W. A. W. de Beuzeville Retires  

9 July 1948 The Land (Sydney)

Mr W. A. W. de Beuzeville, possibly the most valuable servant in forestry circles in this Commonwealth, recently retired from the office of N.S.W. Government Ecologist.  

He left at the peak period of his service taking with him mental wealth garnered from 36 years of experience, visions of schemes necessary to place forestry in this State and continent, on a solid progressive footing.      

His retirement means an irretrievable loss to pending forestry developments.

For no man, however capable, can replace him.

Therefore much of the work which he has commenced must, for some time, remain in abeyance.

In a day when all work on forestry schemes should be speeding ahead, this halt, if it is not disastrous, is to be greatly deplored.

This retirement is due solely to Government witlessness in adherence to a policy introduced during the depression, of 1933, that no man shall work after 65; it is due to what Mr. E. H. P. Swain once termed, a twinkle in his eye, "an excess of the virtue of seniority."

Wide Scope of Knowledge

W. A. W. de Beuzeville has, and is, a wizard in all things concerned with forestation.

He knows the soils of this State as intimately as a man knows that of his suburban property.

He knows the climates and their varying degrees of mildness and severity, in every district.

He knows the grasses, plants and trees that already flourish in every area as well as the species which may be successfully transported from one area to another.

He can tell you, and without reference to any source of information, the services for which these plants and trees should be planted, their rate of growth.

All these individual facts he passes on for the asking, in a humble, matter-of-fact way.

I think this sense of humility comes from his seeing the world of nature as a kingdom of miracles of which we have barely touched the fringe.

Early Years

Mr. de Beuzeville was born on Aston Station on the outskirts of   Bombala.

It was in the day of vast estates and Aston Station, the property of Sir James Mathewson, Bart., England, was under the management of his father, Mr. P. de Beuzeville, J.P.

The background of the elder de Beuzeville is of historic interest.

In the adventurous 60's and 70's he was engaged stocking up pastoral holdings for George King & Co., Ltd., Sydney in northern Queensland; later he migrated to the Cape Oliver and Palmer goldfields.

This de Beuzeville married a daughter of Alex. Watt, a pioneer who settled in 1833 at Esrom, Bathurst, the site on which All Saints College now stands.

Those early years at Aston Station, at Bombala, and later at Wagga and Tumut Public Schools, are now treasured memories of the recently retired ecologist.

School finished, he entered a lawyer's office to forsake it for life on the land.

In 1907, he married Miss Ratcliffe of "Wollongawah," Tumut, a grand-daughter of Commissioner Bingham, who established the official Government Station at Tumut River in 1840.

In 1912 he found the calling in which he was to make his mark, and joined the Forestry Commission.

In that year he was appointed to Warialda as Forest Guard under the district administration of Mr. E. H. F. Swain, former Forestry Commissioner.

Survey of Pilliga Scrub

"Due to Mr. Swain's long vision and persistent advocacy," said Mr. de Beuzeville, "a branch of Forestry Survey and Assessment was established, and three officers (I was one of them) were appointed Forestry Assessors in 1914.    

"This brought about my transfer to Baradine to undertake the survey and assessment of the Pilliga Scrub."

Thirty-four years back, Pilliga Scrub was flung over 3,500,000 acres and was practically road less and waterless.      

"In this survey a unique system of horseback traverses was adopted with great success," he remarked reminiscently. "A compass line was sighted on horseback and the paces counted for certain distances, usually 10 chains.

Then a halt would be made and details of timber stands and natural features, written up in field books.

By this means traverses of about 20 miles per day, were affected."

Loaned to C.S.I.R.  

In 1916 came a transfer to Head Office.

From there, from time to time, he went forth to make forest surveys in many parts of the State.

One such undertaking concerned the mountain areas he had known and loved in his youth.

On this occasion he was commissioned to discover valuable belts of Mountain Ash (E. gigantea) and the stretches of country which would be most suitable for the establishing of exotic softwood plantations.

For his efficient handling of this work he was appointed senior forestry officer of Tumbarumba-Tumut district.

The years were how revealing his worth

In 1932, recognition of his intimate knowledge of the flora of the State, brought him the distinction of being loaned to the C.S.I.R. to make a botanical and timber sample collection of timber forest trees in N.S.W. and Southern Queensland.

After that you would have found him on the North Coast, bent on a survey of the Ironbarks.

Honours Conferred  

The appointment of Mr. Swain as Forestry Commissioner in 1939 brought a new development:- the introduction of an office for the intensive survey of climatics and their control of vegetation.

There was only one man truly suitable for that position and you can guess who it was.

And six years later when the branch of Forestry Ecology was created, there was conferred on Mr. de Beuzeville the title of Forestry Ecologist.

To this position was added the responsibility of establishing the Forestry Commission's nurseries at West Pennant Hills.

The control of these two activities by the man who so thoroughly knew his State ensured that all plants distributed from the nurseries were suited to the climates to which they were despatched.

Mr. de Beuzeville is a member of the Royal Society and the Linean Society of New South Wales.

His work on the Climatilogical Bases of Forestry, published by the Commission, has created considerable attention abroad, particularly in the U.S.A.

Other works of his are now in the course of publication.

The most popular of these will be the one on Australian trees and tree planting.

Two tremendous projects visualised by him were the establishment of two shelter belts, (one of them composed mainly of Kurrajongs) running north to south across the State. 

The completion of these schemes alone warranted his retention by the Forestry Commission.