FROM THE SOUTH POLE TO THE SOMME
by Joseph T Major
Lord Scott of Devonport (1868-1944) was well known as the man who saved the Navy from the Depression. Nevertheless, there were Certain Topics that one avoided in his presence. Esteemed gentlemen of White's or the Carleton Club learned never to mention anything smacking of "south" in the former First Sea Lord's presence. Even a particular brand of cigarettes would evoke his ire.
Yet, when among his wife's more bohemian friends, he would unbend, and that topic could inspire chat, instead of rage. For example, he wrote a most stirring letter to the American writer H. P. Lovecraft after having read his At the Mountains of Madness, congratulating him for evoking the magnificent Antarctic desolation. The letter ends with the curious phrase, "I could have done 'IT' better." Later, in a letter to his correspondent Robert E. Howard, HPL mentioned "the Noble Lord's afflict'n of chek'd bitterness" which sums up Scott's self image.
Yet it all came about by accident.
London, March 27, 1910:
Preparations for the grand British Antarctic Expedition were proceeding apace. The crew and the Shore Party were (mostly) chosen, and the ship, the Terra Nova, was fitting out in the West India Docks. All seemed well, but for rumors that the American Admiral Peary was talking of a South Pole expedition, as was his countryman and fellow-claimant Dr. Cook. There was something about the Norwegians, too. And then there was that cad . . .
Perhaps Captain Scott was not preoccupied, thinking about his great rival. Maybe not. In any case, he should have been looking. "Moony" they had called him, and absent-minded he was. The driver of the cart apologized a hundred times, but the plain fact of the matter was that Scott walked in front of him, and it was only his quickness of thought and effort that enabled the captain to escape with only a broken leg and arm.
So someone had to be named to lead the B.A.E. Sir Clements Markham, President of the Royal Geographical Society, opposed the most logical candidate, and had to be told off by the Prime Minister himself. "This is no time for pettiness. The South Pole belongs to England," was Asquith's curt summary.
As a result, the explorer's luncheon in New York was an even greater sensation. "The Anglo-Saxon world will eventually own the two ends of the earth," the principal speaker said, and Admiral Peary, sitting at the head table, smiled. But then, he laid a bombshell. "And I have been chosen to take up the torch that has fallen from Captain Scott's hands, to achieve this goal."
The New York Times headline said it all:
SHACKLETON TO LEAD
BRITISH POLAR EXPEDITION
"No Better Choice" Says Admiral Peary
Announces Selection To Wild Congratulations
Will He Take Americans?
Last year, Ernest Henry Shackleton had turned back from the South Pole, only a hundred eleven miles short. At that, he and his companions had barely survived. In the year and a half since then, he had returned to acclaim, renown, and a well-deserved knighthood.
But not all was perfectly well. For example, Captain Scott was almost irrationally opposed to "that showy, vulgar Irishman". So was Sir Clements, who as head of the R.G.S. was a significant figure in the planning for the expedition. Yet the "showy, vulgar Irishman" possessed talents that Scott significantly lacked - and he was spoiling for another go.
Yet others were in the field . . .
New York, March 31, 1910:
In the few years remaining to him, Rear-Admiral Robert Edwin Peary would reveal by way of confidence that he himself had thought of going south, but had demurred out of modesty. However, the writer and explorer Wally Herbert, in his The Noose of Laurels, revealed that a medical board had already put paid to Peary's hopes to reach the South Pole, citing the pernicious anemia that would eventually kill him.
Yet, Peary did go by proxy, as it were.
In South, Shackleton describes the epochal choice that had such deep-seated repercussions. "Admiral Peary urged on me in the strongest terms the use of dogs. Citing the loss of the pony Socks on the Beardmore Glacier, he said, 'A dog team would never have gone through that crevasse.' I had to agree with him, but said that we had tried dogs, and could not handle them. 'I have just the man for you,' the Admiral said."
