulty,  where  conditions  on  the  site  exist  The most important fact which emerged was on 
which could scarcely have been foreseen, and con­ the nature of the “blue clay”. It was found that this 
sequently were not recognised in the course of the  stratum  in  fact  consisted  of  soft  to  firm  silty  clay 
field investigation. with many fine sand layers and silty partings, some 
As regards my first category:­ of the layers of sand being several inches thick.
Engineering  failures  clue  to  unsatisfactory  site  Where a permeable stratum exists within an im­
investigations still occur, in spite of all that has been  permeable soil below a sheeted excavation, a “plug 
said  and  written  on  the  subject.  Perhaps  as  good  failure” may occur if the hydrostatic pressure in the 
an  example  as  any  is  that  of  a  graving  dock  built  permeable  stratum  exceeds  the  weight  of  overbur­
about ten years ago. The dock was a large one, being  den to a sufficient degree to overcome any frictional 
690 ft. long and 112 ft. wide, the invert being 51 ft.  resistance  between  the  soil  and  the  sheeting.  The 
below ground level. rate  of  movement  and  the  degree  of  danger  to  the 
A number of boreholes were put down, but these  excavation will depend upon the rate at which water 
were done by a well­boring contractor not expert in  can flow into the permeable stratum once movement 
site investigation work, and it was concluded from  has started (Marston).
them that the site was underlain by 20 ft. to 30 ft. of  In this case all the layers of sand and silt within 
sand, silt and clay overlying 15 ft. to 30 ft. of very  the silty clay contained water under the same head 
permeable gravel, which in turn overlay a substance  as that in the overlying gravel.
which  was  described  as  “blue  clay”.  Bedrock  was  Obviously any sand layers traversed by the sheet 
known  to  be  carboniferous  limestone  at  a  consi­ piling would be cut off from the source of water, but 
derable  depth.  On  the  strength  of  this  information  the first continuous sand layer below the toe of the 
work proceeded as follows: sheet  piling  would  be  under  full  hydrostatic  head, 
A  trench,  15  ft.  to  25  ft.  wide,  was  put  down  and exert the full force upwards on the plug of soil 
round  the  periphery  of  the  dock  to  a  level  of  +5  remaining above it.
port  datum  (port  datum  being  19ft,  below  original  Thus, as excavation continues in the trench, there 
ground level). A second line of sheet piles was also  will come a time when the weight of the plug of soil 
driven on the line of the inside of the walls of the  above  this  layer  is  less  than  the  hydrostatic  uplift, 
new dock, and it was intended that the wall should  and the bottom will heave due to plug failure, and 
be con structed in short lengths between them, The  each successive layer of impermeable clay will also 
invert  was  to  be  built  by  excavating  the  dumpling  fail due to the upward force exerted by water pres­
between the completed walls at –12 port datum, and  sure in the sand layer below it. Obviously the effect 
then con struct the invert in sections 7 ft. 6 in. wide  would be increased with water leaking freely down 
at 22 ft. centres. the back and up the front of the piles, and thus into 
Some trouble was experienced in driving piles in  the already expanding sand layers.
the outside row through the gravel, and it is likely  In fact, evidence already existed in support of this 
that some piles were not driven to their full depth,  suggested  method  of  failure,  since  in  one  case  the 
and others may have been crippled during the driv­ bottom of the excavation for a section of trench rose 
ing.  Shortly  after  excavation  started  for  the  wall  a  several inches between the completion of “bottom­
blow occurred, as a result of which the water flowing  ing up” and the commencement of concreting.
into that section of the trench increased from 2,400  The almost catastrophic nature of the failure and 
gallons per minute to 4,000 gallons per minute. the  large  quantity  of  water  which  accompanied  it 
As it was thought that this blow was due to piles  was no doubt due to the passage of large quantities 
which had not reached their intended depth, it was  of  water  from  the  coarse  gravel  outside  the  sheet 
dealt with by first concreting the lower part of the  piling  into  the  sand  layers  within  the  expanding 
wall  under  water,  by  driving  a  subsidiary  row  of  plug of soil inside the sheet piling. This water may 
piles  outside  the  main  row  adjacent  to  the  danger  have  gained  entry  through  points  where  piles  had 
point, and finally by injecting cement grout into the  left their clutches, or had been badly deformed dur­
gravel stratum behind the piles. ing driving. A deformed pile can easily score a large 

Selected WritingS

channel in the silt into which gravel would collapse  In February of the following year one of the trans­
from above. verse drains was found to be blocked, and when a 
It was clear then that before the work could pro­ trench  was  put  down  to  it  through  the  fill,  it  was 
ceed  the  head  of  water  in  the  gravel  must  be  re­ found to be cracked in many places, and to have ex­
duced. tended, by the pulling apart of the joints, by a total of 
I have no time now to discuss the many interest­ 6 ft. Observations were then started which showed 
ing problems that arose, so I will conclude by saying  that a large part of the bank was moving downhill 
that a decision was made to install 24 filter wells at  at a maximum rate of 2½ in. per month, and shortly 
about  70  ft.  centres,  penetrating  to  a  depth  of  –63  after the line of steel piles was pushed outwards. By 
port datum. April a well developed arc of cracks had appeared, 
With these wells in operation no further difficul­ which lined up with a big bulge in the piling, with a 
ties were experienced, and the work was completed  maximum drop of 2 ft. across the area of the crack­
without incident. ing, but during the summer this slip progressed back 
As  an  example  of  my  second  case,  that  where  to  the  centre  line  of  the  em bankment,  with  a  total 
trouble  can  arise  in  spite  of  first  class  work  from  drop of over 10 ft.
the  angle  of  soil  mechanics,  but  where  the  overall  A  thorough  re­examination  of  the  site  was  then 
geological  conditions  have  not  been  appreciated,  I  started, as a result of which it became apparent that 
should like to describe the case of a road embank­ two mechanisms were at work, Firstly normal circu­
ment which gave trouble at a point where it crossed  lar slips due to the weight of the embankment, and 
an old landslide area. secondly the progressive downhill movement of the 
The  site  was  a  wooded  valley,  the  sides  sloping  hillside,  and  its  first  result  was  the  recognition  of 
at  a  general  angle  of  about  12°.  In  the  valley  bot­ the fact that the trouble spot was on the debris of an 
tom  there  was  a  stream  which  meandered  within  ancient landslide.
the confines of a narrow swampy flood plain, which  This  new  investigation  showed  that  the  valley 
was also wooded. The embankment was aligned on  was itself a post­glacial overflow channel which had 
side long ground on the lower slopes of the eastern  been cut very rapidly, and that beneath the narrow 
side of the valley, and at the downhill shoulder its  alluvial plain there were beds of peat and soft clay 
maximum height was 45 ft. overlying sand which filled a deep buried channel. 
The  whole  area  was  underlain  by  rocks  of  the  Laminated clay and silt of glacial origin were also 
Upper Coal Measures, consisting of mudstone and  found near the base of the sand. It thus became clear 
shales, with subordinate sandstones and some coal  that  the  landslide  had  been  the  direct  result  of  the 
seams, weathered at the surface.  rapid  erosion  of  the  valley  by  torrential  floods  in 
The  first  sign  of  trouble  occurred  soon  after  the  early post­glacial times.
site had been taken over by the contractor, when it  It was known from experience that such old land­
was  noticed  that  over  a  length  of  several  hundred  slides  are  sensitive  to  disturbance,  and  that  even 
feet  the  survey  pegs  were  displaced  in  a  downhill  spontaneous movements still occur in them, but the 
direction. But as they had been in place for over two  exact  mechanism  of  these  phenomena  had  never 
years and since the original survey was made before  been investigated.
the woods were cut down, no particular significance  Obviously, no movement could be tolerated in the 
was attached to this observation. case of a modern road, and therefore the slip must 
As a first step in construction the peat at the edge  be stabilised. In order to do this it was necessary to 
of the swamp, which would have been overstepped  make accurate geological sections across it, and to 
by the toe of the embankment, was removed and re­ make stability calculations to enable remedial meth­
placed by a slag fill supported at the outer edge by a  ods to be planned.  I have no time today to describe 
line of timber sheet piling, and also two large drain  this most interesting work in any detail.
pipes  were  placed  across  the  road  line  in  trenches  In calculating the factor of safety of the various 
dug  into  the  sub­grade.  Bank  building  then  fol­ hillsides a programme of testing was carried out on 
lowed. samples  of  the  “gouge”  taken  from  numerous  slip 
A  month  later,  in  November,  some  cracks  were  planes  exposed  in  trial  pits.  The  properties  of  this 
noticed which suggested movement of the fill on the  material  were  most  unexpected  and  led  to  a  pro­
downhill side of the embankment, and a line of sheet  gramme of research carried out jointly by our own 
piles was driven at the toe, and these were tied back  laboratory and that of Imperial College on the effect 
to king piles. By this time winter conditions had set  of very large strains on clays. Reference to this work 
in, and bank building was stopped. will be found in the Fourth Rankine Lecture, which 

