Apsley Cherry-Garrard (final instalment)

26 Nov

I have spent some weeks writing a piece on the artist Sit Hubert von Herkomer RA – this has taken hours! Now, at last, I can return to Cherry Garrard’s experiences after the Terra Nova—the last comment on a man whose name is rarely recognized now, but a man who brought more clarity to life in Antarctica than virtually any other writer.

As previously, I acknowledge my indebtedness to Sarah Wheeler and her book Cherry: A life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard


There are several strands to the post Terra Nova narrative:

His book The Worst Journey in the World was published and republished. Written with the invaluable help of his  neighbour, George Bernard Shaw. It was to become a best seller (and, as Scott’s work had been distributed in the first world war, The Worst Journey became suggested reading for troops in the second).

Cherry’s general disillusionment with the government and the country post war – unemployment, poverty and industrial stagnation prevailed. As a member of the landowning class he felt that unfair taxes were levied to an extent that he could not continue to maintain his estates. He started to sell his properties.

He married

His physical and psychological health continued to give intermittent problems. Colitis, variably( and seriously) flared, he suffered from arthritis, but depression was always lurking. There was probably a familial trait to depression – his cousin, the publisher Reginald Smith committed suicide in 1916, and several other members of his family suffered from the illness.



The Worst Journey in the World had a long gestation. First published in 1922 when Cherry was 36, it was his eulogy to Edward Wilson and Birdie Bowers as well as a thoughtful appraisal of the Terra Nova expedition. The ‘Winter Journey’ was at the soul of the narrative. This expedition was organized by Wilson – it was a search to collect early specimens of Emperor Penguin eggs in order to investigate the theory that birds were descended from dinosaurs. Emperor Penguins were thought (wrongly), to be the most primitive of birds which is why Wilson wanted recently laid eggs (to see if these had teeth or scales). Wilson chose Lieutenant ‘Birdie’ Bowers along with Cherry, his protégée. The expedition was made in the dark, in temperatures that went down to -76° F. on a snow surface that resulted in progress of only a mile a day. At one point the three men were caught in a blizzard for many hours. They lay in their sleeping bags, without nourishment. They sang hymns. Cherry resigned himself to dying.

It was originally planned that Teddy Evans, Scott’s second in command on the Terra Nova (who Cherry and others distrusted), would write the account of the whole expedition, but Teddy became too busy to undertake the commission and Cherry was delighted to be asked take on the task. He originally planned a conventional account – stores, personnel, ship’s details, science etc. but gradually his vision changed and when he was given free licence over the work he moved from an ‘official’ account of the expedition to a personal, unique interpretation of the aims of Antarctic exploration, the hopes and the fears of the expedition, his personal assessment of his companions, psychological analyses. The work was not deferential. It was to evolve into a unique account of Polar exploration.

The help he received from Bernard Shaw was invaluable. Shaw could turn a poorly articulated concept into a beautifully crafted sentence and it was Shaw who suggested the eventual title, The Worst Journey in the World. Shaw ruled on punctuation, phrasing, typescript. Cherry appreciated Shaw’s help so much that he offered him co-authorship but Shaw refused saying that as his whole knowledge of ice dated from the great frost of 1878, his intrusion into the Antarctic Circle would be ridiculous! Shaw advised Cherry in relation to publishing and Cherry decided to retain editorial control by paying to have the work (original title Never Again: Scott, Penguins and the Pole), published. Emery Walker produced the illustrations for Never Again.

The book was first published in 1922- two volume boxed-sets, produced either with an expensive, or a cloth binding. The reviews were mainly excellent (‘A Glorious Narrative’ :…. ‘Impelling and Authentic’). One detractor was Kathleen (Scott) who objected to Cherry’s portrayal of her first husband and never forgave him for revealing Scott’s defects as well as his strengths.

The work was republished in 1927, again in 1929. In 1937, a two volume Penguin edition (the ninety-ninth and one hundredth in their series) was advertised by a penguin wielding a cricket bat and bowing – to celebrate the firm’s centenary.

The Worst Journey was hugely popular during the war. A film Scott of the Antarctic was produced in 1948. The book was adapted for television by Mark Gatiss—who also portrays Cherry-Garrard—in The Worst Journey in the World (2007). In 2017, Kat Eschner wrote in the Smithsonian.com that ‘This Catastrophic Polar Journey Resulted in One of the Best Adventure Books Ever Written’. The work remains in print.