In A Negro Explorer at Both Poles, Matthew Henson said, "I was perturbed at being the only American on an expedition of Englishmen, but the thought of going to both Poles made the offer sound interesting." Peary's valet and assistant had been the motor, if not the navigator, of Peary's Polar dashes. "Matt" could get more out of Eskimos and dogs than any white man, some observed. The Inuit of Thule, when told of his accomplishments, said, "Yes, indeed, Mahri-Paluk could show those Englishmen a thing or two!"
While Henson and British Antarctic Expedition dog-handler Cecil Meares were shipped to Greenland to buy dogs, Shackleton set about organizing the rest of his men. He knew two contradictory things; first, that he would need his "own" men around him, so as to begin with a core he could trust, and second, that he would have to keep from forming a split of "his" men and "Scott" men. To that end, while he recruited such of his men as Frank Wild, who had been on the polar journey with him, and Douglas Mawson, who had been to the South Magnetic Pole during their dash, he endeavored to work with the "Scott" men, and asked that Scott's second-in-command Edward R. G. R. Evans come to America briefly to help him sort things out.
Evans recounted in his story of the expedition, South with Shackleton, "The 'Boss;' for so we all came to call him, was a man of prodigious attention to detail. In spite of his showman's personality, he was easy enough to work with, and his ability at managing the men was monumental." The future Lord Mountevans was one of those "converted". Others, such as scientific head Edward Wilson (who had been with Scott and Shackleton on their first polar dash) were less so, and it was generally agreed that the replacement of Wilson by Mawson was for the best.
The most urgent matters involved equipment. Shackleton, advised by Peary and Henson, as well as other experts, and considering his own experience, ordered many changes in the equipment. During a visit to Norway, he personally oversaw the trials of the motorcars, urging with great effort that they actually be tested in the snow, a choice that would pay many rewards later.
On June 1, 1910, Evans hoisted the White Ensign in the Terra Nova. At a grand celebration, Sir Ernest and Lady Shackleton wished them a fond farewell. His patron, the Queen-dowager Alexandria, was still in mourning for the late King Edward VII, and was represented by her sister, the Empress-dowager Marie of Russia. Sir Ernest would travel to New Zealand by steamer, having to raise more money and take care of the last few arrangements.
Which became extremely urgent. In South Shackleton commented, "I had never imagined that he would actually be doing it . . ."
Christiania (Oslo), September 30, 1910:
Fritjolf Nansen, whose Arctic drift in the ship Fram, and dash for the North Pole, had so energized the exploring world, had a sage comment on that day's news. "Sir Ernest is not bad, for an Englishman. He listened most attentively to my suggestions. Now Roald, he is a true Norseman. I think he will have a good race to run, and the English have always been good losers."
Six days after the departure of the Terra Nova from London, Nansen's old ship the Fram had set out from Bundefjord in Norway. Her commander Roald Amundsen had shared suggestions with Shackleton during his visit to Norway, but had kept his plans to himself. Newspaper reports spoke vaguely of more exploring in Greenland or the islands to the west.
The news that there was a race on was, therefore, electrifying.
Speaking in San Francisco, Shackleton said, "This is a stunt. He probably is going north, to find Bradley Land and see what a tale-teller Cook is." But privately, as he later said in South, "I felt deeply concerned. Amundsen was clearly a serious man and dreadfully efficient. We would need the best help possible." In urgent telegrams to Sir Clements and to Captain Scott, Shackleton urged an end to infighting, and begged to recruit a "local".
The man who could most confirm Peary's attainment of the pole had been turned away at the last moment. At least he could count himself an equal traveler with Shackleton. But Captain Robert Bartlett was a Canadian. Now, he found himself being besieged to take the conn of a new ship.
Bartlett commented (The Log of Bob Bartlett), "I had not felt welcome in Captain Scott's company. His air of 'men who have the same sentiment, the same up-bringing' was clearly an attitude of 'No Colonials Need Apply.' Shackleton, on the other hand, was more practical, or perhaps more desperate."