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

was given by Professor Skempton at the Institution  the laminated clay, drainage conditions are such that 
of Civil Engineers early this year (1964). the  “long  term”  condition  is  reached  very  rapidly; 
Work  continues  on  this  most  interesting  pheno­ that is to say, that shortly after excavation the shear 
menon, and it is to be hoped that in due course more  strength  of  the  laminated  clay  corresponds  to  the 
results will be published. equilibrium  pore  pressure  conditions.  A  failure  to 
The final solution to the stabilisation of the em­ appreciate  this  was  responsible  for  the  movement 
bankment  was  to  construct  a  massive  berm  and  to  which occurred.
install a network of counterfort drains on the uphill  I now come to my fourth category – that where 
side  of  the  embankment. The  whole  area  was  also  unusual conditions exist on a site which are poten­
levelled, and the scars and cracks due to subsidiary  tially dangerous but are difficult to recognize. Such 
slips filled in so that no water could enter through  a  state  of  affairs  can,  of  course,  lead  to  serious 
them. Finally the hillside was sown with grass and  difficul ties, and as long ago as 1929 Terzaghi drew 
trees planted on it. attention to it in a paper which was published in the 
Here then is a case where from the point of view  Proceed ings of the American Institution of Mining 
of  soils  engineering  alone  the  work  had  been  car­ and Metallurgical Engineers called “Effect of Minor 
ried out to a high standard, but since the landslide  Geologic Details on the Safety of Dams”.
con dition  was  not  appreciated  in  the  early  days,  (I was working on a copper mine in North Mexi­
trouble followed. I should say that since the hillside  co at the time of publication and read this paper by 
was originally wooded, the slide conditions would  chance. It made a deep impression on me, although 
have been hard indeed to recognise in the field, and  little did I know that eventually I would work in the 
it is not surprising that their significance was over­ subject and come to know the Author.)
looked.  Moreover  at  the  time  no  detailed  analysis  I will give as an example the case of a small con­
had  ever  been  made  of  such  a  condition,  and  the  tract  for  the  construction  of  an  ejector  pit  which 
properties of “gouge” were unknown. formed part of the sewage disposal plant for a large 
Perhaps the moral is that one should always anti­ aerodrome in East Anglia.
cipate landslide conditions in any steep­sided valley  The structure was 20 ft. square in plan, and about 
in  sedimentary  rocks,  particularly  if  they  are  fine  14  ft.  deep. Two  boreholes  had  been  put  down  on 
grained. the site and I think it fair to say that the investigation 
Examples for my third class are difficult to find,  had been carried out in accordance with good mod­
and indeed there is little excuse for mistakes in the  ern practice. They showed a profile of about 15 ft. of 
analysis of the ordinary run of problems in soil me­ fine sand overlying chalk, and the chalk, which was 
chanics, since a number of excellent textbooks now  penetrated to a depth of about 5 ft., was described 
exist. as being not solid and intact, but consisting of frag­
However, the subject of soil mechanics is still a  ments  of  solid  chalk  averaging  about  l½  inches  in 
relatively new one, and types of soil certainly exist  diameter, set in pasty matrix of finely ground chalk. 
of which the properties are not yet fully understood,  It was considered that this material was a solifluc­
as in the case of the gouge clays which I have just  tion deposit which had been formed as a sort of mud 
mentioned.  Indeed,  our  Codes  of  Practice  are  al­ flow of frost­shattered chalk that had moved down 
ready out of date in some particulars. It is therefore  the hillside slope during the spring thaws at the end 
pos sible to make mistakes, either because no knowl­ of  the  last  glacial  period.  The  description  of  this 
edge exists, or because the problem involves results  material in the borehole logs was accurate, as was 
which  have  not  yet  been  assimilated  into  general  demonstrated during excavation.
practice,  and  are  likely  to  be  known  only  to  those  On the strength of these boreholes it was assumed 
engaged in research on soil properties. that  the  chalk  was  relatively  impermeable,  and 
An interesting case occurred some years ago dur­ that  no  water­bearing  fissures  could  occur  in  this 
ing  the  construction  of  a  dry  dock  in  the  north  of  solifluc tion material.
England,  where  fairly  large  movements  of  a  sheet  As  the  level  of  the  groundwater,  as  revealed  by 
piling diaphragm took place. the boreholes, was about 7 ft. above the base of the 
The area was underlain by a variety of glacial de­ sand bed resting on the upper surface of the chalk, 
posits which were mainly of stiff boulder clay, but  and  since  fine  sand  of  this  type  is  notoriously  un­
with some laminated clays. stable when exposed in excavation under a head of 
For  short  term  analysis  the  undrained  shear  water,  it  was  decided  to  drain  the  sand  with  well 
strength of the stiff boulder clay gave a result within  points before attempting to excavate below ground­
the  limit  of  the  factor  of  safety,  but  in  the  case  of  water level.

Selected WritingS

Accordingly  excavation  was  carried  down  to  8  that in spite of the two rings of well points, heavy 

ft.  below  ground  level,  and  well  points  were  then  feeders of water were flowing into the bottom of the 
installed on a berm. Calculations based on the mea­ excavation  through  the  chalk  rubble;  moreover  at 
sured  permeability  of  the  sand  predicted  that  the  two points it was seen that zones of very open chalk 
total  yield  of  water  would  not  be  more  than  150  gravel existed through which the water was flowing 
gallons per minute. The well points penetrated the  very freely.
chalk, and each well point was surrounded by gravel  At this stage the water level had been lowered in 
filter. the fine sand to within 1 ft. of the upper surface of 
Pumping  was  then  started  on  this  installation,  the chalk rubble, and this greatly reduced the diffi­
which consisted of 37 well points, but the water level  culty of excavating sumps, which appeared to be the 
in No. 1 observation well point, which was situated  best way of dealing with the heavy feeders of water 
34 ft. from the centre of the excavation, was lowered  from the open gravels in the chalk.
by only 11 inches. A hand auger hole was made in  Two sumps were therefore sunk at points where 
the centre of the excavation to a depth of 5 ft. 6 in.,  heavy flows existed. During the excavation of these 
and was found to be dry, so excavation was started.  sumps the water level was further lowered and it be­
At a depth of 4 ft. below the original water level a  came possible to expose the greater area of excava­
flow of water was struck on one side of the excava­ tion.
tion, and the work was stopped. The number of well  This revealed that the solifluction chalk was gen­
points was then increased to 51, which produced a  erally  impermeable  and  was  in  fact  exactly  as  de­
yield of 230 gallons per minute, and a lowering at  scribed in the borehole logs, but that at four points 
observation well No. 1 of only 1ft. 8 ins. very heavy flows of water were yielded by springs a 
It then became clear that there must be a copious  few inches in diameter.
source of water elsewhere than in the fine sand. Cal­ It  thus  became  apparent  that  channels  existed 
culations were made but were necessarily based on  within the solifluction chalk where there were only 
the idealised conditions of a uniform and horizon tal  coarse fragments, and little or no Fine material.
aquifer and uniform flow, for which formulae have  Since the coarse chalk rubble was perfectly stable, 
been  established. These  indicated  that  if  the  water  even with water flowing through it, one would sup­
flowed through the sand, it must have a per meability  pose that it only remained to dig enough sumps in 
of about 0.9 cm. per second, which was clearly im­ the bottom of the hole to keep it dry while stabilising 
possible since a sand of this type can be expected to  the overlying sand with the well points, But that was 
have a permeability of 0.02 cm. per second. not the end of this horrid affair, for unfortunately a 
If, on the other hand, it was assumed that the solif­ layer of “hard pan”, 2 in. or 3 in. thick, consisting of 
luction chalk was the main aquifer and that it was  chalk rubble cemented with iron oxides, which was 
five feet thick, then its permeability must be to the  quite impermeable, was found about 2 ft. below the 
order  of  0.8  cm.  per  second,  which  would  corres­ top of the chalk, and all the heavy feeders of water 
pond to a very coarse open gravel. were flowing over the top of it. It therefore became 
The  water  level  in  observation  well  No.  1  was  necessary to dig a drain, or grip, around the base of 
plotted against the discharge from a number of occa­ the slope of the excavation. This was back filled with 
sions, and it was concluded that a total of 1,000 gal­ rubble to act as a support, and it inter cepted the flow 
lons per minute or more must be pumped to attain  from the perched water table above the hard pan and 
the required lowering. led it to a sump.
Since  the  original  system  of  well  points  and  The  work  was  finally  completed  satisfactorily, 
pumps could not deal with this quantity of water, a  but at the cost of pumping 1,200 gallons per minute 
further 70 well points were installed 5 ft. back from  to achieve a lowering of 8 ft., whereas the original 
the top of the excavation and in a trench 4 ft. below  estimate had been based on a yield of 150 gallons 
the original ground level, and these were connected  per minute.
to an 8 in. pump. Also the original 4 in. discharge  As the work was part of a fixed price contract in 
main was replaced with 12 in. pipe, which was ex­ the hands of the main company of the Group, and 
tended away from the excavation. the site investigation had been carried out by a sub­
These extra well points increased the yield to 900  sidiary company which was regarded by some as a 
gallons per minute, and reduced the water level in  sort of intellectual left wing fringe, you can imagine 
observation well No. 1 to a total of 5 ft. that there was a great deal of explaining to be done.
A further trial excavation was then made through  I think you will agree that no one could possibly 
the  fine  sand  into  the  rubbly  chalk,  which  showed  have  foreseen  such  a  state  of  affairs,  which  so  far 