Dissatisfaction with the government:

Along with many others before the war, Cherry had thought of war as a noble enterprise. Reality destroyed this myth brutally. The Versailles Treaty of 1919 brought peace but no return to the pre -war ways of life and Cherry felt under attack. He had been brought up in and assimilated the ‘patriarchal’ ways of life, where a landowner had responsibilities towards his tenants and land. Increases in his tax burden threatened this – he was opposed to the national claim for increased wages by workers. What he considered to be punitive duties on land owners resulted in him beginning to sell his lands and properties. As he wrote his book The Worst Journey in the World, he became increasingly disaffected with the bondage of possessions. In time he was to sell all his land assets including his family home Lamer.




Cherry married when he was 50. He met Angela Turner on a cruise in1937. She was 20 when he proposed in 1939, just before the abyss of the Second World War. They were married immediately. Both families, untroubled by the age difference, were pleased. Angela was a happy choice –it was said that her name was her nature. She was positive, good natured. She put up with Cherry’s oddities cheerfully. In contrast to Cherry she devoted time to the local village, Wheathampstead. The villagers responded warmly – many were christened ‘Angela’. Later in their marriage they were to leave Lamer, which she had grown to love, to move, uncomplainingly, into a service flat in London. She was to support Cherry through several mental breakdowns. She was a truly supportive partner.




Cherry clearly became seriously, though intermittently, incapacitated by a depressive psychoses. Unlike his wife he had never had a ‘half-full’, happy outlook. He was self absorbed, often unhappy and disinterested in events that did not relate to himself. In addition, as in all illnesses, the experiences he had gone through (the harrowing events of the Terra Nova expedition), provided an external trigger.

Over the years he had severe psychotic breakdowns. In 1941 he suffered from delusions –Germans were hiding in Lamer – this delusional phase might well have passed had not his brother–in -law employed the services of an eminent London psychiatrist. Incarceration in a mental hospital was advised.

Angela was appalled – she was sure that Cherry would recover given time. She immediately cycled to her near neighbours, Bernard Shaw and his wife Charlotte for help and advice. Shaw’s robust, sharp letter, which Angela copied, told the psychiatrist to keep away from her husband. Cherry recovered though he had memory loss for the whole period. He was amazed to hear of Pearl Harbour.

Although he had good and bad periods, depression was always a cloud on the horizon. In 1946, when living in his flat in London, he had what was described as a “complete nervous breakdown”. an incapacitating depression which immobilised him for a year. Angela with help from a day nurse, and a night nurse cared for him. Cherry, immersed in dread could hardly move, his arthritic pains aggravated. He lost stones in weight. He wanted Angela to be with him continuously; she took over all the administrative duties.


Later years

Lamer was sold in 1947. Cherry had shed his final responsibility, but his fluctuating psychological state was such that his doctor recommended a break in Eastbourne and in Eastbourne his psychological balance and peace of mind gradually returned. A further reprint of The Worst Journey sold over 165,000 copies. He and Angela went on cruises. He wrote a postscript to a new edition of The Worst Journey suggesting, amongst other things, that vitamin deficiency had been the cause of the disastrous return from the Pole.

Cherry returned to Eastbourne regularly throughout the early 1950s. He was thrilled when Churchill returned to power in 1951 He and Angela escaped from London by going to the Mediterranean. But through the 1950s he lost ground physically and mentally. He developed ‘lung congestion’, probably a symptom of heart failure. Seven years after the 1946 breakdown he was incapacitated for months by a further mental collapse. He suffered from skin rashes as well as arthritis. He became so obsessed by noise that he and Angela moved into the Berkeley Hotel. In May 1959 he slipped in The Berkeley and broke his arm. He died of pneumonia on the 18th May. 1959.

He was buried in Wheathampstead cemetery next to his father, Major General Apsley Cherry-Garrard. His life was illuminated and dominated by his experiences in Antarctica and his writing. The Worst Journey gave a unique insight into the fascination and the lure of the Antarctic and Antarctic exploration. He was blessed in his marriage to Angela who supported him throughout.

Neil Olivers programme on Bruce

2 Oct

Neil Oliver has made an excellent film on Bruce

It was one of his ‘ Last Explorers’ series and  was on BBC 4 on Tuesday 24th Sept. You can get it on catch-up.

Obviously It will not be there for too long, but we have downloaded it.

