Wilfrid Noyce opening the Godalming Youth Centre
image: Godalming Museum, ref 3152


Cuthbert Wilfrid Francis Noyce (1917-1962) was a mountaineer and author. Noyce was educated at Charterhouse, where he became head boy, and later a master. He was a member of the 1953 British Expedition that made the first ascent of Mount Everest.

Noyce was born in 1917 in Simla, the British hill station in India. He was the eldest son of Sir Frank Noyce of the Indian Civil Service and his wife, Enid Isabel, a daughter of W M Kirkus of Liverpool.

After Charterhouse he entered King's College, Cambridge, taking a first in Modern Languages. In the Second World War he joined the Friends Ambulance Unit, and later served as a private in the Welsh Guards, before being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the King's Royal Rifle Corps in 1941. He later attained the rank of captain in the Intelligence Corps.

After the war, Noyce became a schoolmaster teaching modern languages at Malvern College (1946-1950). In 1950 he married Rosemary Campbell Davies, and they had two sons, Michael and Jeremy. He returned as a master to Charterhouse, where he remained for ten years.

Noyce was already a fine climber at the age of eighteen and from 1935 regularly climbing at high standards in the Alps. In 1942, in North Wales, he achieved a non-stop solo climb of 1,370 metres.Noyce was a climbing member of the 1953 British Expedition to Mount Everest that made the first ascent of the mountain. Noyce was designated as being charge of writing dispatches that were to be sent home from the mountain. Noyce was also in charge of mountaineering equipment on the ascent itself, having been instructed in the repair of high-altitude boots. On 21 May Noyce and the Sherpa Annullu (the younger brother of Da Tenzing) were the first members of the expedition to reach Everest's South Col at about 26,000 feet. Noyce climbed up to the South Col a second time on 29 May, the day of the successful first ascent. Noyce and Wylie were the only two members of the climbing party to reach the South Col without oxygen. Noyce met the successful summit team of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay at the Col. Noyce wrote a book on the expedition South Col, and also wrote a poem called ‘South Col’. He wrote books, poems and scholarly articles, and contributed to climbing guidebooks.

It was Noyce who was instrumental in achieving the Youth Centre in Godalming, which finally opened on the Wednesday the 6th June 1962, four years after the first discussion. It was built on a site adjoining the Crown Court Car Park at a cost of £1,200, with funds from the Richard Stedman Trust, and leased to Surrey County Council.

Just over two weeks later Noyce died in a mountaineering accident on the 24th July 1962 after a successful ascent of Mount Garmo (6,595 m) in the Pamirs. As a memorial to him the youth centre was renamed the Wilfrid Noyce Centre.

Godalming Museum © 2009