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

as I know have never been described in engineering  field geology.
literature, unless one had had previous experience of  I think that this point applies also to the case of 
it, and I pass it on to you as an “awful warning”. the  landslide  of  which  I  have  spoken,  Slip  planes 
There  is  perhaps  one  other  lesson  to  be  learned  may  well  have  been  recovered  from  original  bor­
from this sad story; when making trial boreholes it is  ings which were well done, but it is quite possible 
an advantage to know what you are looking for, and  that they were logged as narrow strata of clay, since 
the sort of phenomena that you may expect to find  the area at that stage had not been recognised as an 
in view of the overall geological picture of the site.  old landslide, and consequently no one was on the 
Otherwise a piece of evidence clearly to be seen in  lookout for slip planes in the samples. It is easy to 
the samples may not be recognised; but perhaps this  be wise after the event, and in saying this I do not in 
is  just  another  way  of  saying  that  a  soils  engineer  any way criticise those responsible for the work. But 
should have a thorough training in the methods of  I think it illus trates my point very well.

Selected WritingS

2.5 The influences of Terzaghi on civil engineering practice in England

The occasion of a Terzaghi Memorial Conference in Istanbul in 1973 provided an
opportunity for Glossop to record the impact that Terzaghi had had on the civil
engineering community within the UK. Two events stand out, the involvement
of Terzaghi on the Chingford project in 1938 and his landmark address at the
Institution of Civil Engineers the following year.
There appears to have been greater appreciation of the importance of these
new developments in Soil Mechanics by the late '30s, although a major lecture by
Terzaghi delivered at the Institution of Structural Engineers in December 1934
(Burland 2008) seems to have received less attention.
Referring to Chingford, Glossop mentions a letter he received from his close
friend Sir Robert Wynne-Edwards, in which he describes the events leading to the
appointment of Terzaghi on the project. This letter, together with a copy of the
typically forthright report by Terzaghi, and all the extant Mowlem correspondence
is now held in the Mowlem Collection in the Archives of the Institution of Civil


R. Glossop
Brane End Farm, Cornwall, England

Historical background
So far as English engineers are concerned, the impact of Terzaghi’s thought which was 
immediate and profound, came in two stages: by the publi cation of the Proceedings 
of the Harvard Conference in 1936; and in April, 1938, when, at the request of a firm 
of contractors, he first visited London to report on the failure, during construction, 
of a large earth dam.
Before giving a detailed account of these events, and of their consequences, it is 
as well to consider the state, in 1936, of that branch of engineering science which 
deals with geological materials.
In England soil mechanics had been neglected, as indeed was the case elsewhere, 
except in Holland and Sweden, both highly developed countries in which the nature 
of widespread recent sediments, in the one case great depths of soft clay, silt and 
peat, and in the other of highly sensitive post­glacial clays, set problems which could 
not be ignored. However, the very fact that such conditions are relatively rare had the 
effect that work in this field, such as the development of the cone test in Sweden by 
Fellenius and others, and of the Buisman Cell in Holland, had little influence outside 
those countries.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

An understanding of the state of affairs in England can be gained from the book, 
A Century of Soil Mechanics, published by the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1969 
(I.C.E. 1969), which included “Classic Papers” in soil mechanics, published by the 
Institution between 1844 and 1946.
Between 1844 and 1935 only four such papers appeared, though with them must, 
of course, included Rankine’s famous work, “On the Stability of Loose Earth,” which 
was published by the Royal Society in 1857 (Rankine, 1857). Rankine’s paper, and 
that of A.L. Bell published in 1915, on “The Lateral Pressure and Resistance of Clay, 
and the Supporting Power of Foundations” (Bell, 1915), were important contributions 
to  soil­mechanics  theory,  but  Rankine’s  results  were  frequently  misapplied,  and 
Bell’s work was largely neglected.
This view is confirmed by a study of other papers published by the Institution 
of Civil Engineers, descriptive of major engineering works. In them any reference 
to  the  geological  background  of  the  problem,  or  to  any  site  investigation,  is  rare 
indeed, with the exception of some useful descriptive passages referring to the cut­
off trenches of large dams (Deacon, 1896), (Lapworth, 1911) and (Sandeman, 1901, 
1903,  1920).  Geologists,  too,  were  not  much  interested  in  engineering  problems, 
and during this period there are few, if any, significant contributions to engineering 
geology in the publications of the Geological Society, or elsewhere.
That  this  should  have  been  so  is  surprising,  for  it  was  in  England  more  than 
elsewhere,  that  geology,  consisting  as  it  did  in  the  eighteenth  century  of  a  few 
sweeping  hypotheses  and  a  mass  of  uncoordinated  observations,  was  transformed 
into a rational science based upon Hutton’s principle of uniformitarianism, a powerful 
“instrument of investigation” (Ghiselin, 1969), and enormously expanded by, amongst 
others, William Smith (1769­1839), Charles Lyell (1789­1875), and Charles Darwin 
(1809­1882). Moreover, interest in geology was certainly stimulated at this time by 
programme of public works on an unprecedented scale, which included canals, roads, 
and later, railways. Indeed, William Smith (the father of English geology) collected 
the data for his great geological map of England, in the course of his practice as a 
civil engineer.
This neglect of geology as a discipline important in engineering science, may have 
been due to two causes. In the first place the British Isles are a region of relatively 
low relief, with no high mountain ranges, and at the other end of the scale there are 
no very large areas underlain by great depths of soft, recent sediments. Thus major 
problems of construction due  to geological factors were rather infrequent, until by 
the end of the nineteenth century loads, with safety, awakened interest in the subject. 
Secondly, the development of structural theory, following the work of Navier (1785­
1836) in France, and the introduction of new structural materials such as Portland 
cement,  and  cheaper  mild  steel  made  by  the  Bessemer  process,  made  structural 
engineering a more rewarding branch of the profession.
The first move to stimulate research came, contrary to the usual English custom, 
from an official body, for in 1925 the British Association for the Advancement of 
Science, set up an Earth Pressure Committee to study that subject which had vexed 
engineers since Vauban published empirical tables of earth pressure in 1690. Progress 