It makes an excellent pair of bookends with my book on Bruce and, of course, the Audiobook.!!



28 Aug

These images have now been added.

The map image contains Scott’s route from the South Pole to his final camp 15 miles from ‘One Ton Depot’ and an insert of the resupply of ‘One Ton Depot’ by Cherry-Garrard and  Dimitri Gerof.

Apsley Cherry Garrard, (Cherry), Part 3

20 Aug

I have covered Cherry’s early life and his experiences on the Terra Nova expedition in my blogs of the 5th and 25th July.


This blog covers some of his experiences after the expedition.



The resupply of food and fuel to ‘One Ton Depot’ by Cherry-Garrard & Dimitri Gerof


Cherry died in 1958, forty-four years after the Terra Nova had returned to Cardiff, but his experiences on the expedition and the aftermath of these experiences, became a permanent scar. The expedition was reported in the press as an example of ‘gallantry in the face of catastrophe’ and as ‘a moral and spiritual expedition’, but Cherry did not see it like this. He had lost the two people he most admired in the world – Edward Wilson and ‘Birdie’ Bowers and he was haunted by their loss and by the thought (and suggestion) that when he was sent to replenish One Ton camp, he could have advanced further south of One Ton and possibly saved the explorers. One report claimed that the dog handler, Dimitri, stated that he (Dimitri) had wanted to take the dogs on alone from One Ton. An armchair specialist claimed that ‘all that could have been done was not done’.


Cherry had been a member of the party that found the tent where the bodies of his dead companions lay. He had seen Scott’s arm laid across Wilson. He had searched for Wilson’s watch to give to Oriana, Wilson’s widow. He had found the notes that Wilson had left. How could he forget? How could he not go over and over the events and question himself about his and Dmitri’s return?

When he finally arrived at base camp from One Ton he collapsed from physical and mental strain, hardly able to get out of his bed for weeks. He suffered from headaches, fainting fits and serious, profound depression. As he slowly recovered over the months, Dr. Atkinson the base doctor became a friend as well as an adviser and confidant. The two men became united in their distrust of Lieutenant Teddy Evans, who went home with the relief ship (see below). They (and others) lacked confidence in Teddy.[i]

On Cherry’s return to England he returned to ‘Lamer’, his Hertfordshire home. He found it was remarkably unchanged; he went over the estate affairs with his adviser- his income from his estates had increased – he met up with his tenants. He visited his Antarctic colleagues and their relatives. He lived the social life of a wealthy landowner, but his underlying melancholy and anxiety remained.

Scott’s Last Expedition, Scott’s diary was published in October 1913. It was well received, but Cherry had reservations about it. He felt that Scott had changed the story into an allegory of the Christian Story [ii]. But he mainly felt threatened (in the light of criticism of his activities), that the account failed to make the point that was so important to him personally. This was, that on the outward southern trek, Scott had taken the dogs further south than originally planned. As he read the report Cherry suspected that the committee responsible for the book, had produced a cover-up that aimed to enhance Scott’s reputation.

The story of the dogs and the dog food is complex to unravel. The dogs were supposed to turn back at the base of the Beardmore Glacier but Scott, realising their worth, decided to take them onto the glacier where they continued on the southbound journey as far as the Lower Glacier Depot. This decision, though it helped the British party on the glacier, was to have far reaching effects. Scott had not left enough dog food in the depots on his outward journey for the return and clearly more food was used when the dogs continued to the Lower Glacier Depot. When Mears turned back he carried a message from Scott that said that after Mears and the dogs had got back to camp and had rested, they should return to the Ice Barrier as far as One Ton camp carrying fuel and supplies. Scott wanted this to be done by March 1912. He wrote that in the event of Mears returning too late to do this in the necessary time frame, it was absolutely essential that, somehow or other, the supplies should be delivered to One Ton.

Mears and Dimitri turned back from the Lower Glacier Depot on December 11, 1912, 360 miles from the Pole. They had a very difficult journey to Base. Subsequently Mears did not take the dogs back onto the Barrier for the essential run to One Ton as demanded by Scott. This was mainly because he, with a number of colleagues, was booked to return home on the relief ship. Ranulph Fiennes suggests that Mears could actually have completed the run to One Ton and back and still have been on the relief ship[iii] and this may be true, but Mears did not do this; he needed to get home to sort out family affairs, his father had died- he would not run the risk of missing the ship. Someone else would have to do it.

