Wednesday, July 23, 2014

H. Mortimer Batten

Henry Mortimer Batten was born on 4 February 1888 in Otley, Yorkshire, the son of William Townshend Batten (1856-1917) and his wife Sarah Amelia (nee Barker, 1860-1953). His father worked as an engineer in Singapore and master Batten spent some time on the South East Asian island. His connections with Singapore earned Batten the nick-name ‘Pineapple’. Although his birth certificate gives his name as Henry, he was known as Harry and was baptized Harry Mortimer Batten at St. Paul's, Northampton, on 27 March 1894.

He was educated at Oakham School in Rutland where he was an excellent rugby player, subsequently playing for Bradford and Northampton. He trained as an engineer, but his yearning for a more adventurous life took him to the far corners of the North West Territory as a prospector, forest ranger and surveyor whilst still in his early twenties. After a period fur-trapping and running a motor-boat service on the Mattagami River, he served in the Great War as a motor-cyclist. Batten saw service with the French Army and, in 1915, was decorated with the Croix de Guerre by his commanding General in the Verdun Sector; he later also served with the Royal Air Force.

He began writing around 1912, contributing to most of the popular boys’ papers of the era, Captain, Chums, Boy’s Own Paper and The Scout as well as to adult papers such as Blackwood’s, Chambers, The Field and Illustrated London News. His serials included the Red Indian serial ‘Birdett the Trailer’ (Captain, 1913) and the Western ‘Ishmael of the Prairies’ (Chums, 1918).

In the 1920s he became a well-known lecturer and broadcaster for the B.B.C. from its earliest days and was very well known for his natural history articles and stories about wild animals and birds which were collected in numerous books, including Tales of the Wild, The Romantic Story of the Countryside, Prints from Many Trails, Tracks and Tracking and Starlight. He was also a well-known racing motorist.

Batten served again as a dispatch rider for the first two years of the Second World War.

He lived for many years in Argyll, Scotland, and set up a number of businesses in the area. In 1954 he announced his intention to take a five-year trip to British Columbia and Alaska. He died in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on 3 January 1958, aged 69. He was married in 1918 to Ivy Kathleen Godfrey (1892-1980) and had one son and two daughters.


Muskwa the Trail Maker. Edinburgh & London, Moray Press, 1936.
Starlight. London & Edinburgh, W. & R. Chambers, 1936.
Red Ruff. The life story of a fox. London & Edinburgh, W. & R. Chambers, 1937.
The Wandering Otter, illus. David Pratt. London, Peter Lunn, 1947.
Yellowface, illus. Jack Matthew. London, Evans Bros., 1948.
Ray of the Rainbows, illus. Vernon Stokes. London, Hollis & Carter, 1952.
The Singing Forest, illus. Maurice Wilson. Edinburgh & London, William Blackwood, 1955.

Jim and the Wolves. Toronto, Warwick Bros. & Rutter, 1912.
The Red Men of the Northland. Toronto, Warwick Bros. & Rutter, 1914.
In the Grip of the Yukon. A true story. Toronto, Warwick Bros. & Rutter, 1916.
Ka-ka-kee, the Sioux. A tale of a prairie feud. Toronto, Warick Bros. & Rutter, 1917.
Tommy and the Timber Wolves. A story of Canadian life. Toronto, Warwick Bros. & Rutter, 1919.
Romances of the Wild, illus. Warwick Reynolds. London, Blackie & Son, 1922.
Prints from Many Trails. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1924; revised, Edinburgh & London, Ettrick Press, 1947.
2LO Animal Stories. Edinburgh, Grant & Murray, 1931.
Tales of the Wild. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1931.
Jock and Old November, and other motoring and fishing stories of the Highlands. Edinburgh, Highway Press, 1932.
Woodland Stories. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1932.
Wild Life Stories. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1933.
Tameless and Swift. A book of animal stories. London & Edinburgh, W. & R. Chambers, 1936.
Tales of Wild Bird Life, illus. Len Fullerton. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1948.
Whispers of the Wilderness. Tales of wild life in the Canadian forests, illus. Kay Nixon. London & Glasgow, Blackie, 1960.
Wild and Free. Stories of Canadian animals, illus. Stuart Tresilian. London & Glasgow, Blackie, 1961.

