Lawrence Oates

Last updated

Lawrence Oates
Lawrence Oates c1911.jpg
Born
Lawrence Edward Grace Oates

(1880-03-17)17 March 1880
Putney, Surrey, England
Died17 March 1912(1912-03-17) (aged 32)
Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica
Cause of deathHypothermia [1]
Other namesTitus Oates
Education Eton College
OccupationCavalry officer, explorer

Captain Lawrence Edward Grace "Titus" Oates (17 March 1880 17 March 1912) [2] was a British army officer, and later an Antarctic explorer, who died from hypothermia [1] during the Terra Nova Expedition when he walked from his tent into a blizzard. His death, which occurred on his 32nd birthday, is seen as an act of self-sacrifice when, aware that the gangrene and frostbite from which he was suffering was compromising his three companions' chances of survival, he chose certain death for himself in order to relieve them of the burden of caring for him.

Contents

Early life

Oates was born in Putney, Surrey, in 1880, the elder son of William Edward Oates, FRGS, and Caroline Annie, daughter of Joshua Buckton, of West Lea, Meanwood, Leeds. The Oates family were wealthy landed gentry, having had land at Dewsbury and Leeds since the 16th century; William Oates moved the family to Gestingthorpe, Essex in 1891 [3] after becoming Lord of the manor of Over Hall at Gestingthorpe. [4] [5] His sister Lillian, a year older, [6] [ better source needed ] married the Irish baritone and actor Frederick Ranalow. [7] An uncle was the naturalist and African explorer Frank Oates.

Oates lived in Putney from 18851891. He was one of the first pupils to attend the nearby Willington School. He went on to Eton College but left after less than two years owing to ill health. [5] He then attended an army "crammer", South Lynn School, Eastbourne. [8] His father died of typhoid fever in Madeira in 1896.

Military career

In 1898, Oates was commissioned into the 3rd (Militia) Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment. He saw active service during the Second Boer War as a junior officer in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons, having been transferred to that cavalry regiment as a second lieutenant in May 1900. He took part in operations in the Transvaal, the Orange River Colony, and Cape Colony. In March 1901 a gunshot wound shattered his left thigh bone, leaving it an inch shorter than the right. Twice called upon to surrender in that engagement, he replied, "We came to fight, not to surrender." [5] He was recommended for the Victoria Cross for his actions and was brought to public attention. [9]

He was promoted to lieutenant in 1902, and left Cape Town for England after peace was signed in South Africa. [10] He was mentioned in despatches by Lord Kitchener in his final despatch dated 23 June 1902. [11] He was promoted to captain in 1906, and served in Ireland, Egypt, and India. He was often referred to by the nickname "Titus Oates", after the historical figure. [12]

Terra Nova expedition

Preparation

Oates's primary task on the expedition was to attend to its horses Lawrence Oates photo.jpg
Oates's primary task on the expedition was to attend to its horses

In 1910, he applied to join Robert Falcon Scott's expedition to the South Pole—the Terra Nova expedition—and was accepted mainly on the strength of his experience with horses and, to a lesser extent, his ability to make a financial contribution of £1,000 towards the expedition. Nicknamed "the soldier" [13] by his fellow expedition members, his role was to look after the 19 ponies that Scott intended to use for sledge hauling during the initial food depot-laying stage and the first half of the trip to the South Pole. Scott eventually selected him as one of the five-man party who would travel the final distance to the Pole. [14]

Oates disagreed with Scott many times on issues of management of the expedition. "Their natures jarred on one another", expedition member Frank Debenham recalled. [15] When he first saw the ponies that Scott had brought on the expedition, Oates was horrified at the £5 animals, which he said were too old for the job and "a wretched load of crocks." [16] He later said: "Scott's ignorance about marching with animals is colossal." [17] He also wrote in his diary "Myself, I dislike Scott intensely and would chuck the whole thing if it were not that we are a British expedition ... He is not straight, it is himself first, the rest nowhere ..." [17] However, he also wrote that his harsh words were often a product of the hard conditions. Scott, less harshly, called Oates "the cheery old pessimist", adding: "the Soldier takes a gloomy view of everything, but I've come to see that this is a characteristic of him." [13]

