Scott 100 Day 144 25th March 1912: Letters to the Establishment

Letters to the Establishment. Another day with no formal journal entry but Scott has continued to write and further letters are sent securing his gratitude and his legend, even writing to his friend and author J.M.Barrie. Some of the letters end and then later have additions made as the circumstances of the march change. The text below is from Scott’s journal and actions from the letters have been removed. According to Crane the section omitted from the letter to Barrie contained the following lines, ‘it hurt me grievously when you partially withdrew your friendship or seemed to do so – I want to tell you that I never gave you cause’.

Scott to Sir J.M. Barrie – We are pegging out in a very comfortless spot. Hoping this letter may be found and sent to you, I write a word of farewell. … More practically I want you to help my widow and my boy—your godson. We are showing that Englishmen can still die with a bold spirit, fighting it out to the end. It will be known that we have accomplished our object in reaching the Pole, and that we have done everything possible, even to sacrificing ourselves in order to save sick companions. I think this makes an example for Englishmen of the future, and that the country ought to help those who are left behind to mourn us. I leave my poor girl and your godson, Wilson leaves a widow, and Edgar Evans also a widow in humble circumstances. Do what you can to get their claims recognised. Goodbye. I am not at all afraid of the end, but sad to miss many a humble pleasure which I had planned for the future on our long marches. I may not have proved a great explorer, but we have done the greatest march ever made and come very near to great success. Goodbye, my dear friend, Yours ever, R. SCOTT. We are in a desperate state, feet frozen, no fuel and a long way from food, but it would do your heart good to be in our tent, to hear our songs and the cheery conversation as to what we will do when we get to Hut Point. We are very near the end, but have not and will not lose our good cheer. We have four days of storm in our tent and nowhere’s food or fuel. We did intend to finish ourselves when things proved like this, but we have decided to die naturally in the track. As a dying man, my dear friend, be good to my wife and child. Give the boy a chance in life if the State won’t do it. He ought to have good stuff in him. … I never met a man in my life whom I admired and loved more than you, but I never could show you how much your friendship meant to me, for you had much to give and I nothing.

Scott to Right Hon. Sir Edgar Speyer – I hope this may reach you. I fear we must go and that it leaves the Expedition in a bad muddle. But we have been to the Pole and we shall die like gentlemen. I regret only for the women we leave behind. I thank you a thousand times for your help and support and your generous kindness. If this diary is found it will show how we stuck by dying companions and fought the thing out well to the end. I think this will show that the Spirit of pluck and power to endure has not passed out of our race …Wilson, the best fellow that ever stepped, has sacrificed himself again and again to the sick men of the party … I write to many friends hoping the letters will reach them some time after we are found next year. We very nearly came through, and it’s a pity to have missed it, but lately I have felt that we have overshot our mark. No one is to blame and I hope no attempt will be made to suggest that we have lacked support. Good-bye to you and your dear kind wife. Yours ever sincerely, R. SCOTT.

Scott to Vice Admiral Sir Francis Charles Bridgeman – I fear we have shipped up; a close shave; I am writing a few letters which I hope will be delivered some day. I want to thank you for the friendship you gave me of late years, and to tell you how extraordinarily pleasant I found it to serve under you. I want to tell you that I was not too old for this job. It was the younger men that went under first… After all we are setting a good example to our countrymen, if not by getting into a tight place, by facing it like men when we were there. We could have come through had we neglected the sick. Good-bye, and good-bye to dear Lady Bridgeman. Yours ever, R. SCOTT. Excuse writing—it is -40°, and has been for nigh a month.

Scott to Vice Admiral Sir George Le Clearc Egerton – I fear we have shot our bolt—but we have been to Pole and done the longest journey on record. I hope these letters may find their destination some day. Subsidiary reasons of our failure to return are due to the sickness of different members of the party, but the real thing that has stopped us is the awful weather and unexpected cold towards the end of the journey. This traverse of the Barrier has been quite three times as severe as any experience we had on the summit. There is no accounting for it, but the result has thrown out my calculations, and here we are little more than 100 miles from the base and petering out. Good-bye. Please see my widow is looked after as far as Admiralty is concerned. R. SCOTT. My kindest regards to Lady Egerton. I can never forget all your kindness.

Scott to Mr.J.J.Kinsey in Christchurch – I’m afraid we are pretty well done—four days of blizzard just as we were getting to the last depot. My thoughts have been with you often. You have been a brick. You will pull the expedition through, I’m sure. My thoughts are for my wife and boy. Will you do what you can for them if the country won’t. I want the boy to have a good chance in the world, but you know the circumstances well enough. If I knew the wife and boy were in safe keeping I should have little regret in leaving the world, for I feel that the country need not be ashamed of us—our journey has been the biggest on record, and nothing but the most exceptional hard luck at the end would have caused us to fail to return. We have been to the S. pole as we set out. God bless you and dear Mrs. Kinsey. It is good to remember you and your kindness. Your friend, R. SCOTT.

Scott’s Journal 25th March 1912. NO ENTRY

Commentary. The letters to loved ones and to the family of the men he died with must have been a comfort, I am sure that was the intent. The men must have been in agony but express a painless comfort in the cold, shared with men of spirit and cheer. What the truth was in that tent will never be known. Scott’s further letters to the establishment now secure in the memory of those with influence and power the legend of the expedition. Scott will be criticised over the coming years for his poor leadership yet his understanding that he still had an ability to reach out to the whole world was clear. From an isolated tent in the middle of a desolated and lost position Scott shows he is fully aware of his ability to influence the future. Before the expedition set sail Scott needed to be able to work at levels of society and government which were arguably above his station and rank, yet he managed this well enough to get the Terra Nova supplied and to recruit men. Throughout this period he understood the powerful relationship with the media and this continued right to the end. Much of what has been written about Scott shows someone a little uncomfortable in certain circles, a man riddled with self-doubt and a man whose reputation with others was variable. For such a character to lead upwards, as Scott obviously did, must have required determination, resilience, intellect and courage. Leading upwards is not simply managing those above you in the hierarchy it involves making the connections required to influence and advance the task. That means spending time outside of the place you feel most comfortable, it means doing things that are not always you at your best and it requires a courage to do what others may hesitate to do. Leadership may not always look like the popular image of the charismatic individual walking through the team with lightness and confidence. It may be lonely, frightening and mixed with as much failure and rejection as success and adoration. Whatever else is said of Scott it is clear this man is not average, meritocracy does not get an under resourced expedition through the politics of the age and to the bottom of the world. Scott is also a man grateful to those who have showed support and kindness and in much of what he writes he is saying what all leaders need to say more often, thank you.

About hutpoint

Interested in leadership, teamwork, resistance, perseverence and change. A former senior nurse dedicated to learning from and sharing with other flawed humans.
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