The whole sorry saga is complicated by the fact that Teddy Evans collapsed with scurvy on HIS return from the Plateau. Lieutenant Evans had been sent back with two companions in early February. Scott entrusted him with pivotal instructions, a final message intended to OVERRIDE all previous instructions. Scott stated that the dogs were to come further south than One Ton. Mears was to take the dogs to 82-83°S, allowing Scott to meet the dogs in early March.

Lieutenant Teddy Evans became desperately ill with scurvy on the return journey. He was so ill he was unable to advance and had to be rescued from the Barrier where he lay helpless, looked after by Stoker Lashly, apparently anticipating death. Dr. Atkinson travelled onto the Barrier and carefully nursed him back to health.

Whatever happened to Scott’s last pivotal instructions that the dogs should go further south then One Ton, they did not get to Cherry.

It was clearly understood that food had to be got as far as One Ton, but the decision as to who to send with the relief dog team was difficult. It was considered that Wright, as a scientist, had to remain at Base to make the meteorological and other scientific observations. Dr. Atkinson was needed to care for Teddy Evans. Cherry was the only possibility; so, burdened by poor eyesight, limited basic skills in navigation, and a lack of dog driving experience, Cherry set out with Dimitri, the dog handler, to the depot, 150 miles away on the featureless Barrier.

Navigation was difficult. Cherry had to rely on Dimitri to spot the cairns. At One Ton Camp they were held down by weather conditions for four days. The dog food and fuel was running out. Cherry knew that the only way that further progress south could be made was by killing the dogs, but he knew also that Scott’s instructions had been that the dogs were not to be risked. He had no information about Scott’s final instructions. In addition Dimitri apparently developed a right-sided weakness and was unable to cooperate. But probably the most important factor was that Cherry had no reason to suppose that the polar party were in trouble. He had absolutely no way of knowing that of the five returnees, one had already died, Oates was die soon and the remaining three were in a battle against death which they were to lose at the end on March.

On the10 March 1912, Cherry, leaving a message for Scott, turned back to make the return journey to Base.

After his slow medical improvement and his return to England Cherry, at home in Lamer brooded. He went over and over the dog scenario. His distrust of Teddy Evans festered, particularly when Teddy was made part of the committee writing an official, formal account of the expedition. Cherry was against this; he thought it would be a permanent shame if the story was told by Evans who had been ‘the one blot on what I believe is the best expedition which has ever sailed’.[iv]

It was therefore music to his ears when the Secretary of the committee approached him to ask him to take over the account, as Teddy was too busy.

Cherry accepted immediately.


To be continued



[i] Wheeler, S. Cherry, A life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard, 2001, Jonathan Cape, p. 79,96,138.

[ii] Wheeler, S. Cherry, A life of Apsley Cherry Garrard, 2001, Jonathan Cape, p 161.

[iii] Fiennes, R. Captain Scott, 2003, Hodder and Stoughton, p. 360.

[iv] Wheeler, S. Cherry, A life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard, 2001, Jonathan Cape P. 138.

Apsley Cherry Garrard (CHERRY), CONTINUED

25 Jul

I wrote about Cherry’s childhood and his appointment to the ‘Terra Nova’ on 5th July.           This is part 2


The TERRA NOVA expedition, 1910-1914.


Cherry loved the life on the ‘Terra Nova’, but the expedition, which started so well, was to leave an indelible scar. Cherry was Wilson’s assistant zoologist, he became expert at skinning birds and animals. He enjoyed the on–board camaraderie and joined enthusiastically in any work that needed to be done. He was able to laugh at himself. Wilson wrote that Cherry ‘really is splendid’.


Scott’s brief was to continue the exploratory, scientific and geographic work begun on the Discovery expedition and to get to the South Pole (Wilson wrote, we must get to the Pole). In addition, Wilson had a personal aim – to investigate a possible link between dinosaurs and birds by investigating penguin embryology. A German zoologist and naturalist Ernst Haeckel, had promoted and popularised Charles Darwin‘s work and developed the theory “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” which suggested that an individual organism’s biological development, (ontogeny), parallels its species’ evolutionary development (phylogeny) i.e. if Wilson could obtain early specimens of Emperor Penguin eggs he might find scales to back up this theory i.e. that the birds had descended from dinosaurs.


