Tuesday 6 November 2018

Cecil Henry Cunnington (1889-1918)

Detail from one of Cunnington's field slips (Haunton, Staffordshire)
C H Cunnington (of whom we do not have a photograph) was born on 7 June 1889. In 1909 he obtained a first class honours degree in Geology from University College, London. Cunnington joined the Geological Survey of Great Britain in 1910 and spent much of the next four years surveying an area bordering the Warwickshire Coalfields. An obituary in the Proceedings of the Geological Society later referred to this as "excellent work".

He had joined the Officer's Training Corps before the outbreak of the First World War so entered the army soon after it began. In 1915 he was sent to Gallipoli on special military duty along with two other former staff from the Geological Survey, R W Pocock and T H Whitehead.

R W Pocock (P810105)
The work they did was related to trying to find an adequate water supply for the troops there. An unpublished report on the geology of the Gallipoli peninsula was produced for the War Office. Sadly, it is now untraceable. 

After returning from Gallipoli, Cunnington joined the Machine Gun Corps and served in France. He was invalided out of the army in 1917 and later underwent a major operation. He suffered a relapse and died on 26 April 1918. 

During the war 29 staff from the Geological Survey and Museum joined the armed forces. They consisted of 14 geologists, 3 fossil collectors, 2 general assistants, 3 attendants, 4 draughtsmen, 2 labourers and 1 assistant clerk. Cecil Cunnington holds the unfortunate distinction of being the only one of those who did not survive the war.

For a detailed study of the terrain at Gallipoli see Doyle, P & Bennett, M R 1999. "Military Geography: the influence of terrain in the outcome of the Gallipoli Campaign, 1915". Geographical Journal, 165, p12-35

You can find out more about the Geological Survey and the First World War in the paper "Some aspects of the British Geological Survey’s contribution to the war effort at the Western Front, 1914–1918" by D G Bate and A L Morrison. This can be downloaded here

Andrew L Morrison

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