South Pole

Oates (far right) at the South Pole on 18 January 1912 as part of the Terra Nova Expedition. From left to right: Wilson, Bowers, Evans, Scott and Oates. Scottgroup.jpg
Oates (far right) at the South Pole on 18 January 1912 as part of the Terra Nova Expedition. From left to right: Wilson, Bowers, Evans, Scott and Oates.

Scott, Oates and 14 other members of the expedition set off from their Cape Evans base camp for the South Pole on 1 November 1911. At various pre-determined latitude points during the 895-mile (1,440 km) journey, the support members of the expedition were sent back by Scott in teams. On 4 January 1912, at latitude 87° 32' S, only the five-man polar party consisting of Scott, Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers, Edgar Evans and Oates remained to march the last 167 miles (269 km) to the Pole.

On 18 January 1912, days after the start of their journey, they finally reached the Pole—only to discover a tent that Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his four-man team had left behind at their Polheim camp, after beating them in the race to the Pole. Inside the tent was a note from Amundsen informing them that his party had reached the South Pole on 14 December 1911, beating Scott's party by 35 days.

Return

.mw-parser-output .legend{page-break-inside:avoid;break-inside:avoid-column}.mw-parser-output .legend-color{display:inline-block;min-width:1.25em;height:1.25em;line-height:1.25;margin:1px 0;text-align:center;border:1px solid black;background-color:transparent;color:black}.mw-parser-output .legend-text{}
Route taken by Scott's polar party
Route taken by Amundsen's polar party Antarctic expedition map (Amundsen - Scott)-en.svg
  Route taken by Scott's polar party
  Route taken by Amundsen's polar party

Scott's party faced extremely difficult conditions on the return journey, mainly due to the exceptionally adverse weather, poor food supply, injuries sustained from falls, and the effects of scurvy and frostbite. On 17 February 1912, near the foot of the Beardmore Glacier, Edgar Evans died, perhaps from a blow to the head suffered in a fall days earlier. [18]

On 15 March, Oates told his companions that he could not go on and proposed that they leave him in his sleeping bag, which they refused to do. He managed a few more miles that day but his condition worsened that night. [19] [ full citation needed ]

Death

According to Scott's diary entry of 16 or 17 March (Scott was unsure of the date but thought the 17th correct), Oates had walked out of the tent the previous day into a −40 °F (−40 °C) blizzard to his death. Scott wrote in his diary: "We knew that poor Oates was walking to his death, but though we tried to dissuade him, we knew it was the act of a brave man and an English gentleman." [20] According to Scott's diary, as Oates left the tent he said, "I am just going outside and may be some time." [21] [22] Edward Wilson, who was also present, made no reference to this in his own diary or the letters to Oates's mother. [23]

Scott, Wilson and Bowers continued onwards for a further 20 miles (32 km) towards the One Ton food depot that could save them but were halted at latitude 79° 40' S by a fierce blizzard on 20 March. Trapped in their tent and too weak and cold to continue, they died nine days later, eleven miles (18 km) short of their objective. Their frozen bodies were discovered by a search party on 12 November; Oates's body was never found. Near where he was presumed to have died, the search party erected a cairn and cross bearing the inscription: "Hereabouts died a very gallant gentleman, Captain L. E. G. Oates, of the Inniskilling Dragoons. In March 1912, returning from the Pole, he walked willingly to his death in a blizzard, to try and save his comrades, beset by hardships." [24]

Legacy

Monument to Oates, close to Holy Trinity Church, Meanwood, Leeds OatesSignMeanwood.jpg
Monument to Oates, close to Holy Trinity Church, Meanwood, Leeds
Lawrence Oates blue plaque Meanwood Lawrence Oates blue plaque Meanwood.jpg
Lawrence Oates blue plaque Meanwood

Oates's act of self-sacrifice is one of the most memorable examples of its kind in recent history, and his understated final words are often cited as a veritable example of the traditional characteristic of British people concerning the "stiff upper lip" attitude. [25]

Oates's reindeer-skin sleeping bag was recovered and is now displayed in the museum of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge with other items from the expedition.