In New Zealand, Evans was at first furious. "After all the effort I had gone through, bringing an overloaded ship all this way, to be toppled from my command was an outrage. The Boss, however, had a perfect line of blarney. 'But Teddy,' he told me. 'I need you fresh, for the Polar dash.' I had hopes of being chosen, as who had not, but this reasoning seemed sensible at the time and I accepted it. Ever since, I have wondered, if that was just a rationalization after the fact. One mustn't question the gifts of Providence, though." (South With Shackleton)
"Privately, I was pleased that Captain Bob would be at the helm," Henson commented (A Negro Explorer at Both Poles). "The British Naval officers seemed standoffish. Mr. Peary had often commented on their follies in the Arctic and I had seen little, aside from Mr. Shackleton, to persuade me that they had changed."
Evans at first returned the compliment. "Mr Henson did not originally fit into our crew. He had acquired many of the habits of the savage Eskimo during his stay with them, and of course there was the matter of his nation and race. All this changed, though, during the storm." (South With Shackleton)
The Boss agreed. "Henson took charge of the bucket brigade, baling out the bilges to cries of 'Adooloo!' which we found was an Eskimo shout. His tireless strength and unflagging resolution won him the admiration of every man on board," Shackleton said (South).
The Terra Nova weathered the storm of December 1, reached Ross Island on January 2, and unloaded in haste. While Evans and Wild were left in charge of establishing the base hut and the Barrier caches, Shackleton and Bartlett made a reconnaissance along the Barrier. In 1908, Balloon Bight had drifted out to sea, ending Shackleton's plans to base there. Something equally shocking was waiting for him there now.
Bay of Whales (Balloon Bight), February 4, 1911:
Amundsen, ever practical, had spent the three weeks since his arrival at this inlet on the Barrier laying in supplies. Not being encumbered with a scientific program, he had no need to do anything but train and prepare. However, the Antarctic turned out not to be big enough for the both of them, as he learned when the Terra Nova turned up.
"Unless he was able to penetrate to Edward VII Land," Shackleton later said in South, "Balloon Bight was the only place Amundsen could establish a base. He was very sanguine about it all. 'Perhaps I will leave you a message,' he said at that dinner on board the Terra Nova."
Amundsen was keeping his spirits up before his hosts, but inside he knew better. "I knew the English had motor sledges, and I knew Shackleton's metal. The expedition would require the utmost effort from every man, and I acted accordingly." (The South Pole)
Sir Ernest returned to the new base at Cape Evans and began preparing in a like spirit. The three motor sledges were tuned and tested. The Discovery Hut on Hut Point was cleared and stocked for the spring. Henson, Meares, and gentleman volunteer Apsley Cherry-Garrard were turned out to instruct as many men as possible in working with dogs. When Captain Bartlett took the Terra Nova back to New Zealand in February, he bore more confidential messages from Shackleton.
"Establishing Eighty Degree Depot was a trial," Henson said (A Negro Explorer At Both Poles). "One of the motor sledges broke down for good, and the inexperienced dog drivers could only make ten to fifteen miles a day. After the incredible ice jumbles of the Arctic ice pack, traveling on the Barrier was simplicity itself. There were times when I wished that Mr. Peary had gone south, just to see how easy it was. Somehow, in spite of everything, we managed to get four tons of supplies out there before the sun set for the winter."
During the Antarctic night, Shackleton prepared and selected his men, deciding on his missions. For the Polar Party he was hampered by two promises he had made, but neither of the men would fail him. Reluctantly, he removed Mawson from the list, since Mawson had agreed to fulfill Wilson's quest for a penguin's egg, which would require going out in the middle of the Antarctic winter. Mawson and his companions, Cherry-Garrard and Indian Marine officer Henry "Birdie" Bowers, would instead carry out other explorations later in the year.
Cherry, as they called him, made a profound observation: "The Boss had a unique talent of making you seem, at the moment, his closest friend and most profound intimate. We all had an hour or so alone with him, to talk, and the results were gratifying." (The Worst Journey in the World).