Wilson chose Emperor Penguins for his investigation because they were flightless and he thought (wrongly), that they were amongst the most primitive of birds. Apart from Wilson’s scientific enthusiasm, there was the added incentive that if the theory of development could be substantiated it was entirely possible that the connection would earn the expedition the highly influential Darwinian Prize.


Wilson picked Cherry and his friend ‘Birdie’ Bowers for the 60 mile trek to the Emperor Penguin colony; a round trip of 5 weeks. The trip was to be Cherry’s first serious trial on the ‘Terra Nova’ expedition.


Emperor Penguin chicks had been found on the Discovery expedition and Wilson, thinking that the eggs would be laid towards the end of June, set out at the end of that month. Cherry embarked on a potentially suicidal journey, enduring almost continuous darkness, freezing temperatures – at one point down to -77°F, ice surfaces like sand, progress of about a mile per day, lurking crevasses and permanent fatigue. He developed blisters on his fingers that leaked puss by night and froze by day.

On the trip meteorological information on the Antarctic Ice Barrier was recorded. Cherry gave up hope of survival. His hope was to die without much pain.

I don’t believe minus seventy temperatures would be bad in daylight, not comparatively bad, when you could see where you were going, where you were stepping, where the sledge straps were, the cooker, the primus, the food….when it would not take you five minutes to lash the door of your tent and five hours to get going in the morning.



The Winter Journey around Ross Island to obtain Emperor Penguin eggs


The three men reached the penguin colony in nineteen days. In order to investigate the eggs in situ three precious days were spent building a stone igloo on a high ridge below the top of a hill (the remains of the hut were discovered by Sir Edmund Hillary on his journey to the Antarctic in the 1950s).


Penguin Colony


Finally the men collected five eggs, but Cherry’s eyesight was so bad that he fell repeatedly on the return to the hut and smashed the two he had been given to carry. Later the three endured another ghastly complication -with the wind was blowing ‘as though the world was having a fit of hysterics’ the canvas roof of their ‘hut’ was blown away and the three lay exposed to the raging elements, mummified in snow, in darkness and with no food or drink. They sang songs and hymns. Cherry’s admiration for his two older companions was without bounds.

They had also carried a tent. This was blown away by the storm, this loss made a successful return virtually impossible. When the storm abated, the tent was found. It was weighted down by ice and had dropped out of the sky like a closed umbrella. Wilson insisted they returned to their base.


Cherry, Wilson and Birdie Bowers after the journey to the penguin colony. Cherry’s fingers are stiff and swollen with puss. The trio were voraciously hungry and, when they warmed up, smelt horribly.


Cherry had contributed to the collection of meteorological records that would not be repeated for seventy years (and then by machines which malfunctioned). Despite this heroic journey for scientific advance when the eggs were finally examined, years later, the three eggs that Cherry left in the Natural History Museum did not prove the connection between dinosaurs and birds.


Cherry, aided by his friend and Hertfordshire neighbour George Bernard Shaw, later wrote The Worst Journey in the World, about the expedition. It is a best seller.


Cherry’s next big experience was the assault on the Pole. Scott divided the advance into three distinct sections: the Ice Barrier, the Glacier and the Plateau. The expedition set out with motor sledges, pony sledges (the ponies were to be sacrificed when they had got their loads to the glacier) and dog sledges. Cherry was a pony handler. His pony ‘gallant little Michael’, black eyes dulled with fatigue, was shot in early December. The next day Michael was eaten.


Cherry was one of the twelve men who strained and struggled to haul three laden sledges up the Beardmore Glacier — 120 miles long, 25 feet wide, riddled with crevasses and rising from 300 feet to 9000 feet. Scott whittled the advancing party down to eventually, five men. Cherry was sent back on the 20th December with three others. Characteristically he asked Scott if he had disappointed him—‘No, no, no’.


The assault on the South Pole


Scott sent the last party of three back on the 3 January 1912. The returnees, the Last Supporting Party, were led by Scott’s Second in Command, Teddy Evans who was to become seriously ill on the return.


Cherry’s personal trials were to evolve.


As is well known, Scott and his four companions all died on their attempted return from the Pole, but in February 1912, anticipation of a successful return was high. Scott had instructed that a sledge should be sent with supplies to ‘One Ton Camp’, a depot one hundred and fifty miles away on the Barrier. As arrangements were being finalized for this journey, news reached base that Teddy Evans had collapsed and was thought to be dying from scurvy, thirty –five miles out on the Barrier.


