Lieutenant Edward Ratcliffe Garth Russell Evans—Teddy Evans

21 Nov


That the ‘Terra Nova’ sailed from Cardiff was due to Teddy Evans’ valuable connections with local
business men, commercial organisations and the enthusiastic support of the ‘Western Mail’. Evans had
originally planned to lead his own expedition, but after a London meeting with Scott in July 1909, the
men agreed to cooperate, rather than compete in their efforts to reach the South Pole – Scott would lead
the expedition, Evans would sail as second in command. The considerable resources from Wales were
put at the disposal of the ‘Terra Nova’.

Many months later, in late 1911, Scott and Evans were on at the final assault on the Pole. At this stage
there were twelve men man-hauling three sledges. Two of these groups were relatively rested, but on
Evans’ team, he and Petty Officer William Lashly had been man-hauling since 1 November 1911.
The strain showed and Scott became impatient with Evans’ perceived carelessness and
disorganisation. On 20 December 1911, the first supporting party of four turned back, leaving eight
men to go on. Evans’ team was reorganised with himself, Lieutenant Bowers, Lashly, and Able Seaman Thomas Crean. But on 3 January 1912, Scott decided that he would incorporate Bowers into his on-
going team and that Evans should return with a THREE-man team, ‘the Last Supporting Party’. So on
4 January 1912, Evans, Lashly and Crean turned back.

Reducing the pulling power to three slowed Evans’ party. On the glacier Evans began to suffer physical problems, initially snow-blindness (painful and limiting his vision), and later, signs of scurvy. The scurvy symptoms and signs increased rapidly causing significant physical deterioration. Soon he had to be carried on the sledge by Lashly and Crean.

By 13 February 1912 Evans had deteriorated to such a stage that he ordered his companions to leave him to his fate and return to base. They refused, ‘the first and last time my orders as a naval officer were disobeyed’. A blizzard finally halted the three men’s progress on 17 February. They were only thirty-five miles from the base camp at Hut Point, but it was clear that Lashly and Crean could not continue with the sledge pulling. Lashly remained with Evans whilst Crean headed north to seek aid. When he managed to return with help and supplies, Evans was thought to be near to death. The men carefully transported him back to the main camp, arriving a few days before the relief ship the ‘Terra Nova’. He gradually regained his physical health, though he remained bedridden until April, by which time ‘Terra Nova’ had arrived in New Zealand.

Now a recent article by Professor Chris Turney ‘Why didn’t they ask Evans?’ has been published in the
Polar Record (Vol. 53, Issue 5, Sept. 2017, pp. 498-511). The piece throws doubts on Evans’
behaviour during the expedition and suggests that Evans’ actions on the return journey played into
the deaths of Scott and his men. The work focuses on the shortage of food at key depots, the apparently
deliberate obfuscation of when Evans actually fell ill with scurvy (by suggesting that the illness developed
earlier on the return than had been understood in London) and that Evans had taken pemmican
and other food supplies from the food caches before he succumbed to scurvy, thus prejudicing Scott’s return march. Finally he failed to pass on orders given by Scott regarding the dogs.

Professor Turney concludes that Evans’actions on and off the ice can at best be described as
ineffectual, at worst deliberate sabotage. He wonders why Evans was not questioned more about these
events on his return to England.

I do not agree with these comments – more will follow later.


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