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at first was slow, but by 1931 a small laboratory was installed at the newly formed 
Building Research Station, a branch of the Department of Scientific and Industrial 
Research, and until 1933 it was administered by Professor C.F. Jenkin, who had just 
retired from the Chair of Engineering at the University of Oxford.
The  investigation  of  earth  pressure  soon  led  to  the  consideration  of  the  shear 
strength of clay, and in 1935 two members of Professor Jenkin’s staff published their 
results on this subject (Cooling and Smith, 1935). In this paper they described the 
measurement of shear strength by means of a torsional apparatus, and they compared 
the results of laboratory tests made on samples taken from a recent landslip, with a 
result yielded by an analysis of the slip, based on the methods of Fellenius and Krey. 
This was the first paper in the field of Classical Soil Mechanics (i.e. post­Terzaghi 
soil mechanics) to be published in England, and in it the influence of Terzaghi is very 
In 1936, Cooling was one of the two Englishmen to attend the First Soil Mechanics 
Conference  at  Harvard,  the  other  being  J.J.  Bryan,  and  on  his  return  he  reported 
with so much enthusiasm and to such effect that a laboratory devoted to research in 
soil mechanics was set up at the Building Research Station, and two new members 
of staff were recruited to work there; they were A.W. Skempton and H.Q. Golder. 
Meanwhile,  orthodox  engineering  projects  went  their  way  uninfluenced  by  these 
obscure but pregnant events, until in July, 1937, a slip occurred on the outer bank of 
a large earth dam then under construction for the Metropolitan Water Board on a site 
in the Lea Valley just east of the city of London.

Chingford Reservoir failure

The greater part of the water supply of London is derived from the River Thames 
and from its tributary, the River Lea. For environmental reasons the construction of 
impounding reservoirs is not possible, and a type of dam has been evolved which is 
essentially an earth dam turning back on itself to form a closed basin. The height of 
these dams was limited, in the past, to about forty feet, partly by the constructional 
material  available,  and  partly  because  this  was  considered  near  the  limit  of  safe 
practice, before rational designs based on soil mechanics principles were introduced 
(Glossop, 1969). Their area in plan was large.
This type of dam which is still, with modifications, the standard type as constructed 
by the Metropolitan Water Board, is well suited to the local conditions. The wide, 
level flood plains of the rivers give ample space for construction, and the geological 
profile is favorable. Normally the valleys are underlain by the London Clay, a stiff, 
overconsolidated,  highly  impermeable  clay,  of  Eocene  age,  which  forms  a  good 
foundation, and may be used as a construction material. Above the London Clay are 
found clean sandy gravels of postglacial age, which may also be used as a material 
of construction, above which a variable, but usually thin stratum of soft recent clay 
and peat is found.
The design of the embankment was of a pattern introduced by Telford in 1827, 
and  much  used  during  the  nineteenth  century.  It  consisted  of  a  core  of  puddled 
London Clay in the centre of the bank, which, before placing the fill, was carried 
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

down a trench to form a cut­off with the underlying London Clay. The impermeable 
core was flanked by selected and relatively impermeable material, and the rest of the 
embankment was largely of sand and gravel taken from the interior of the reservoir. 
The Chingford Reservoir was of this type. The bank was about forty feet high, the 
inner slope 1 in 3, the outer slope 1 in 2.5, and the depth of the cut­off between ten 
and thirty feet.
The first slip, in July, 1937, caused much anxiety. The Clients’ engineers took 
the view that the cause lay in the method of cons truction adopted by the Contractor. 
The Directors of the contracting company (John Mowlem and Co. Ltd.) thought it to 
have been caused by an error in design, and consulted the Director of the Building 
Research  Station,  Dr.  Stradling.  Thus  the  soil  mechanics  team  at  the  Building 
Research  Station  were  given  the  opportunity  of  carrying  out  the  first  major  soil 
mechanics investigation in England.
A trench was put down at right angles to the bank, which revealed the slip surface. 
The  physical  properties  of  the  fill  were  measured,  and  undisturbed  samples  taken 
from  the  soil  profile  beneath  the  foundation.  These  were  subjected  to  laboratory 
measurements of shear strength, consoli dation characteristics, and Atterberg limits. 
Finally, an analysis of the bank was made, using a modified form of the Swedish 
Method.  These  results  were  eventually  published  in  1942  (Cooling  and  Golder, 
This  analysis  showed  that  the  failure  was  due  to  shear  failure  in  the  soft  clay 
stratum,  due  to  the  load  imposed  by  the  bank.  However,  the  opinion  of  three 
unknown young men, working in what was then considered an esoteric subject, was 
not acceptable, and discussions on the responsibility for the failure, and on a revised 
design continued until, in December, 1937, a second failure occurred, this time on 
the inside of the bank.
The  situation  of  the  Contractors  was  now  grave,  for  if  it  could  not  be  proved 
beyond any possible doubt that the slips were due to an error in design, as indeed 
they were, they would be faced with a heavy loss.
At this stage, Mr. R.M. Wynne­Edwards, now Sir Robert Wynne­Edwards, then 
senior contractor’s engineer on the site, who was familiar with Terzaghi’s papers in 
English (Terzaghi, 1929), proposed that he should be consulted. This suggestion was 
accepted at once by the senior directors of the firm, Mr. (later Sir) George Burt, and 
Mr. E.B. Beck. Terzaghi was first approached through Baron von Graevenitz of the 
Siemens Bau­Union, with whom Mowlems had been associated on the development 
of chemical grouting in England, and in April 1938 Wynne­Edwards went to Paris 
for a meeting. Terzaghi agreed to give his opinion and flew to England the following 
day. At the same time a life­long friendship was formed, and ‘a fragment of their 
conversation on this occasion, highly characteristic of both parties, has been preserved 
elsewhere (Terzaghi, 1960).
His report, which remains a most interesting contribution to the literature of soil 
mechanics was eventually accepted without question by all parties, and he was asked 
by the Clients to redesign the embankment for them. It showed that the team from 
the Building Research Station had been working on the right lines. Also, following a 

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suggestion that his proposed factor of safety of 1.5 was unnecessarily high, it included 
some very plain speaking. “... if the embankment for the Chingford Reservoir fails, 
a  vast  section  of  London  located  between  Tottenham  and  London  Bridge  will  be 
flooded, involving an important loss of life and property. In addition, the professional 
reputation  of  everybody  associated  with  the  construction  of  the  reservoir  will  be 
severely compromised. Therefore, a factor of safety of 1.5 represents. the minimum 
requirement which is compatible with the responsibilities of the designers towards 
the public.”
This first visit to England had a remarkable effect, for not only did he gain the 
confidence of several leading members of the civil engineering profession, but he also 
inspired a small group of younger engineers who, later, were to play an important 
part  in  establishing  soil  mechanics  as  an  essential  part  of  engineering  science  in 
It  also  had  important  consequences  for  Tezaghi  himself,  as  can  be  seen  from 
the following letter, which I am allowed to quote by its writer, Sir Robert Wynne­
Edwards.  “…  Later  that  summer  (1938)  I  visited  him  in Vienna,  shortly  after  the 
Anschluss, to see how he was getting on with the redesign. It was an unhappy time 
for him. He was convinced that he was being spied on. Immediately after the  Nazis 
came he had sent his wife away to France (she had an American passport). He could 
not get a permit to leave Vienna himself. He was most anxious to send his son Eric, 
aged three, away too.
A few weeks later I received a letter which I assumed to be from him. It was a 
copy of a letter unsigned and undated, asking whether I could arrange for some British 
University to offer him a professorship which would enable him to leave Vienna. Soil 
mechanics was a new science, and though Imperial College was interested, they had 
no money to establish a professor ship. However, by scraping the barrel, they offered 
him a post which required him to deliver a series of lectures on the subject. So he 
got  permission  to  leave Austria.  He  smuggled  out  his  son,  who  had  an American 
passport. He had to leave his house as it stood and took nothing with him except 
his clothes. His troubles were not over. When he got to Paris he was refused entry 
into Britain, and this caused a delay while Mowlems were arguing with the Foreign 
Office. Meantime, being very angry, he accepted a professorship at Harvard.
Incidentally, during the period our office at Chingford was broken into. Nothing 
was taken, so far as we knew, but my desk and papers were thoroughly ransacked. 
I subsequently burnt any private papers about Terzaghi. I had left none in the 
Shortly after he had reported on Chingford, Terzaghi revisited England twice. To 
advise on a difficult foundation problem, involving long friction piles, at Abbotsinch 
in  Scotland;  and  again  in  May,  1939,  when  at  the  invitation  of  the  Council  of  the 
Institution of Civil Engineers, he delivered the James Forrest Lecture for 1939, which 
had the title, “Soil Mechanics ­ a New Chapter in Engineering Science.” It is fortunate 
that the Institution reacted so quickly, once they had appreciated the importance of 
his  work,  for  a  few  months  later  England  was  at  war,  and  for  many  years  English 
engineers had no contact whatsoever with their colleagues in other countries.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

