Sad Ending. Before Oates died he asked Wilson to visit his mother and pass on his diaries and Wilson agreed. At Some point Wilson becomes concerned he may not keep that promise and writes a letter to Mrs Oates, reproduced by Smith in his biography of Oates’s, ‘this is a sad ending to our undertaking. Your son died a very noble death, God knows. I have never seen or heard of such courage as he showed from first to last with his feet both badly frostbitten—never a word of complaint or of the pain. He was a great example. Dear Mrs. Oates, he asked me at the end, to see you and give you this diary of his—You, he told me, are the only woman he has ever loved. Now I am in the same case and I can no longer hope to see either you or my beloved wife or my mother or father – the end is upon us, but these diaries will be found and this note will reach you someday. Please be so good as to send pages 54 and 55 of this book to my beloved wife addressed, Mrs Ted Wilson, Westal, Cheltenham. Please do this for me dear Mrs Oates – my wife has a real faith in God and so your son tells me have you – and so have I – and if ever a man died like a noble soul and in a christ like spirit your son did. Our whole journeys record is clean and though disastrous – has no shadow over it. He died like a man and a soldier without a word of regret or complaint except that he hadn’t written to you at the last. but cold has been intense and I fear we have all of us left writing alone until it is almost too late to attempt anything but the most scrappy notes. God comfort you in your loss.’
Scott’s Journal 20th March 1912. NO ENTRY
Commentary. Wilson’s strong faith is obvious in this and other letters and it is argued that for Wilson and Bowers their belief was a great comfort. Wilson, Bowers and Scott all begin writing final letters and while the dates are not certain it must have been over these final few days as they sheltered in the tent. There is a real dilemma facing the various writers of this story, Wilson and Scott were the only ones present and their story of the final days and Oates’s heroic moment soon become a myth. The challenge against that seems to be a dramatic swing with Huntford describing Scott as forcing Oates out of the tent by his cold expectant stare. Smith then reports other writers as also questioning the death of Evans, did Scott really go back and help or did he leave him to crawl after them. Perhaps what gives the harsher critics a licence to react so aggressively are the letters that come out at this time from Wilson, Bowers and Scott. They are magnificent pieces of prose and tell a glorious tale of brave Englishmen enduring without complaint. A few years after Scott’s expedition families all over the country will receive letters telling them of the brave and glorious deaths of their sons. These letters will describe a hero who endured courageously, never complained, suffered for his friends, believed in God king and country and thought of their mother at the end. These myths from the trenches of France will be lies, but lies written by kind hearts wanting to ease a terrible loss. It may be equally true of the letters from the Antarctic and this gives critics an opportunity. These letters now join the various journals as the medium by which this story will be told. Telling the story remains equally important for modern leaders. Influencing others by presenting dull facts, statistical charts and grey data is often a doomed mission, no matter how right the information is. Creating an inspiring narrative around the change or project maybe down to the leaders ability to persuade. Leaders should also be aware of the stories others tell, it can be tempting to follow the charismatic leader, even into disaster. If it seems too good to be true it usually is and so the balance between narrative and substance is essential.