January 27, 2010

Thursday, 27 January 1910


L.E.G. Oates [1]

Captain Lawrence Oates of the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, stationed in India, wrote (with characteristically indifferent spelling) towards the end of a chatty letter to his mother, "I have now a great confession to make. I offered my services to the Antarctic Expedition that starts this summer from home under Scott, they wrote and told me to produced [sic] my referrances [sic] which I did and they appear to have been so flattering that I have been practically accepted.... [Scott] appears to be a man who can make up his mind and having decided he told me at once.... Points in favour of going. It will help me professionally as in the army if they want a man to wash labels off bottles they would sooner employ a man who had been to the North Pole than one who has only got as far as the Mile End Road. The job is most suitable to my tastes Scott is almost certain to get to the Pole and it is something to say you were with the first party. The climate is very healthy although inclined to be cold." [2]

Oates was thirty years old, a member of the landed gentry and a cavalry officer who had seen action in the Boer War, suffering a gunshot wound that shattered his thigh and left that leg an inch shorter than his right.

He had in fact offered to be a "paying volunteer", giving £1,000 to the expedition and his services for free.


[1] Detail from a portrait reproduced on the dustjacket of Captain Oates : Soldier and Explorer by Sue Limb and Patrick Cordingley (London : Batsford, 1982).
[2] L.E.G. Oates, letter to Caroline Oates, 27 January, 1910, quoted by David Crane in Scott of the Antarctic (New York : Knopf, c2005), p.374.

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