Elephant Island and Beyond (The Diaries of Thomas Orde Lees)

Edited by John Thomson.


Poor old Orde Lees does not feature greatly in the annals of heroic age exploration of Antarctica. We first come across him on Shackleton's expedition of 1914 and the news is not good - he recognises he is not the most popular person amongst the 22 men awaiting rescue on Elephant Island. Shackleton had gone off in a jaunt around the Southern Ocean in a small boat looking for assistance and had taken Harry McNeish with him. Now there was a grumpy old sod if there ever was one. Shackleton recognised that old McNeish had to be got out of the way if he was to return to Elephant Island and find his men not torn apart buy dissent and argument. With McNeish out of the way it was Orde Lees who was voted the next 'weakest link' to the point where he feared he would be the first victim of cannibalism if the food situation were to get a bit tight.

Shackleton seemed to put down this man as a troublemaker at every opportunity. The truth is Orde Lees was an extraordinary man. He played a significant part in keeping the men alive on Elephant Island and his journals were eventually recognised as unbiased, truthful recollections of what happened.

Orde Lees was also a significant early advocate in the use of parachutes for pilots in the RAF. He went on to obtain an exemplary war record.

Published by Bluntisham Books.