Visit of the International Hydrographic Conference, 26 June 1919

The International Hydrographic Conference which took place in London in from 24 June to 16 July 1919 was the prelude to the establishment of the International Hydrographic Bureau (IHB) in 1921. On the 26 June, the delegates visited the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, which is where the group photograph below was taken. In 1967, the International Hydrographic Bureau changed its name to the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO). It is still operational today.

The International Hydrographic Conference delegates at the Royal Observatory on 26 June 1919. Frank Dyson, the Astronomer Royal, is sitting in the front row, hatless and five from the left. To his right is Joseph Renaud (d.1921), Director of the Hydrographic Service of the French Navy. Next right is, Rear Admiral Sir John Franklin Parry, HM Hydrographer of the Navy, who, in 1921, was elected as the first President of the International Hydrographic Bureau. A full list of the delegates is given below

The first attempt to establish an International Hydrographic Bureau was made by Joseph Renaud (Director of the Hydrographic Service of the French Navy) during the International Maritime Conference held at St Petersburg in Russia in 1912. Although for a number of reasons, including the fact that Great Britain was not present, no practical result came of the suggestion, it was clear that a follow up international conference of just hydrographers would be desirable. To this end, a dialogue began between Renaud and John Parry (HM Hydrographer of the Navy), with the view to getting such a conference set up. With the outbreak of the First World War, their plans were put on hold, only resuming once the war was over. At Renaud’s suggestion, London was selected as the most suitable location for the conference. Parry took the idea to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, who approved it and decided that all Maritime States which possessed a hydrographic Office should be invited to send delegates. Delegates from 24 countries attended.



The list below is taken from a printed list held at the National Archives (ADM 1/8564/217):

Argentine Captain Don E Moreno
Commander Julian Fablet
Australia Captain Littlejohns
Belgium Monsieur F Urbain, L’Hydrographe principal des Ponts de Chaussées
Monsieur J Nisot, Chief du Service Hdrographique du Congo
Captain H Bouckaert, Superintendent, Pilotage Belge
Brazil Lieutenant-Commander A R De Vasconcellos
Chile Commander Don Francisco E Merino
China Commander S K Chen, DSO
Denmark Captain Bloch, Hydrographer
Egypt Dr J Ball, OBE., Egyptian Survey Department
Mr G F Purvis, Director General of Coastguard and Fisheries
France Monsieur J Renaud, Diector du Service Hydrographique
Monsiuer Rollet de L’Isle, Ingenieur Hydrographe en chef de 1ére classe
Capitaine de Frégate Berling, Chef du Service des Instructions Nautiques
Capitaine de Corvette de Fourcauld
Great Britain Rear-Admiral Sir John F Parry, KCB, Hydrographer of the Navy
Captain J A Webster, CBE, MVO, Director of Navigation, Hydrographic Department
Captain H P Douglas, CMG, Assistant Hydrographer
Captain C V Smith, CBE, Superintendent of Sailing Directions, Hydrographic Department
Commander J A Edgell, Superintendent of Charts, Hydrographic Department
Commander H D Warburg, Superintendent of Tidal Work, Hydrographic Department
Greece Capitaine de Vaisseau N J Botassis
Capitaine de Vaisseau M Matthaiopoulos
India Captain C S Hickman, DSO
Italy Capitano di Fregata Alberto Alfessio, DSO
Japan Comander S Sakonji
Mr K Minato, Department of Communications
Netherlands Captain I M Phaff, Hydrographer
Captain J L H Luymes, Assistant Hydrographer
Mr P H Gallé, Assistant Director Koninklijk, landsche Meteorologisch Instituut
Norway Captain E Bjorset, Hydrographer
Peru Rear-Admiral Pedro Garezon
Portugal Commander Victor Hugo de Avezedo Coutinho
1st Lieutenant Henrique Bebiano Baeta Neves
Siam (Thailand) Capitaine de Vaisseau Phra Pradiyat
Spain Captain Don Eliseo Sanciz y Quesada
Sweden Commodore P H Dahlgren, Hydrographer
United States (USA) Captain E W Simpson, Hydrographer
Mr G W Littlehales, Hydrographic Engineer
Mr H C Graves, Chief of Hydrographical Division of the Coast and Geodetic Survey
Mr J T Watkins, Chief of Field Records Section of the Coast and Geodetic Survey


Further Reading

The International Hydrographic Bureau. Captain Spicer-Simpson, The Geographical Journal, Vol 59, No 4 (April 1922), pp.293–296

The History of the International Hydrographic Bureau (Revised 2005). Frederico Bermejo