The influence of this lecture was very great, for it drew the attention of the whole 
profession, many of whom had never heard the term, to the existence of soil mechan­

The Development of Soil Mechanics in England during the War, 1939–45

As a consequence of Terzaghi’s influence, the small school of soil mechanics then 
established in England, far from being extinguished, survived and even flourished 
during  the  war.  In  many  other  cases,  scientists  whose  subject  did  not  appear  to 
subscribe directly to the war effort, were transferred to work on subjects other than 
their own, but the laboratory at the Building Research Station was allowed to continue 
its work, a measure of the importance already attached to it. Several important papers 
were soon published, which will be found reprinted in A Century of Soil Mechanics 
(Golder,  1941;  Cooling  and  Skempton,  1942;  Cooling,  1942;  Skempton,  1942; 
Cooling and Golder, 1942).
Moreover,  the  contractors  at  Chingford,  John  Mowlem  and  Co.,  Ltd.,  set  up  a 
small laboratory on the site, for construction control on the redesigned embankment. 
It  at  once  became  apparent  that  such  a  laboratory  could  be  of  immense  value  to 
a  large  firm  of  general  contractors,  and  it  expanded  steadily  during  the  period  of 
the  war,  though  growth  was  limited  by  the  extreme  difficulty  of  getting  specialist 
laboratory equipment made.
Many problems were investigated and research was carried out in soil stabilization 
and other matters relating to the construction of airfields. This was almost certainly 

the  first  commercially  operated  soil  mechanics  laboratory  in  the  world. After  the 
war it was reconstructed as an independent firm, which has achieved international 
status  in  the  field  of  geotechnology.  Thus,  during  the  war  years,  and  working  in 
isolation,  this  English  school  of  soil  mechanics  developed  independently  and  its 
development was, of course, controlled by the nature of the problems to be solved, 
and  by  the  geological  conditions  and  soil  types  most  frequently  encountered. As 
regards the soils, these were postglacial soft and normally consolidated clays, found 
in the estuaries of the principal rivers, and the firm to stiff, and stiff­fissured clays, of 
Tertiary age, or older, which are of widespread occurrence in Southern England.
It was observed that working with these clays, reasonably accurate solutions to 
a  variety  of  problems,  such  as  the  stability  of  slopes  and  the  bearing  capacity  of 
foundations, could be obtained by the so, called φ  = 0 method, i.e. by assuming the 
clay to be a purely cohesive substance, with its shear strength equal to one half the 
unconfined. compressive strength, and angle of shearing resistance equal to zero.
Using simple sampling devices, and a portable apparatus for the measurement 
of  compressive  strength  developed  at  the  Building  Research  Station  (Cooling  and 
Golder, 1940), many problems were solved in the field (Skempton and Golder, 1948); 
and these successes undoubtedly helped to gain the confidence of practically minded 
engineers in the new science.
With  the  end  of  the  war,  conditions  were  favourable  for  rapid  expansion.  A 
small  group  of  engineers  who  had  devoted  themselves  to  soil  mechanics  existed, 
and  they  had  already  gained  much  useful  experience.  Two  laboratories,  one  state 
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supported,  the  other  representing  private  enterprise,  were  capable  of  dealing  with 
problems in the field of general civil enginee ring, and a third, the Road Research 
Laboratory,  was  working  on  road  problems. Also,  many  consulting  engineers  had 
become convinced of the need for higher standards of site investigation, and of the 
value of the quantitative expression of soil properties for use in design. Lastly, a new 
generation of young men was leaving the armed forces, and many of those who took 
up civil engineering were attracted to this new branch of engineering science.
This  period  of  rapid  growth  and  of  consolidation  continued  until  the  Third 
International  Conference,  at  Zurich  in  1953,  by  which  time  soil  mechanics  was 
firmly established in England, as a basic discipline in engineering science, and as an 
essential link between constructional enginee ring and the science of geology.

Soil Mechanics in ,the post-War period

Terzaghi’s first visit to England after, the war, in 1947, was a memorable occasion. 
He was interested in all that had been done, and he expressed his approval of the 
essentially  practical  approach  to  soils  prob lems,  which  was  characteristic  of  the 
English school of thought.
He  renewed  old  friendships,  and  made  new  ones,  and  from  that  time  on  until  his 
death in 1963, his influence remained strong, as is evident from the following brief 
account of progress in the post­war period, which is largely based on articles from 
Géotechnique, a journal first published with his blessing in London in, 1948, and on 
the Proceedings of the Interna tional Conferences held at Rotterdam in 1948 and at 
Zurich in 1953.
An  event  of  decisive  importance  was  the  formation  at  the  Imperial  College  of 
Science and Technology, in 1946, of a department wholly devoted to research and 
teaching in soil mechanics. A.W. Skempton, who had till then been at the Building 
Research Station, became Reader in charge of the department, and was soon joined 
by A.W. Bishop from the Metropolitan Water Board’s Laboratory. In 1955 a Chair of 
Soil Mechanics was formed, Skempton becoming the first professor.
Work started at once on the nature of the shear strength of soils, essentially an 
analysis  of  the  terms  φ  and  0  in  Coulomb's`equation.  It  had  for  some  time  been 
understood  that  the  φ  =  0  method,  however  successful  in  practice,  was  no  more 
than a useful hypothesis in which no one believed, for laboratory tests showed that 
clays undoubtedly had frictional properties as, for example, that the planes of shear 
failure in compression tests were scarcely ever inclined at 45° to the direction of the 
deviation stress, as would be the case in a purely cohesive material. Also published 
data showed gross anomalies between the variation with depth of the shear strength 
and the natural moisture content in normally consolidated clays
Soft  recent  clays  were  carefully  investigated,  and  a  vane  test  for  the  in­situ 
measurement  of  shear  strength  was  devised. The  results  of  this  work  appeared  in 
a series of papers (Skempton, 1948A, 1948B, 1948C), and the supposed anomalies 
were finally disposed of (Skempton, 1953).
In the laboratory the significance of the unconfined compression strength test was 
examined (Golder and Skempton, 1948) and the investigation then started culminated 
Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