Who are the “Forest Rangers?”. Toronto, Warwick Bros. & Rutter, 1918.
Forest Fires. A terror of the Canadian bush. Toronto, Warwick Bros. & Rutter, 1920.
Habits and Characters of British Wild Animals, illus. Warwick Reynolds. London, W. & R. Chambers, 1920; reprinted in 4 vols. as Some British Wild Animals, London, W. & R. Chambers, 1930.
Tracks & Tracking. A book for Boy Scouts. London & Edinburgh, W. & R. Chambers, 1920.
Woodlore for Young Sportsmen. London, Heath Cranton, 1922.
The Badger, afield and underground. London, H.F. & G. Witherby, 1923.
Inland Birds. Norther observations by a sportsman. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1923.
W. & A.K. Johnston’s Tracks of British Animals, edited by H. Mortimer Batten. Edinburgh, W. & A.K. Johnston, 1923.
W. & A.K. Johnston’s Tracks of British Birds, edited by H. Mortimer Batten. Edinburgh, W. & A.K. Johnston, 1923.
British Wild Animals. London, C. A. Pearson, 1924.
Dramas of the Wild Folk, illus. Harry Rountree. London, S. W. Partridge & Co., 1924.
Nature from the Highways. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1925.
Nature Jottings of a Motorist. London, Herbert Jenkins, 1926.
Patrol Calls and Signs. The ABC of all the patrol creatures, their habits and characteristics. London, C. A. Pearson, 1926.
The Golden Book of Animal Stories. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1927; adapted as Tales of the Wild, London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1934.
Birds of Our Gardens. How to feed and encourate them. [3rd edition]. Pencaitland, H. M. Batten, 1931.
How to Feed and Attract the Wild Birds. Edinburgh, Grant & Murray, 1933.
The Animal Picture Book. London, T. Nelson & Sons, 1934.
Go-Back. The life story of an Alsation wolfhound. Edinburgh & London, Moray Press, 1934.
Our Garden Birds. London & Edinburgh, T.C. & E.C. Jack, 1934.
Our Country’s Wild Animals. London & Edinburgh, T.C. & E.C. Jack, 1935.
The Romantic Story of the Country-Side. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1937.
Sentinels of the Wild, illus. Kathleen Nixon. London, George Newnes, 1938.
Electricity and the Camera. Nature, big game and home photography simplified. A new method of control for day & night photography. Edinburgh & London, Moray Press, 1939.
Wild Animals at Home. London, Longmans & Co., 1939.
British Wild Animals. London, Odhams Press, 1952.
The Children’s Book of Tracks and Tracking. A book for Boy Scouts, Girl Guides and every lover of woodcraft. Edinburgh & London, W. & R. Chambers, 1961.

Stories of the Wild (contains Romances of the Wild, Tales of Wild Bird Life, The Golden Book of Animal Stories). London, Blackie, 1967.

Among Wild Beasts, edited by H. Mortimer Batten. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1934.


  1. With my deepest thanks for this beautiful and comprehensive piece, Steve. I am the great grandson of Harry Mortimer Batten and honoured to be so. Like him I am also an author and at an event I am reading at next week I am excited to be reading an excerpt from his book 'Jock and Old November'. Thank you for this info. Some info re me-

    1. Thanks for getting in touch. If anyone in the family wants to expand the piece above with more information about his career, just let me know.

    2. Hi Guy. I was browsing the Bear Alley ad on Youtube and saw your post to Steve. I am most interested to see that you are the great grandson of Harry Mortimer Batten. I live in Burnsall in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and at one period in his life, I think after he was at East Lothian, Harry lived in the village - in fact I think in the house where I now live.
      When we moved in 45 years ago, we found 14 wooden boxes of glass slides, mainly of various birds, animals and nature generally, which I think must be Harry's. Many are numbered as if they are part of a lecture. I have tried over the years to interest the local museum and the Bradford Museum of Photography to take them but no luck. To be able to pass them on to a relative of Harry's would be ideal.
      Would you be interested?
      With Regards, Alan Stockdale



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