The Oates Museum at Gilbert White's House, Selborne, Hampshire focuses on the lives of Lawrence Oates and his uncle Frank. [26]

The Royal Dragoon Guards, the successor to the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons, have a regimental day to remember Oates. [9] [27] His Queen's South Africa Medal with bars and Polar Medal are held by the regimental museum in York. [28] The then Inniskilling Dragoon Guards were reportedly given £20,000 to help purchase the medals by Sir Jack Hayward. [29]

In 1913 his brother officers erected a brass memorial plaque to him in the parish church of St Mary the Virgin in Gestingthorpe, Essex, which his mother, Caroline, faithfully polished weekly for the rest of her life. The church is opposite his family home of Gestingthorpe Hall.

A Very Gallant Gentleman, John Charles Dollman (1913) A Very Gallant Gentleman (Gallimard version) - John Charles Dollman - 1913.png
A Very Gallant Gentleman, John Charles Dollman (1913)

A painting of Oates walking out to his death, A Very Gallant Gentleman, by John Charles Dollman, hangs in the Cavalry Club in London. [30] [31] It was commissioned by officers of the Inniskilling Dragoons in 1913. [30] It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1914. [32] A preparatory sketch is in the Scott Polar Research Institute, [33] at the University of Cambridge, having been sold by Christie's, on behalf of a private owner, for £40,000 in 2014. [34]

In May 1914 a memorial to Oates was placed in the cloister of the newly built School Library at Eton College, itself part of the Boer War Memorial Buildings. It was executed by Kathleen Scott, the widow of the expedition's leader. [5]

The Lawrence Oates school in Meanwood, Leeds (closed 1992), was named after him. On the 100th anniversary of his death, a blue plaque was unveiled in his honour at Meanwood Park, Leeds. [35]

On 17 March 2007, The Putney Society unveiled a blue plaque at the site of Oates's childhood home of 263 Upper Richmond Road, Putney, London. The current address is 307 Upper Richmond Road. [36]

In the media

See also

Notes

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert Falcon Scott</span> British Antarctic explorer (1868–1912)

Captain Robert Falcon Scott,, was a British Royal Navy officer and explorer who led two expeditions to the Antarctic regions: the Discovery expedition of 1901–1904 and the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition of 1910–1913. On the first expedition, he set a new southern record by marching to latitude 82°S and discovered the Antarctic Plateau, on which the South Pole is located. On the second venture, Scott led a party of five which reached the South Pole on 17 January 1912, less than five weeks after Amundsen's South Pole expedition.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roald Amundsen</span> Norwegian polar explorer (1872–1928)

Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen was a Norwegian explorer of polar regions. He was a key figure of the period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edward Wilson (explorer)</span> English polar explorer (1872–1912)

Edward Adrian Wilson was an English polar explorer, ornithologist, natural historian, physician and artist.

<i>Scott of the Antarctic</i> (film) 1948 film by Charles Frend

Scott of the Antarctic is a 1948 British adventure film starring John Mills as Robert Falcon Scott in his ill-fated attempt to reach the South Pole. The film more or less faithfully recreates the events that befell the Terra Nova Expedition in 1912.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Framheim</span> Antarctic base

Framheim was the name of explorer Roald Amundsen's base at the Bay of Whales on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica during his successful quest for the South Pole. It was used between January 1911 and February 1912.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition</span> 1955–58 expedition to Antarctica

The Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (CTAE) of 1955–1958 was a Commonwealth-sponsored expedition that successfully completed the first overland crossing of Antarctica, via the South Pole. It was the first expedition to reach the South Pole overland for 46 years, preceded only by Amundsen's expedition and Scott's expedition in 1911 and 1912.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Polheim</span> Antarctic Camp

Polheim was Roald Amundsen's name for his camp at the South Pole. He arrived there on December 14, 1911, along with four other members of his expedition: Helmer Hanssen, Olav Bjaaland, Oscar Wisting, and Sverre Hassel.