in the work of R.E. Gibson (Gibson, 1953), who showed that a modified Coulomb­
Horslev equation gave results with an accuracy “quite sufficient for all engineering 
Work  at  Imperial  College  on  the  triaxial  test  (Bishop  and  Eldin,  1950),  led  in 
1957  to  the  publication  of  the  well­known  text  book  by  Bishop  and  Henkel,  The 
Measurement of Soil Properties in the Triaxial Test.
Mention should also be made of the problem of stiff­fissured clay. This type of 
clay, which was first defined by Terzaghi in 1936, was a constant source of trouble 
to English engineers, and many cases are known of cuttings and retaining walls in 
them, which have failed decades after construction. Here again work was started at 
Imperial College at an early date (Skempton, 1948D) and with the accumulation and 
analysis of field data a practical solution has been reached.
Shortly after the initiative had been taken by Imperial College a soils laboratory 
was  set  up  at  the  University  of  Cambridge.  Here  the  late  K.H.  Roscoe  and  his 
colleagues carried out their researches into the fundamental aspects of soil mechanics. 
This  very  remarkable  work  has  not  yet  had  its  full  effect  on  engineering  practice 
(Roscoe, 1970).
By the end of the period under consideration (1953) nearly all colleges and schools 
of engineering had set up departments devoted to the subject. The effect of all this 
work on practical engineering soon became apparent, and in 1948 (Banks, 1948), a 
paper was published describing the redesign of a dam based on the principle of soil 
At the outbreak of war two English engineers, Guthlac Wilson and Henry Grace, 
were at Harvard University, taking a postgraduate course under Terzaghi. They both, 
at once, returned to England where Wilson was appointed Deputy Director of Design 
to the Ministry of Works, and where Grace, as a Flight­Lieutenant in the RAF Airfield 
Construction Service, organized training courses which led to the issue by HMSO of 
a volume entitled Soils, Concrete and Bituminous Materials,
This was the first textbook dealing with soil mechanics to be published in England. 
After the war Guthlac Wilson set up his own consulting firm which, after a merger, 
became known as Scott and Wilson, and he was later joined by Grace. In the post 
war years this firm sent a number of their key personnel to study at Harvard. Though 
the death of Guthlac Wilson was a great loss to the engineering profession, the, firm 
remains among the most important in England and has been responsible for. large and 
complex projects in many parts of the world.
A study of the publications of the Institution of Civil Engineers will show the 
steady growth of interest in soil mechanics in the post­war years, and at the present 
time it is almost unthinkable that any major work should be undertaken without a 
detailed study of its geological and soil mechanics aspects.

That the influence of a single man, though admittedly a man of genius, should from the 
first moment of contact have had such a remarkable effect on the engineering profes­
sion in a highly developed industrial country, such as England, is a matter for enquiry.
Selected WritingS

Certainly the time was ripe for change. Engineering thought in this field was 
in a metastable condition, so that the introduction of an effective nucleus could 
produce far­reaching results.
Engineering is concerned with the control of natural forces; but in 1938 
teaching in civil engineering had become formalized and largely mathematical in 
Thus, apart from the obvious importance of Terzaghi’s scientific work, 
especially the theory of effective stress, his insistence on the importance of the 
geological background came as a breath of fresh air, reminding young engineers of 
the days when Robert Stephenson walked and rode nine times over the line of the 
London­Birmingham railway during its construction, and overcame most difficult 
ground conditions at the Kilsby Tunnel by inventing ground water lowering by 
means of deep wells.
The leading members of the profession who first met him at Chingford 
might well have been displeased that a firm of contractors should have brought 
in a foreign engineer to dispute with them, but Terzaghi’s intelligence, practical 
experience, and character, soon gained their respect, and the dignity and good 
sense with which this difficult situation was resolved by all concerned should be an 
example to future generations of English engineers.
In England his memory is still very much alive amongst all those who knew 
him, and certainly his work lives on.

I am most grateful to Sir Robert Wynne­Edwards, C.B.E., D.S.O., N.C., for permission 
to quote from a letter I received from him.

Banks, J.A. (1948), “Construction of Muirhead Resevoir, Scotland”, Proc. 2nd Int. Conf. Soil Mech. and 
Fnd. Eng., Rotterdam 1948, Vol. II, pp.24–3l.
Bell, A.L. (1915), “The lateral pressure and resistance of clay, and the supporting power of clay 
foundations”, J. Inst. Civ. Engrs., 199, pp. 233–272.
Bishop, A.W. and Garnal Eldin (1950), “Undrained triaxial tests on saturated sand and their significance 
in the general theory of shear strength”, Géotechnique, 2 (1), 1950, pp. 3–23.
Cooling, L.F. and D.B. Smith (1935), “The shearing resistance of soils”, J. Inst. Civ. Engrs., 1935–36 
(7), (June), pp. 333–343.
Cooling, L.F. and H.Q. Golder (1940), “A portable apparatus for compression tests on clay soils”, 
Engineering (19th), 1940.
Cooling, L.F. and H.Q. Golder (1942), “The analysis of the failure of an earth dam during construction”, 
J. Inst. Civ. Engrs., (19), 1942, pp.35–38.
Deacon, G.F. (1896), “The Vyrnwy works, etc.,” J. Inst. Water Engrs., London (126), 1896, p.24.
Ghiselin, M.T. (1969), “The triumph of the Darwinian method”, Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, 
Gibson, R.E. (1953), “Experimental determination of the true cohesion and true angle of internal friction 
in clays”, Proc. 3rd Int. Conf. Soil Mech. and Fnd. Engng., Switzerland, 1953, Vol. I, pp. 126–130.
Glossop, R. (1968), “Eighth Rankine Lecture”, Géotechnique, 18, 1968, p. 117.
Golder, H.Q. and A.W. Skepton (1948), “The angle of shearing resistance in cohesive soils for tests at 
constant water content”, Proc. 2nd Int. Conf. Soil Mech. and Fnd. Engng., Rotterdam, 1948, Vol.2, 

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Institution of Civil Engineers, London (1969), “A century of soil mechanics”, 1969.
Lapworth, H. (1911), “Geology of dam trenches”, Trans. Inst. Water Engrs, London, 16, 25, 1911.
Rankine, W.J.M. (1857), “On the stability of loose earth”, Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. 147, 1857, pp. 9–27.
Roscoe, K.H. (1970), “The influence of strain in soil mechanics”, Tenth Rankine Lecture, Géotechnique, 
20 (2), pp. 129–170, 1970.
Sandeman, E. (1901), “The Burrator Works for the water supply of Plymouth”, Min. Proc. I.C.E. 
(CXLVI), 1901, p. 4.
Sandeman, E. (1903), “The Burrator Reservoir”, Trans. Plymouth Insts . (XIII), (1898–99 to 1902–3).
Sandeman, E. (1920), “The Derwent Valley Waterworks”, Min. Proc. Inst. Engrs. (CCVI), 1920, pp. 
Skempton, A.W. (1948), “A study of the geotechnical properties of some post­glacial clays”, 
Géotechnique, I. (1). 1948, pp. 7–22.
Skempton, A.W. (1948), “Vane tests in the alluvial plain of the River Forth near Grangemouth”, 
Géotechnique, I. (2), 1948, pp. 111–124.
Skempton, A.W. (1948), “The geotechnical properties of a deep stratum of post­glacial clay at Gosport”, 
Proc. 2nd Int. Conf. Soil Mech. and Fndn: Engng., Rotterdam, 1948, Vol.I, pp. 145–150.
Skempton, A.W. (1948), “The rate of softening in stiff fissured clays, with special reference. to London, 
Clay”, Proc. 2nd Cord. Soil Mech. and Fnd. Engng., Rotterdam, 1948, Vol.2, pp. 50–53.
Skempton, A.W. (1953), “The post glacial clays of the Thames Estuary at Tilbury and Shellhaven”, Proc. 
3rd Int. Conf.Soil Mech. and Fnd. Engng., Switzerland, 1953, pp. 302–308.
Skempton, A.W. and H.Q. Golder (1948), “Practical examples of the φ = 0 analysis of stability of clays”, 
Proc. 2nd Int. Conf. Soil Mech. and Fnd. Engng., Vol.2, Rotterdam 1948, pp. 63–70.
Terzaghi, K. (1929), “The mechanics of shear failures on clay slopes and the creep of retaining walls”, 
Public Roads, 10 (10), pp. 177–192.
Terzaghi, K. (1939), The James Forrest Lecture, 1939, J. Inst. Civ. Engrs. (7) 1938–39, June 1939, pp. 
Terzaghi, K. (1960), “From theory to practice in soil mechanics”, p. 9, John Wiley and Sons, 1960.

eaRly technical papeRs

1. Glossop & Golder (ICE 1944)

‘The construction of pavements on a clay foundation soil’
2. Glossop & Skempton (ICE 1945)
‘Particle size in silts and sand’

The end of the Second World War ushered in a period of rapid development in
the theory and practice of geotechnical engineering that led to its recognition as a
key discipline within civil engineering. An important step in this process was the
series of four lectures held during June 1945 at the Institution of Civil Engineers.
Glossop delivered one of these lectures and he, together with his co-directors at
Soil Mechanics Ltd., Hugh Golder and Harold Harding, published a substantial
number of important papers over the next decade. These writings illustrate how
the increasing understanding of the principles of soil mechanics were influencing
construction practice within the UK.
In the journals Glossop refers to the development of a design method for airfield
pavements and this paper is inluded here together with another written jointly with
Skempton on Particle Size Classification which occasioned considerable interest at
the time.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

1 ‘The construction of pavements on a clay foundation soil’

The origins of this paper were the failures of the runway pavement at RAF Leiston,
which is described by Glossop in his Journal. It was one of the earliest attempts to
apply the principles of soil mechanics to the design of pavements and was awarded
the Telford Premium by the Institution of Civil Engineers.