Shackleton was concerned with divisions, not so much among the expedition itself, but how it might appear to his diverse backers. "There were still people at the R.G.S. who were set upon their ways, and I was much troubled by the need to appear righteous in their own eyes," he said (South). Sir Clements had publicly doubted Shackleton's Farthest South of 1909; and indeed in many ways he was an "old-fashoned" man, as demonstrated by the incident which led to his death.
It was in these cicumstances that Shackleton decided on the Polar Party. Of "his own" people, only the loyal Wild would come; of the "Scott" people, Lieutenant Evans and the tough little Chief Stoker William Lashly; and of the "neutral" people, the photographer Frank Hurley. And, in spite of the very real concern about a British Expedition, Matt Henson could not be left behind.
Not long after the sunrise, the Polar Party and support parties made their way to Hut Point. On October 20, eyes always over the left shoulder towards the Bay of Whales, Shackleton set out in the wake of Skelton and the two surviving cars, aimed at an unknown destiny.
Polar Plateau, December 10, 1911:
Afterwards they agreed that Lashly had seen them first.
"I counted myself satisfied with the dogs," Shackleton said (South). "Admiral Peary's words had proven true; dogs had gone over vast crevasses equal to or greater than the one that had swallowed up Socks without suffering the least trouble. We had reached our old Farthest South a month early, in far better condition. After the great blizzard on the Polar Plateau had cleared, we were able to make prodigous speeds."
"The Boss had given thought to breaking up any differences among us," Evans observed (South With Shackleton). "We had two tents, and every other night men rotated, so we had different stories to tell. Henson became a welcome tentmate, with his great fund of tales of the Eskimos and their hospitality. This contrasted with Lashly's cheery sea stories, or Hurley's lectures on cameras, or the Boss explaining his latest business plan. We got along well."
"Mr. Peary was accustomed to awaken me; he would knock on the ice and set off north, while I would strike the camp and then follow," Henson had observed by way of contrast (A Negro Explorer At Both Poles) "Mr. Shackleton, however, would see that all was in order and then strike out in the lead. He was everywhere, urging the men and dogs on to more."
For all that they were "always looking over their left shoulders", it was Chief Stoker Lashly who was on the left of the march that day, and he saw the dots to their left.
Shackleton said (South): "Lashly called out, 'I see something!'
"The party stopped and we all turned to peer, like idlers watching a catastrophe and gawking. 'It must be Amundsen,' someone said. We continued to watch, and were relieved, if only briefly, when we could see that they were also going south.
"There was a long silence until I said, 'It looks like we had better go see them.'"
Over that way, there was a similar tumult. Amundsen had deliberately been pacing himself, keeping his men fresh by not exceeding fifteen miles a day. The five men Amundsen, Olav Bjaaland, Oscar Wisting, Sven Hassel, and Helmer Hanssen had begun to look over their right shoulders, as it were, on the plateau. Even the phlegmatic Wisting and Hanssen had jumped at shadows. Now, the race was at a dramatic crux.
"For such a long journey, the Norsemen appeared not to have had many dogs," Henson commented (A Negro Explorer At Both Poles). "I later found out why. In 1906 we ourselves had eaten dogs, in desperation, but this seems to have been a deliberate plan on Mr. Amundsen's part. How horrified my Eskimo friends like Ootah or Ooqueah would have been at such an act!"
"I stepped forward and held out my hand," Shackleton said (South). "'You look well,' I said to Amundsen. 'I trust your journey has not been hard?'"
"What Shackleton said afterward struck me like a bolt of lightning. I had never imagined that anything of the sort could ever come to pass," Amundsen recalled (The South Pole).
The South Pole, December 15, 1911:
In the American Deep South, some papers refused to run the famous picture. There was a controversy in Parliament, and many slight sighs in Norway (what would be fervent breast-beating in other lands). In Denmark, where he was pursuing his quest, Dr. Frederick A. Cook raged about "the vain triumph of brute force and brutality," on the basis that an enemy's friend is an enemy.
In camp that epochal December 10, Amundsen's trail navigator Helmer Hanssen wrote up his diary. "Evidently we are now all to go to the Pole together," he wrote (Voyages of a Modern Viking). For Shackleton had said to Amundsen, "We might as well make a party of it." Shackleton himself (South), Amundsen (The South Pole), Evans (South With Shackleton), Henson (A Negro Explorer At Both Poles), and Hanssen (Voyages of a Modern Viking) all confirm that statement.