<i>Terra Nova</i> (ship) Early 1900s ship

Terra Nova was a whaler and polar expedition ship. She is best known for carrying the 1910 British Antarctic Expedition, Robert Falcon Scott's last expedition.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edgar Evans</span> Welsh explorer (1876–1912)

Petty Officer Edgar Evans was a Royal Navy officer and member of the "Polar Party" in Robert Falcon Scott's ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole in 1911–1912. This group of five men, personally selected for the final expedition push, attained the Pole on 17 January 1912. The party perished as they attempted to return to the base camp.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry Robertson Bowers</span> British Royal Navy officer and explorer (1883–1912)

Henry Robertson Bowers was one of Robert Falcon Scott's polar party on the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition of 1910–1913, all of whom died during their return from the South Pole.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Oates Land</span> Segment of East Antarctica

Oates Land is a region of Antarctica. It is variously defined as a portion of the East Antarctica near the coast stretching along and inland from the Oates Coast and as an officially delineated wedge-shaped segment of the Australian Antarctic Territory. The segment of the Australian claim extends between 153°45' E and 160° E, forming a wedge between Latitude 60° S and the South Pole. It is bounded in the east by the Ross Dependency and overlaps George V Land to the west.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Oates Coast</span> Shoreline in Antarctica

Oates Coast is that portion of the coast of Antarctica between Cape Hudson and Cape Williams. It forms the coast of Oates Land, part of the Australian claim to the Antarctic. The eastern portion of this coast was discovered in February 1911 by Lieutenant Harry Pennell, Royal Navy, commander of the expedition ship Terra Nova during the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910–13. He named the coast after Captain Lawrence E.G. Oates who, with Captain Robert F. Scott and three British Antarctic Expedition companions, perished on the return journey from the South Pole in 1912. Captain Oates' death was described by Robert Falcon Scott as "the act of a brave man and English gentleman". The western portion of the coast, the vicinity of the Mawson Peninsula, was first delineated from air photos taken by U.S. Navy Operation Highjump, 1946–47.

<i>Terra Nova</i> Expedition Research expedition to the South Pole (1910 to 1912)

The Terra NovaExpedition, officially the British Antarctic Expedition, was an expedition to Antarctica which took place between 1910 and 1913. Led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott, the expedition had various scientific and geographical objectives. Scott wished to continue the scientific work that he had begun when leading the Discovery Expedition from 1901 to 1904, and wanted to be the first to reach the geographic South Pole. He and four companions attained the pole on 17 January 1912, where they found that a Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen had preceded them by 34 days. Scott's party of five died on the return journey from the pole; some of their bodies, journals, and photographs were found by a search party eight months later.

The Last Place on Earth is a 1985 Central Television seven-part serial, written by Trevor Griffiths based on the book Scott and Amundsen by Roland Huntford. The book is an exploration of the expeditions of Captain Robert F. Scott and his Norwegian rival in polar exploration, Roald Amundsen in their attempts to reach the South Pole.

Manhauling or man-hauling is the pulling forward of sledges, trucks or other load-carrying vehicles by human power unaided by animals or machines. The term is used primarily in connection with travel over snow and ice, and was common during Arctic and Antarctic expeditions before the days of modern motorised traction.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Amundsen's South Pole expedition</span> First expedition to reach the geographic South Pole (1911–1912)

The first ever expedition to reach the geographic Southern Pole was led by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. He and four others arrived at the pole on 14 December 1911, five weeks ahead of a British party led by Robert Falcon Scott as part of the Terra Nova Expedition. Amundsen and his team returned safely to their base, and later heard that Scott and his four companions had died on their return journey.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Comparison of the Amundsen and Scott expeditions</span> Analysis of two expeditions to the South Pole.

