Harold Charles Winckworth, 1878-1947

By R. Winckworth

Extracted from Journal of Conchology, Volume 23, pp. 21–23.

HAROLD CHARLES WINCKWORTH was born on 13 August 1878, the second son of a Brighton surgeon, Charles Trew Winckworth, and of Alice, née Braby, both from Horsham, Sussex. He was educated at Epsom College and, after apprenticeship to a Brighton dentist, went to Guy’s Hospital, 1898–1903, qualifying as M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P. and L.D.S. After a year as house surgeon and anaesthetist in the Sussex County Hospital he was commissioned in the R.A.M.C. in 1904. While on service in Malta he was sent to Calabria on rescue work after the Messina earthquake of December 1908, for which he received the order of Officer of the Crown of Italy and the medal of the Red Cross of Italy. He was mentioned in despatches for service in the third Afghan War, 1919, and also saw service in the Mesopotamia campaign of 1916. He was senior surgeon in the Rhine Army in 1921–22 and then returned to India, serving at Bangalore, in charge of hospitals at Calcutta, Wellington and Karachi, and as A.D.M.S., Meerut District. He had been gazetted Lieutenant Colonel in 1927 and Colonel in 1933 and retired in 1935. Towards the end of his service he was honorary surgeon to the Viceroy. He offered his services in 1939, which were not accepted until 1941, when he was given charge of the Colaha Hospital at Bombay: he next organized the Officers’ Convalescent Depot at Poona, and retired a second time in 1944.

Among his enthusiasms were games, especially lawn tennis, in which he won many prizes and represented the British Army of the Rhine against France. In music he achieved a high standard of execution on the ‘cello and his fondness for chamber music incidentally brought him in contact with the Duke of Connaught in Malta and with Yates in India.

Natural history attracted him from Epsom days. In 1924 the collection of Indian butterflies began, continued later with J. A. Yates of the education service. A fully representative collection, including local and seasonal forms, of all South Indian butterflies was made: the final series, thinned down from over 20,000 recorded specimens, was presented to the Hope department of Oxford University Museums. The chief discoycry was the habitat and habits of Parantirrhoea: this and other results were written up by J: A. Yates in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. Smaller collections were made in the Andaman Islands and elsewhere.

In 1911 an early interest in shells revived and be began to collect British marine molluscs on shore and by dredging from Shetland to the Channel Islands. This was the beginning of the Winckworth collection, which with the Mason collection added went to Liverpool Public Museums (see this Journal, 21, 1940, 186), where it was largely destroyed by enemy action in May 1941.

In 1924 the collection of Indian shells began, gathering impetus as the butterfly collection neared completion. Among the many shore localities explored were Karachi, Bombay, Goa, Tellicherry, Quilon, Cape Comorin, Tuticorin, Pamban, Madras, Waltair, Puri and in Ceylon, Galle, Trincomali and the Pearl Banks. Three visits to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands produced excellent results. Collections were also made in Zanzibar, Port Sudan, Muscat and Singapore. He first visited the Seychelles in 1936, again in 1937 and in 1938, when he bought a house, Thanksgiving, in North West Bay, Mahé Here he made the most thorough of all his collections: from 1937 onwards nudibranchs became the principal subject of study. His skill in shore collecting was remarkable and he trained his house servants to collect well too: it was a delightful experience to go out on the reef with him, full of enthusiasm, while the house boy was perhaps searching for Terebra and dorids with a water telescope and the cook was finding eolids and other small molluscs. He was entering notes and extracting radulae up to a few days before the end, when he died of thrombosis in the Seychelles Hospital on 23 October 1947.

He wrote little for publication, but left detailed notes, often with drawings of animal and radula, on about 2,000 specImens. He hoped that an account of the whole nudibranch fauna, over a hundred species, of the Seychelles Islands would eventually be ready for printing.


1923. Dredging in Loch Alsh. J. Conchol., 17 65.
1935. Eastonia rugosa and other Portugese Mollusca. J. Conchol., 20 162.
1940. Catalogue of the marine Mollusca of the Seychelles. In J. T. Bradley, The History of Seychelles, 2, Appendix.
1946. Glossodoris from Bombay. Proc. Malac. Soc., 26, 155.
1946. A new Goniodoris from Bombay. Proc. Malac. Soc., 27, 59.