Tag Archives: General Cherry-Garrard

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.

LAMER PARK In HERTFORDSHIRE

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