Between December 1911 and January 1912, both Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott reached the South Pole within five weeks of each other. But while Scott and his four companions died on the return journey, Amundsen's party managed to reach the geographic south pole first and subsequently return to their base camp at Framheim without loss of human life, suggesting that they were better prepared for the expedition. The contrasting fates of the two teams seeking the same prize at the same time invites comparison.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Charles Dollman</span> British artist (1851–1934)

John Charles Dollman RWS RI ROI was an English painter and illustrator.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">South Pole</span> Southern point where the Earths axis of rotation intersects its surface

The South Pole, also known as the Geographic South Pole, Terrestrial South Pole or 90th Parallel South, is one of the two points where Earth's axis of rotation intersects its surface. It is the southernmost point on Earth and lies antipodally on the opposite side of Earth from the North Pole, at a distance of 12,430 miles in all directions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gestingthorpe</span>

Gestingthorpe is a village and a civil parish in the Braintree district, in the English county of Essex. It is approximately halfway between the towns of Halstead in Essex and Sudbury in Suffolk. The nearest railway station is in Sudbury, which offers a shuttle service to Marks Tey and at the extremes of the day to Colchester. The village is situated at a set of crossroads, North End Road, Nether Hill, Sudbury Road and Church Street.

References

  1. 1 2 “Oates, Lawrence Edward Grace - Captain (1880-1912) - Biographical notes”. Cool Antarctica.
  2. "Online Reader – Project Gutenberg". Gutenberg.org. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  3. Encyclopaedia of the Antarctic, vol. I: A-K, ed. Beau Riffenburgh, Routledge, 2007, p. 683
  4. Burke's Landed Gentry, 17th edition, ed. L. G. Pine, 1952, pp. 1913-1914, Oates formerly of Gestingthorpe Hall pedigree
  5. 1 2 3 4 Article by Andrew Robinson in Eton College News and Events Lent 2012
  6. "1881 British Census Household Record". Familysearch.org. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  7. "Surrey - Godalming, Charterhouse School - World War 2". Roll of Honour. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  8. The Times Correspondence relating to Henry van Esse Scott, founder of South Lynn July 1927
  9. 1 2 "How the last words of Titus Oates still inspire his regiment". BBC News. 9 July 2012.
  10. "The Army in South Africa - Troops returning home". The Times. No. 36790. London. 10 June 1902. p. 14.
  11. "No. 27459". The London Gazette . 29 July 1902. pp. 4835–4838.
  12. Huntford, Roland (1984). Scott and Amundsen. Atheneum. p. 345. ISBN   978-0-6897-0-656-1.
  13. 1 2 Scott, Robert F (2008). Journals: Captain Scott's Last Expedition. Oxford University Press. pp. 303, 125. ISBN   9780199536801.
  14. Stafford, Ed (2021). Epic Expeditions: 25 Great Explorations Into the Unknown. Aurum. p. 18.
  15. I Am Just Going Outside: Captain Oates - Antarctic Tragedy, Michael Smith, 2002
  16. Dhruti Shah (10 March 2012). "Antarctic mission: Who was Captain Lawrence Oates?". BBC News. Retrieved 10 March 2012.
  17. 1 2 King, Gilbert. "Sacrifice Amid the Ice: Facing Facts on the Scott Expedition". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  18. "Online Reader – Project Gutenberg". Gutenberg.org. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  19. Shadows of death – Time-Life Books. Time-Life Books. 1992. ISBN   9780809477197 . Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  20. "British history in depth: The Race to the South Pole". BBC. 3 March 2011. We knew that Oates was walking to his death... it was the act of a brave man and an English gentleman.