For the remaining five days, the now joint party proceeded south. Shackleton was profoundly impatient at the limited pace of the commingled parties, but Amundsen kept to his established limit.
Finally, on the epochal December day, Amundsen and Shackleton took the lead once camp was broken. Pushing along behind them was Henson, who recorded the events. "Mr. Hanssen and Mr. Amundsen shouted as one, 'HALT!'. I had made my own estimates, and thought it was about time. The dogs lay down patiently. I went forward to Mr. Shackleton, took off my glove, and said to him, as Captain Bob had said to Mr. Peary not two years ago, 'I congratulate you, sir, on your attainment of the Pole.' He shook my hand vigorously, smiling broadly, 'Thank you, Matt,' he said, 'couldn't have done it without you.' Then I went to Mr. Amundsen. 'I congratulate you, sir, on your attainment of the Pole.' He was too moved to speak."
Then it was time to raise the flags. "I took the flag Queen Alexandria had given me," Shackleton said (South), "and prepared to plant it in the snow. I was somewhat surprised to note that Henson had a very patched looking flag, but he deserved the right of representing his own country. We took our flag, and the Norwegians theirs, and Henson his, and I said, 'All together now."
Henson was deeply moved. "Admiral Peary had entrusted me with the flag his wife had made for him, the flag we had carried to the ends of all our journeys together," he wrote (A Negro Explorer At Both Poles). "'Matt,' he had said, 'I know you will carry our nation's banner to the other end of the world, and bring it back safe to me again.' I had lashed it to a ski-pole the night before, and now it would indeed fly at the other end of the world."
Amundsen nevertheless was the one who spoke. As he and his men planted the Norwegian flag, he said, "So we plant you, dear flag, on the South Pole, by the side of your companions in adversity." (The South Pole).
Hurley then took the picture that would echo round the world. Shouts of "No, Boss!" echoed through the camp as the men urged Shackleton to stand by the flag. He had taken the last picture; this time, he would go down in history.
The agony columns would disappear from the front page of the Times; the New York Times would use headline type more appropriate to tabloids:
SHACKLETON, AMUNDSEN REACH POLE TOGETHER
Matthew Henson Plants U.S. Flag There
In the shot, Hurley had framed the three men standing by their national flags.
Bjaaland also photographed the scene, and then he and Hurley proceeded to take shots of the men standing by their flags. Shackleton himself took the camera, and ordered Bjaaland and Hurley to pose as well, so that none would be forgotten.
London, April 6, 1911:
It was quite a celebration. Admiral Peary had come from Maine, and indeed ever after he claimed that the day had been intentionally chosen to honor his accomplishment of two years ago. A month ago, the telegrams had flashed round the world from Christchurch. Shackleton had said, "I have done it. damn the RGS." Henson had followed his first boss's voice by saying "Stars and Stripes nailed to the South Pole." Two days after the arrival of the Terra Nova, the Fram followed, and Shackleton himself was on the dock to greet Amundsen. "He is a good man," Amundsen said.
Amundsen and his team were to return to Norway by the fastest steamers, to be honored by King Haakon. And a list of men from the BAE were to speed to Britain, including both Evans and Bartlett. (The Terra Nova would be commanded by a New Zealander named Frank Worsley, who would serve with Shackleton later.)
The special honors list was long and varied. For the Polar Party, the unique Polar Medal in Gold; with the other members of the shore party receiving the silver Polar Medal, and the rest the Polar Medal in bronze. For Bartlett, Evans, Mawson, and Wild, knighthoods; it was Sir Bob, Sir Teddy, Sir Douglas, and Sir Frank now. For the rest of the Polar Party, the Companion of the British Empire award (Henson commented, "I found it odd to be annexed to the British Empire, as it were, but I was told that it was a coveted honor." (A Negro Explorer At Both Poles))
And for the Boss himself . . . two days later, in the House of Lords, the ceremony of induction of a new member welcomed "The Right Honourable the Lord Shackleton of Antarctica". The doctor's boy had risen beyond his wildest imagination.