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technical paperS

2 ‘Particle size in silts and sands’

This paper occasioned extensive discussion, which is recorded in the Journal of the
Institution of Civil Engineers, October 1946. T.K. Huizinga remarked that this was
‘the first systematic attempt to establish a connection between the engineering
characteristics and the particle size of silts and sands’.
However, Robert Wynne-Edwards raised the importance of anisotropic
permeability and cautioned that ‘mechanical analysis alone is not sufficient criteria
to judge ground-water lowering’, a view that would be supported in current practice.
Glossop and Skempton responded that the comment by Wynne-Edwards is a ‘good
example of the controlling influence of site conditions on the success or failure of
any particular method – an influence which might often invalidate any predictions
based on an ill-conceived programme of laboratory testing’.
The paper was the subject of a letter from Terzaghi (see Selected Letters) and
was awarded a Telford Premium by the Institution of Civil Engineers.

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diRectoRy of people
mentioned in the diaRy

Avery, Peter (1923–2008) Expert on the history and literature of Iran. Advisor to
J.M. & Co. on the Persian Roads contract and close friend of R.G.
Akroyd, T.N.W. Main author of the authoritative book Laboratory Testing in Soil
Engineering, published by SML in 1957.
Barrett, A.J. J.M. & Co. Agent at the Henderson Dry Dock, Immingham.
Beck, Sir Edgar C. (1911–2000) Joined J.M. & Co. in 1933, became a Director in
1942 and appointed Chairman in 1961 in succession to Sir George Burt. Was
knighted in 1975.
Beck, R.I. Director of J.M. & Co.
Birch, James N. Joined J.M. & Co. after being demobilised from the Royal Engineers
in 1946. Director of SML responsible for piling works.
Bishop, A.W. (1920–1988) Lecturer, later Professor of Soil Mechanics at Imperial
College and occasional consultant to J.M. & Co.
Burt, Sir George Mowlem (1884–1964) A Director of J.M. & Co. for 48 years, his
grandfather George Burt was taken into partnership by John Mowlem. A board
member of the Building Research Station for 20 years and chairman for ten years.
President of the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors for seven years. He
stood down as chairman of the board of J.M. & Co. in November 1961.
Burt, Kenneth A Director of J.M. & Co. and a close personal friend of R.G.
Burton, A.R. J.M. & Co. Agent at Derwent Dam.
Casagrande, Arthur (1902–1981) Professor of Soil Mechanics and Foundation
Engineering at Harvard University, close colleague of Karl Terzaghi and the first
Rankine Lecturer in 1961.
Cashman, Pat (1923–1996) Joined the Groundwater Department of Soil
Mechanics Ltd. in 1951 after spending 6 years in other parts of the company,
becoming head of department in 1961. National expert in Groundwater
Collingridge, V.H. (b. 1910) Joined J.M. & Co. in 1936, Director of SML and J.M.

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Civil Engineering. Close colleague of R.G.

Cooling, L.F. (1903–1977) Leader of the Soil Mechanics Section at the Building
Research Station.
Early, Kenneth (b. 1919) Joined SML in 1947, the first geologist directly employed
by a UK civil engineering firm. Unravelled the complex geology at Derwent
Glossop, Sheila Married R.G. in June 1944.
Golder, Hugh Q. (1911–1990) Joined J.M. & Co. in 1942; with Glossop at Leiston;
helped establish SML, later managing director. Resigned in 1958.
Gore, W.G. (b. 1910) Chief Accountant of J.M. & Co. and later company secretary.
Greeves, Ivan S. (b. 1913) Joined J.M. & Co. in 1937 under Harold Harding.
Worked on the Phoenix units for the Mulberry harbours and joined R.G. at the
Docks Department of J.M. & Co. in 1947 and continued until retirement. Close
colleague of R.G. and author of a civil engineering history of London Docks.
Ischy, Ernest Director of Soletanche and joint author with R.G. of the paper ‘An
introduction to alluvial grouting’.
Isherwood, Charles William (1924–2006) Lecturer in engineering geology at
Manchester University and partner in the Edgar Morton practice.
Jordon, Peter Joined the geology team at SML in 1954, close colleague of Ken
Early. Worked in Iran 1955–58 and at Derwent Dam.
Leonard, Michael Appointed managing director of SML in 1958 in succession to
Hugh Golder.
Mayer, Armand Eminent French engineer. R.G. first visited his laboratory in Paris
in 1938/9.
McLellan, A.G. General manager of the Sunderland and South Shields Water
Company and engineer for the Derwent Scheme.
Meigh, Alan C. (b. 1920) Joined SML in 1954, appointed chief engineer in 1957
and succeeded Michael Leonard as managing director in 1968. Rankine Lecturer
in 1976.
Morton, Edgar (1898–1978) Lecturer in engineering geology from 1923;
established a consultancy in engineering geology in 1929 specialising in dams
and water supply.
Nash, Professor John K. (1922–1981) Reader, and from 1961 Professor of Civil
Engineering at King’s College, London.
North-Lewis, J.P. (b. 1919) Worked for J.M. & Co. in 1937–38 when a student;
rejoined in 1946 and moved to SML in 1956, specialising in grouting.
Rowe, Peter (1922–1997) Lecturer, later Professor of Civil Engineering at
Manchester University, who worked closely with the Edgar Morton partnership
at Derwent.
edirectory of people Mentioned in the diary

Shotton, Frederick W. (1906–1990) Lapworth Professor of Geology at the

University of Birmingham from 1949 to 1974; pioneering research into the
Pleistocene geology of the England Midlands.
Skempton, Alec W. (1914–2001) Professor of Soil Mechanics (and later Civil
Engineering) at Imperial College and close friend of R.G.
Skipp, Bryan O. A leading figure in the R & D department ofSML, later a national
expert in seismicity.
Simons, Noel (1931–2006) After a short period at SML, appointed a lecturer at
Imperial College in 1963 and later professor at Surrey University.
Tunnard, John (1900–1971) Modernist painter and close friend of R.G. Lived in
Cornwall and taught at the Penzance School of Art from 1945–1965.
Ward, W (Bill) (1917–1996) Recruited to the Building Research Station in 1942
by Hugh Golder before he joined J.M. & Co.
Westacott, John (Major) MBE Joined J.M. & Co. in 1936; Managing Director of
the Mowlem Construction Company in Nairobi.
Wintsch, D.N. Resident Engineer on Immingham Dry Dock.
Wynne-Edwards, Sir Robert (1897–1974) Joined J.M. & Co. in 1935 after a peri-
od in Canada. Mowlem Agent at Chingford. Later Managing Director of Costain
Ltd. and president of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Close friend of R.G.
Zeuner, F.E. (1905–1963) Eminent Quaternary geologist, Professor and Head
of Environmental Archaeology at the University of London Institute of
Archaeology. Occasional correspondent with R.G., they first met in 1950 during
a visit to the archaeological excavations by Louis Leakey at Abinger Hammer.


