Record

CodeDS/UK/65
Dates1898-1970
Person NameObbard; Harry Naismith (1898-1970); Brigadier; soldier, Chief Administrative Officer and Deputy Director of Works for the Commission in India, Pakistan and South-East Asia (1946-1953)
SurnameObbard
ForenamesHarry Naismith
TitleBrigadier
Epithetsoldier, Chief Administrative Officer and Deputy Director of Works for the Commission in India, Pakistan and South-East Asia (1946-1953)
SourceCWGC Archive, IWGC Staff Card Index; CWGC Archive, CORONATION LIST 1953; Harry Naismith Obbard in the England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007. Accessed via Ancestry UK website.
Biographical NoteBrigadier Henry Naismith Obbard CBE was the Commission’s Chief Administrative Officer and Deputy Director of Works for India, Pakistan and South-East District after the Second World War. He was instrumental in organising and overseeing the Commission's programme of construction and maintenance amid civil unrest following British withdrawal in the 1950s.

Harry Naismith Obbard was born on 27 April 1898.

In 1915, he entered the Royal Military College, Woolwich, and was commissioned into the Royal Engineers in 1916, remaining in active service from 1917 until 1921. In 1924, Obbard was seconded to the Bengal Sappers and Miners, Indian Army, serving until 1934. Between 1934 and 1940, he held several appointments on the Staff in the United Kingdom and Egypt, before returning to India in 1940, when he was appointed Commandant of the Bengal Sappers and Miners.

In 1946, Brigadier Obbard, then serving on the staff at G.H.Q., New Delhi, was loaned to the Commission for a tour inspection visit of India, Burma and South-East Asia. Upon retiring from the Army in the same year, Obbard was appointed as the Commission’s Chief Administrative Officer and Deputy Director of Works for India, Pakistan and South-East Asia on 1 November 1946. Whilst in this position, he was responsible for India, Pakistan, Burma, Siam, French Indo-China, Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong. The Commission’s responsibilities for maintaining the 1914-1918 graves in these countries were negligible and had been discharged through the agencies of the respective governments. Facing opposition and unrest within the countries in his charge, Brigadier Obbard had to build up an organisation from the grassroots up to construct and maintain the large number of 1939-1945 war graves that the Commission was responsible for.

In addition to battlefield cemeteries in India and Pakistan, there were 5,000 1939-1945 war graves in 200 scattered Civil and Cantonment cemeteries throughout the two countries and it was Obbard who organised the concentration of these burials (the maintenance of which had become impracticable after British withdrawal) into four main cemeteries situated nearby to capital cities and ports for easier access. The work was completed in 1952.

In Burma (now Myanmar), civil unrest and the breakdown of communications led the Commission to authorise the removal of four battlefield cemeteries in the North and in the Arakan to a site near Rangoon. Brigadier Obbard was responsible for planning and supervising this work, which was completed in 1953.

In 1953, Obbard was awarded CBE for his efforts in coordinating the Commission’s organisation and work in India, Pakistan and South-East Asia. He left the Commission on 31 October 1953.

Brigadier Harry Naismith Obbard CBE died in Swindon in March 1970, aged 72. His tour reports are now held in the Commission’s Archive at its Head Office in Maidenhead.
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