Saturday, 31 March 2012

100 years today-Captain Scott.

Captain Scott wrote his last diary entry March 29th 1912,  knowing that his death was imminent despite being only 12 miles form safety. The atrocious weather, falling food supplies and exhaustion and weakness was all against them. His last recored words are painfully poignant.
Just before the walk South.
We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last ... Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for.

I've been quite taken with the whole Scott thing since childhood. beginning with Scott of the Antartic, the 1948 film with John Mills in the lead role. I didn't see it when it first came out! More recently I really enjoyed Ranulph Fiennes biography. On a very hot holiday in Crotia I recall reading of Scott's persistence in temperatures of minus 40! It's a brilliant read, and has a wonderful picture of Scott on the cover. This particular photo of Scott is the first one you see at the current exhibition at the Queens Gallery, The heart of the great alone.

I lingered long over that picture. Reflecting on the pathos and courage I struggled to move on. It seems to capture the whole story for me. There was just something about British men of that generation. The  the extraordinary willingness of literally millions of men to join the carnage on the Western front is no less impressive.

'Bowing to the will of providence' may seem antiquated to our sophisticated ears, I'm personally glad that in one way at least, I share something with Scott. Belief in a providential God does not paralyse me, since as Scott goes on to say, 'I'm determined still to do my best'. Or as Cromwell is reputed to have said to his troops, 'trust in God and keep your powder dry.'
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