Dr. Atkinson, who had been going on the supply mission, clearly had to abandon these plans to go out and rescue Teddy Evans. There were few people at the Base – a decision had to be reached as to who should accompany Dimitri, the dog handler, on the supply mission. Of the men available, Wright, an oceanographer, was needed to continue scientific work. Cherry had to go; he was not a navigator, he had never driven dogs, he had awful eyesight, but with trepidation (‘I’m right in it’), he set out with Dimitri to find a depot 150 miles distant in a featureless barrier. His goggles misted, he struggled with the navigation; Dimitri had to pick out the cairns.


Scott had initially issued instructions that the dogs were to be saved at any cost (for a further attempt), but had apparently subsequently issued further verbal instructions, via Teddy Evans when he sent Teddy back, that the dogs should come further south to meet him (Scott) on his return. These orders were not transmitted to Cherry, probably in the confusion around Teddy’s collapse. Cherry, who would of course never disobey an order from Scott, thought his priorities were to save the dogs. In any case, as he set out for ‘One Ton Camp’ he had no reason to suppose the Polar party were in need of food.


But tragically, when Cherry was waiting in ‘One Ton Camp,’ Scott’s party were in desperate trouble, hoping against hope that the supply sledge HAD gone further south with the supplies that could have saved them.


At ‘One Ton’ Cherry and Dimitri were caught in a storm that made further progress pointless. The dog food was running out. Dimitri developed a paralysis of his right arm and side. Cherry had no idea that his leader was in desperate straits. On the 10th March, with just enough food for the return journey Cherry laid a small depot of food and turned north towards his base.


Dear Sir, We leave this morning with the dogs for ‘Hut Point’ (the base). We have made no depots on the way in being off course all the way, and so I have not been able to leave you a note before. Yours sincerely, Apsley Cherry Garrard.

(quoted in Sara Wheeler’s ‘A Life of Apsley Cherry Garrard’).


Scott Wilson and Bowers were to die later that month, just twelve and a half miles to the south of “One Ton Camp”


To be continued





Easy link to buy my new audiobook

25 Jul

To buy my new audiobook ‘William Speirs Bruce Forgotten Polar Hero’ click here https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/B07TKF81LH/?source_code=AUKFrDlWS02231890H6-BK-ACX0-156103&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_156103_rh_uk

Edgar Evans

15 Jul

Some years ago I wrote the biography of Edgar Evans. Edgar was a Petty Officer with Scott on ‘Discovery’ and a Chief Petty Officer on the ‘Terra Nova’ Expedition. He was the first to die on the ill-fated return from The South Pole and in some circles, was blamed, most unfairly in my opinion, for the deaths of the whole party.

The book is entitled ‘Captain Scott’s Invaluable  Assistant, Edgar Evans’. Details can be found in the book section of this blog.

Now, I am delighted to say, a documentary and film are planned on Edgar.  The reason  for this, is that Edgar’s great grandson, Tyler Ford, aged 11, is a  World Champion Kick Boxer and a film focussing on Edgar’s family is apparently to be made this year. Ross O’Hennesy (from Game of Thrones), is to play the adult Edgar, whilst Tyler plays Edgar as a boy. Tom Delmar is the Producer.

I hope it all works out!.  A film will certainly revive interest and pride in Edgar in South Wales and, perhaps, money will be available finally for the much planned statute of Edgar in his Antarctic kit ( the maquette is excellent), which, it is hoped, will be erected in front of the Swansea Museum.

This is a clip from the ‘Swansea Sound’ related to the film ‘Terra Nova’. Here Ross O’Hennessy describes the current position.


Apsley Cherry –Garrard (Cherry)

5 Jul

In a blog some weeks ago I wrote about Apsley Cherry- Garrard’s  devotion to Edward Wilson both in person and after Wilson’s death.

I think Cherry deserves further attention – he paid a pivotal role in Scott’s attempted return from the South Pole in 1912, and he wrote a book about a search for Emperor Penguin eggs (The Worst Journey in the World, published in 1922), that is one of the most popular Antarctic books ever published. An excellent biography, ‘Cherry, A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard’ was published by Sara Wheeler in 2001.

Family photo album: Acc 6030: Apsley Cherry -Garrard with Ada: Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies (HALS)

Cherry was wealthy, but shy and uncertain of himself, his social isolation exacerbated by extremely poor eyesight – he could hardly recognize friends across the room (his father, General Cherry-Garrard, who was influenced by the army’s refusal to allow soldiers to wear glasses which were thought to be a sign of weakness, only allowed him to wear wire framed pebble-lense glasses when he was fifteen).

