Within 11 miles of depot. Fiennes reproduces two notes made around this time, the first from Bowers to his mother, ‘I am still strong and hope to reach this one with Dr Wilson and get the food and fuel necessary for our lives. God alone knows what will be the outcome of the 22 miles march…. but my trust is still in Him and in the abounding Grace of my Lord and Saviour whom you brought me up to trust in and who has been my stay through life…. There will be no shame however and you will know that I have struggled to the end.’ The second letter by Wilson to his wife, ‘Birdie and I are going to try and reach the depot 11 miles north of us and return to this tent where captain Scott is lying with a frozen foot… I shall simply fall and go to sleep in the snow … all is for the best to those that love God and oh, my Ory, we have both loved him with all our lives… we have struggled to the end and we have nothing to regret. Our whole journey record is clean… the Barrier has beaten us – though we got to the pole.’
Scott’s Journal 21st March 1912. Scott writes, ‘got within 11 miles of depot Monday night, had to lay up all yesterday in severe blizzard. To-day forlorn hope, Wilson and Bowers going to depot for fuel.’
Commentary. Forlorn Hope – the front troops, often volunteers, who are likely to die as they march forward. The weather does not improve, the fuel and food run out and Wilson and Bowers never make the march for One Ton. Fiennes makes a comment that an attempt to get to One Ton might have proved worthwhile as the dogs may be waiting there, Cherry-Garrard was there just 12 days ago. I wonder if there is a slight criticism from Fiennes, should someone had made a ‘Tom Crean’ type dash for One Ton ? Now with the fuel and food gone they must have retreated into their sleeping bags, the only warm place left for them. Several authors suspect Bowers to be the fittest of the remaining men and if all was lost in the tent striking out on his own was at least some hope. Although they may still have hoped to be found in the tent by dog team coming further south. I wonder if Bowers volunteered to go ? Many of the men in the expedition have criticisms labeled against them. Scott comes in for some severe, in hindsight, attacks, but PO Evans and Oates also carry some baggage and even Wilson could be said to have been found wanting in his role as truth teller to Scott. But Bowers seems to survive this historical mauling, I wonder why ? He was loyal, courageous, hard-working and tough but perhaps most importantly he was a diligent follower. Bowers may have stayed out of controversy because he didn’t gossip, kept busy but also stayed aware from significant decisions, actions or challenges. A loyal follower happy in that role. Taking action and making decisions is part of the function of leadership, if it is true that all leaders are flawed to some extent then some of these actions and decisions will be wrong. Leaders need to accept that, learn, repair damaged relationships, forgive themselves and carry on.