A week later, the expeditions were reunited in Oslo. King Haakon read out a speech praising Amundsen for his bravery and fortitude before decorating him and Bjaaland, Hanssen, Wisting, and Hassell. Then he turned to one side and said, "And I would also, in the name of the Norwegian people, thank the good comrade Shackleton."
"Shackleton and his men," he replied. "It was the stoutheartedness of the men who made the expedition a success."
He then added a further recognition. "His Majesty the King will announce today that Mr. Amundsen is to receive an honorary knighthood of the Order of the British Empire, while Mr. Bjaaland, Mr. Hanssen, Mr. Hassell, and Mr. Wisting are to receive honorary companionships in the same order. Moreover, the King is graciously pleased to grant them the British Polar Medal in Gold. Long may this concord of two great nations endure."
London, August 1, 1914:
In 1914, war broke out across Europe. Prime Minister Asquith took many steps to unify the nation; among them was naming Lord Shackleton to a ministry, the newly-created Ministry of Supply. Shackleton launched into his new position with his customary energy.
At the end of the year, the bulk of responsibility for production was assigned to the Ministry of Munitions. Some observers considered this a demotion for Shackleton; "too eager" and "too disorderly" they said.
But this was not. For Shackleton had gone to the trenches, as few other Ministers had, and listened to the men struggling to break through the gluey mud. "Why, it's as bad as the snow at the South Pole," someone now forgotten said to the conqueror of the Pole.
In those heated discussions, back in the hut at Cape Evans, during the Antarctic winter, the idea had evolved. What if the motorcars had a continuous belt running from wheel to wheel? Raymond Skelton, the mechanic, and always the improvisor, had created them. The motorcars had neither slipped or fallen on the Barrier. "With sufficient spares we might have gone all the way," Shackleton had said hyperbolically in South.
As the cold winter turned to a rainy spring, and a dire summer, the tracked trench-breakers began their evolution. The First Lord of the Admiralty, who had often clashed with Shackleton, curiously was his best supporter in this. "I was afraid that Lord Shackleton was just too much a man of my type," Winston Churchill said in his history of the World War, The World Crisis. "These 'tanks', as I called them, were a decisive weapon, and needed a decisive man to bring them to completion."
Not all that time was spent in weapons work, either, as when Shackleton graciously welcomed home his rival, giving the toast at the private banquet held to celebrate Robert Scott's promotion to Rear Admiral, for his gallant handling of the battlecruiser HMS Invincible at the Battle of the Falklands.
Just before his final test, Shackleton was called upon for a diplomatic mission. Relations between Germany and Norway had deteriorated even as they had grown in the wake of the Polar accomplishment. What soured the results was a minor action during the battle of Jutland, when Admiral von Hipper's Scouting Division had sunk a number of Norwegian trawlers, believing that they were radioing messages to the British.
A week later, Sir Edward R. G. R. Evans brought the destroyer HMS Broke up the channel to Oslo, where she was granted the honor of a royal review by King Haakon and Queen Maud. Norway was now with the Allied Powers; Britain had a naval base practically in the Germans' eyes. "The brave Norweigans initially suffered greatly from the dastardly German submarine attacks," Churchill observed (The World Crisis), "but we were soon able to close off the submarine menace altogether, thanks to this post on the other side of the North Sea."
Shackleton himself now was in France, waiting for the climax.
The Somme, July 1, 1916:
The New Armies of Kitchener were ready; half a million of England's finest young men. Also ready were thousands of a different sort of item. No fewer than sixty battalions of the new Tank Corps were in among the men; heavy tanks to break through the lines, and light ones to pursue into the enemy rear. Colonel Lawrence E. G. "Titus" Oates from the 5th Inniskilling Dragoons, a veteran of the Boer War and of the British Antarctic Expedition, commander of the 37th Cavalry Brigade (RAC), consisting of light tanks manned by cavalrymen, observed, "One didn't expect much of the machines, but some of the lads were willing to give it a try." Shackleton said of Oates that "'Titus' tended more to be dragged along by his subordinates than to take an actual lead, but he compensated by his gentlemanliness, which made such achievements seem effortless and natural.."