But General Cherry-Garrard is said to have been the central presence of Cherry’s life and as a young man he was enamoured by stories of his father’s achievements in India and China where he (Cherry’s father), had fought with merit in the army. Cherry wanted to live up to his father’s example.

Family photo album: Acc 6030: Family Group, 1894: Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies (HALS)

But the General died in 1907 at the age of seventy-four, when Cherry was only twenty-one and in his final year at Christ Church, Oxford (his father’s college).   When he ‘came down’ (with a Third Class degree), Cherry came into an inheritance that included a large estate in Hertfordshire, an estate in Berkshire, land in Wales, a large income, his mother, five younger sisters, plus all the attendant responsibilities and worries. He felt unequal to the challenge. uncertain what to do with his life, at loose end, – he knew he was unsuited to follow his father into the army, he certainly didn’t want to settle down to the life of a country gentleman. He decided to see the world and set off on extensive travels in 1909.


Clutterbuck Vol VII, p494c   Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies (HALS)



Family photo album: Acc 6030: Apsley Cherry- Garrard on ship: Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies (HALS)

But by chance, before he set out,i n 1908, he visited his much older cousin,Reginald Smith. Smith, a brilliant barrister, had abandoned the law to lead the publishing company Smith Elder and Co (the company published Trollope,Thackeray and Browning among others). Smith and his wife had a shooting lodge in the Highlands which their close friends Edward and Oriana Wilson visited regularly and when Cherry visited his cousin he met the couple.

The visit took place when Cherry’s father had been dead for less than a year. He was vulnerable, uncertain, without motivation. The meeting with Edward Wilson was a wonderful panacea — Cherry had lost his faith some years before and he found Wilson’s belief in a divine purpose attractive and reassuring. It gave him a purpose in life and a meaning to life. He came to admire Wilson greatly; a guide and a father figure.

When he was on his travels and in Brisbane, he heard the official news that Robert Falcon Scott was planning a second expedition to Antarctica. Cherry knew immediately that this was the opportunity he wanted. Wilson had been appointed Chief of Scientific Staff and Cherry wrote to Wilson and Reginald Smith (who knew Scott), suggesting he cut short his travels and apply for a position on the Terra Nova expedition.

He knew that his chances were slim – 8,000 men applied to join Scott. But Wilson, via Reginald Smith, suggested that, to help the shaky finances of the expedition, Cherry should offer £1,000 pounds (Captain Titus Oates gave this amount also). Cherry had absolutely no scruples about this and promptly forwarded the money. His application was refused.

He decided to leave the cash in Discovery’s coffers anyway. Scott was impressed, met him, and offered him a place as a member on the scientific team. Cherry was delighted, (though he almost failed the medical examination because of his eyesight–it was decided to accept him if he accepted the additional risks). By this time, he wrote, he ‘would have accepted anything’.

Preparations started immediately: He learnt to type. His sister sewed a special sledging flag –she visited the Kensington School of Art to learn special stitching that looked identical on both sides of the cloth. Cherry got to know his fellow officers and the crew.

His Antarctic experience had begun!

To be continued





Audiobook on William Speirs Bruce

14 Jun

The book has been made into an audiobook and here is the link to the retail sample on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/dennis-kleinman/william-speirs-bruce-forgotten-antarctic-explorer

I hope you find it interesting!!

Dr. Edward Adrian Wilson and Apsley Cherry Garrard

28 Apr

Apsley Cherry Garrard  went on a famous, and awful, expedition with Edward Wilson in search of very young specimens of Emperor penguin eggs.  Wilson wanted to investigate Darwin’s theory of evolution through penguin embryology.  During the journey to the Emperors breeding ground Wilson, Cherry Garrard and ‘Birdie’ Bowers endured virtually continuous darkness, snow with a surface like sand, temperatures that at one point dropped to minus 76 degrees fahrenheit, crevasses. They returned with three precious eggs.

Cherry Garrard wrote the book ‘The Worst Journey In The World’, as a record of this sortie. It was a best seller

Cherry Garrard thought of Wilson as a father figure He wrote that if you knew Wilson you could not like him, you simply had to love him

I have a short film on Wilson on my cruise details which I have decided to post here.