1939. Recent applications of the ground water lowering process (with H. J. B. Harding). The
Engineer, 167, 528–530.
1940. Chemical consolidation of ground in railway work (with H. J. B. Harding). Railway Gazette,
72, 147–151.
1944. The construction of pavements on a clay foundation soil (with H. Q. Golder). Road Engineering
Divisional Paper, Institution of Civil Engineers, 15.
1945. Particle size in silts and sands (with A. W. Skempton). Journal of the Institution of Civil
Engineers, 25, 81–105.
1946. Excavation in difficult ground (with H. Q. Golder). Journal of the Institution of Sanitary
Engineers, XLV, 301–326.
1946. Soil mechanics in foundations and excavations. In: The Principles and Application of Soil
Mechanics. Institution of Civil Engineers, London, 63–90.
1947. Soil drainage with particular reference to road engineering. Road Engineering Paper, Institution
of Civil Engineers, 21.
1947. Specialist construction methods in civil engineer ing. Transactions of the Liverpool Engineering
Society, 68, 38–59.
1948. Notes on ground water lowering by filter wells (with V. H. Collingridge). In: Proceedings of
the 2nd International Conference on Soil Mechanics, 2, 320–322.
1948. Soil Mechanics Limited: organisation and equipment. In: Proceedings of the 2nd International
Conference on Soil Mechanics, 6, 190–194.
1948. The shear strength method of determination of pavement thickness (with H. Golder). In:
Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Soil Mechanics, 4, 164–167.
1948. The London Clay. Verre Silica Industrie, 13, 93–98.
1950. Classification of geotechnical processes. Géotechnique, 2, 3–12.
1951. Soil mechanics in relation to contracting (with H. Golder). Koninklijk Institut van Ingenieurs,
45, 725–734.
1951. The influence of modern soil studies on the construction of foundations (with H. B.
Harding). In: National Research Council of Canada, Building Research Congress, 146–156.
1952. The use of diamond drills in works of civil engineering construction. Journal of the Chemistry,
Metallurgy & Mining Society, South Africa, 393–398.
1953. Soil stability problems in road engineering (with G. C. Wilson). Proceedings of the Institution
of Civil Engineers, Engineering Division, 2, 219–280.
1960. The invention and development of injection processes. Part I: 1803–1850. Géotechnique,
10, 91–100.
1961. The invention and development of injection processes. Part II: 1850–1960. Géotechnique,
11, 255–279.
1962. An introduction to alluvial grouting (with E. Ischy). Proceedings of the Institution of Civil
Engineers, 21, 449–474.

1963. Book review, From theory to practice in soil mechanics. Selections from the writings of
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index of names

Entries in italic refer to the letters section

Akroyd, T.W. 86 Glossop, Sheila (née Fell) 73, 120
Ash, W.C. 82 Golder, H.Q. 60, 62, 64, 107, 127, 229
Gore, W.G. 139
Beck, E.C. 108, 125,130, 135, 136 Greeves, Ivan 67, 72, 80, 144
Beck, R. I. 59, 136
Behrens, Major Beddington 88 Harding, H. 51, 52, 67, 107, 199, 229
Bethell, R. 112 Head, K.H. 86
Bishop, A.W. 145 Hodge, Major W.J. 74
Bjerrum, Laurits 94, 97, 157–60
Brand, Charles 10 Jones, I.J. 10, 16
Brown, H.F. 2, 6
Brushfield, John 25, 26 Kean, James 22
Burland, John 182 Kennard, Julius 138
Burt, Sir George 52, 53, 62, 67, 70, 90, 107, Kitson, A.E. 31
125, 135
Leakey, L.S.B. (Louis) 87, 91
Casagrande, Arthur 24, 138, 208 Leonard, M. 122, 139, 145
Clark, T.G. 60, 84 Longsdon, A.E. 65
Collingridge, V.H. 63
Cooke, L.H. 8 Malmsbury, Earl of 58
Cooling, L.F. 127 McLean, Douglas 33
McLellan, A.G. 125, 134, 136, 141, 146, 147
Davison, E. 2 McNeil, Hugh 35, 37, 50
Dicks, R.T. 18 Meigh, A.C. 130, 140, 145
Dobson, Wallie 53
Duder, A.N. 82 Nana Kwame Atta II 20, 36
Duvidier, Jack 10 North-Lewis, J.P. 122, 130

Early, K. 129, 130, 134 Oakes, Sir Harry 57

Oats, Francis 5
Fellenius, Bror 94
Palmer, John 80
Geuze, E.C. 126 Parsons, Charles 9
Gilchrist, Major 25 Prentis, Ned 110

Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of GeotechnoloGy

Ramsay, Robert 67 Terzaghi, Karl 94, 131, 132, 160–71

Ringwood, D.J. 2 Tunnard, John 132
Rowe, P. 154
Shotton, F.W. 130, 150 Ward, W. 127
Simons, Noel 132 Westacott, J. 138, 139, 155
Slack, Emma (née Glossop) 1, 120, 156 White, Brigadier Sir Bruce 73, 74
Skempton, A.W. 124, 125, 127, 136, 145, White. Ed 110, 111
172–81 Wild, George 95
Skempton, Nancy 127 Wynne-Edwards, R.M. 81, 219
Skipp, B.O. 132, 140
Strachey, John 17 Yuzolin, Mike 21, 32, 33

Taylor, W.R. Grigor 10 Zeuner, F.F. 90

a paRticle of clay
The Biography of Alec Skempton,
Civil Engineer
Judith niechcial

One of the most eminent engineers of the 20th

century, both on the national and international
stage, Professor Sir Alec Skempton was
truly an influential figure in the discipline
of soil mechanics. In the late 1940s he was
instrumental in developing the subject, and
formed the first university department of soil
mechanics at Imperial College, London. Over
the years the research, papers and books flowed,
as did the accolades and recognition. But this
is not a book about soil mechanics alone – it
relates much more, about the man and how he
really viewed life, how he approached challenges and how he would be content only with
a job well done.
Written by his daughter, the book illustrate’s Skem’s contribution to engineering
knowledge, what influences formed him, and how his ideas developed – it reveals the
private man behind the public image and in so doing it also sets in context a dynamic
age in engineering.

ÄÄ ‘It is special, not only because it is about a very great engineer, but also
because it is written by his daughter, Judith Niechcial … She very skilfully
weaves into her narrative his many great achievements and accolades placed
in the context of his family life and background ... No review can do this
book justice – it is a must for anyone who attended Imperial College, who is
an engineer or who has an interest in the history of engineering and the early
engineers’. Imperial College Engineer

ÄÄ ‘...The book gives a detailed account of much of Skem’s professional work,

and in doing so provides an excellent history, not only of the man himself,
but also of the emergence and development of soil mechanics in the UK and
internationally’. Geotechnical & Geological Engineering

ÄÄ ‘This book ... is an appropriate memorial to a great man. I am personally

grateful to Judith Niechcial for having assembled the story of the life and
achievements of her father which is stimulating and a most worthwhile read’.
The Structural Engineer

ISBN 978-1870325-84-4 234 × 156 mm 224pp illustrated hardback £35

enGineeRinG GeomoRpholoGy
Theory and Practice
professor p.G. fookes, dr. mark lee and professor J.

This significant book by foremost experts in the field is the first

that truly covers the topic of engineering geomorphology as a
distinct discipline and, as such, is of paramount importance to
both practitioners and students.

ÄÄ ‘…handy source that brings together a wealth of basic

data… really does belong on the office shelf where
it will soon become very well-thumbed’. Quarterly
Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology

ÄÄ ‘…The coverage of a broad spectrum of subjects in a single volume presents a great

challenge, which has been successfully mastered by the authors’. Acta Geotechnica

ÄÄ ‘…This book will find its place on the bookshelf … as a ready first reference…’

ISBN: 978-1904445-38-8 297 × 210 mm 304pp + 16pp colour section softback £40

GeomoRpholoGy foR
professor p.G. fookes, dr. mark lee and dr. G.

This book presents a worldwide view of geomorphology for

engineers and other professionals on the near-surface engineering
problems associated with the various landscapes. This new and
completely revised edition has additional chapters with an
improved format. Each chapter is written by leading authorities
on the subject and is both self-contained and referenced with other
chapters as appropriate to make a balanced whole.

ÄÄ ‘…Truly excellent expositions on their subject. …this excellent and hugely

informative book. It should appeal to anyone involved in engineering geology or
geotechnical engineering, and comes highly recommended’. Geoscientist

ÄÄ ‘…this new volume incorporates the major advances in geomorphology over the
last two decades. … It is a must for all professionals in the geoworld, and the
editors should be applauded for the book’s comprehensive nature and clarity of
presentation. …a must-have for any libraries … in working companies or in research
institutions’. Geology Today
ISBN 978-1870325-03-5 240 × 170 mm 874pp over 600 illustrations hardback £100

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