  21. Scott, Captain R.F. Scott's Last Expedition: The Journals of Captain R.F. Scott. Pan Books, 2003, p.462.
  22. Paul Simpson-Housley (1992) Antarctica: exploration, perception, and metaphor p. 36. Routledge, 1992. "I am just going outside and may be some time."
  23. Roland Huntford (1979) Scott and Amundsen: The last place on Earth p. 523 "Wilson was writing a very personal letter and, if Oates had expressed heroic intent, he would have told Mrs Oates so, including presumably his last words"
  24. Robert Falcon Scott (2006). Journals: Captain Scott's Last Expedition: Captain Scott's Last Expedition. p. 454. ISBN   9780199297528.
  25. "Stiff Upper Lip, the Manson Family and the Paradise: TV picks". October 2012.
  26. "Home". Gilbert Whites House. 20 June 2014. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  27. Asquith, Stuart. Regiment Issue 34. Nexus Special Interests,1999, p. 15.
  28. ""Polar medal now in regimental museum" The Evening Press 13 September 1999". Archive.thisisyork.co.uk. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  29. "Colourful life of a British eccentric". Shropshire Star. 14 January 2015.Comment and Analysis article on Sir Jack Hayward by Mark Andrews, which misnumbers the regiment as the "5th".
  30. 1 2 Jones, Max (2004). The Last Great Quest: Captain Scott's Antarctic Sacrifice. OUP Oxford. ISBN   978-0-19-162233-5.
  31. Glinga, Werner (1986). Legacy of Empire: A Journey Through British Society . Manchester University Press. p.  29. ISBN   978-0-7190-2272-2.
  32. The Boy's Own Annual 36th Annual Volume. 1913–1914. p. Plate opposite page 41, part 11.
  33. "A Very Gallant Gentleman". Art UK . Retrieved 19 January 2020.
  34. "John Charles Dollman (1851-1934), 'A Very Gallant Gentleman' (Captain L.E.G. Oates walking out to his death in the blizzard, on Captain Scott's return journey from the South Pole, March 1912)". Christie's . Retrieved 19 January 2020.
  35. "Plaque to mark South Pole explorer Captain Oates - BBC News". BBC News. 17 March 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  36. "Blue Plaques Scheme" (PDF). The Putney Society. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  37. John Ezard (14 October 2002). "Antarctic hero Oates 'fathered child with girl of 12'". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  38. "Antarctic legend's secret scandal". BBC News. 14 October 2002. Retrieved 7 August 2008.
  39. Featured Review: Revise the World, by Steven H Silver, at the SF Site; published 2010; retrieved 13 January 2015
  40. Pratchett, Terry (1992). "Small Gods (Discworld #13)(38) by Terry Pratchett". Gollancz. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  41. Pratchett, Terry (1994). "Soul Music (Discworld #16)(3) by Terry Pratchett". Gollancz. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  42. Purse, Nigel (2016). Tom Stoppard's Plays: Patterns of Plenitude and Parsimony. Leiden: Brill. p. 155. ISBN   9789004318366. The significance of the moon landing for interweaving the vehicle of the play into the ideas it discusses is two-fold. First of all, 'Millions of viewers saw the two astronauts struggling at the foot of the ladder until Oates was knocked to the ground by his commanding officer... Captain Scott has maintained radio silence since pulling up the ladder and closing the hatch with the remark, 'I am going up now. I may be gone for some time.' Apart from being an inverse pun on the famous scene on Scott's Antarctic journey in which Oates sacrifices himself with the words, 'I am just going outside and may be some time', it demonstrates the chaotic world of relativism in which the morality of one's actions depends upon one's point of view.
  43. "White Hole". IMDb.com. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  44. "We Lost The Sea – Departure Songs, an Analysis Of". 4 May 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2017.

Sources