Shackleton had had the standing to argue against an early commitment of the new weapon. "They will work best in mass," he said, "and only in mass." While the eager New Armies trained, so did the new weapons that would save the efforts of these avid, patriotic, men.
Field Marshal Haig doubted their effectiveness, and yielded only grudgingly to their use, to the building of the support structure, the dumps of fuel and munitions, needed to make the new weapon work. But subordinates, such as the then General Edmund Allenby, saw an opportunity to pit armor plate against German bullets, not khaki uniforms; to rush cavalry through the holes and into the enemy rear.
In German history, July 1, 1916 is called "The Black Day of the German Army." The German front line was obliterated along a sixty-mile gap. Later historians would argue that the British had been lazy and not penetrated as far as possible, but the eight-to-ten mile penetrations of the front were far more devastating than had ever before occured in the war.
The exploitation phase began immediately thereafter. While the horsed cavalry made a run through the hole in the line, the light tanks followed. Yet where the horsemen were stopped by gunfire from some reinforcing unit, the tanks would roll up and smash it. Breakdowns, the need to bring up fuel, all slowed the pace of the advance, which in fact ground to a halt by the end of the month. A month, nevertheless, which saw the liberation of half Belgium.
The chief of the Greater General Staff, General von Falkenhayn, cracked under the strain. He was replaced by the victorious Field Marshal von Hindenburg, but he too could see no hope. His quartermaster-general, his principal assistant and mental mainspring, General Erich Ludendorff, after a presentation to the commanders, asked for advice. "Make peace, you fools!" someone shouted from the back of the room.
That day, the Allied Powers presented their peace proposals.
South Georgia, January 5, 1922:
The Earl of Kilkea, Britain's most famous man, said plaintively to his doctor, "You're always wanting me to give up things. What is it I ought to give up?"
"Chiefly alcohol, Boss," was the reply. "I don't think it agrees with you."
"Give me the medicine now," he said, vigorously, but it was too late for any medicine, and in a moment he was dead.
Shackleton could look back at a battered, if harshly tempered, world. Irony had superseded irony in the treatment of Germany. Shorn of Schleswig and particularly of Alsace-Lorraine, deprived of its colonies, stripped of the bulk of its fleet, confined to an army of half its pre-war size (from 800,000 to 400,000 men), reigned over by a nine-year-old boy who gloried in the style and title of Kaiser Wilhelm IV, Germany had suffered badly in the peace.
Yet, as Shackleton lay in the ship's cabin in the Antarctic harbor, much of that had been effectively undone. In the aftermath of war, Ally and Central Power alike had gone crashing into ruin. Kaiser und König Franz Josef had passed away; his great-nephew Karl had seen the ramshackle Austro-Hungarian Empire splinter into a dozen different nations.
But comparative peace reigned in Austria as opposed to the situation in Russia. The Russian autocracy had been unable to survive victory; a revolution had swept away the Tsar. But in turn, the liberal governments of Prince Lvov and Chancellor Savinkov had been unable to hold the nation together. From the Majority Socialist Soviet of Bukharin and Kamenev to the Dominion of the Plains of Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, a dozen ideological fractions tore apart the nation, and two dozen nationalities shook off the yoke of Petrograd. Armenian tore at Azeri; Livonian strove with Lett, and both fought the Poles, while Finland and Georgia drifted away, and unhappy Ukraine mirrored Great Russia in its conflicts. There was only one reliable peace-keeping force available.
The German press solemly reported on the accomplishments of "General von Amerongen", who was so modest he declined to be photographed, yet whose intuition was legendary; by harsh measures in war, and generous ones in peace, he restored order first to the Baltic States, then to northern European Russia. [It was small wonder when, after the grown-up Kaiser Wilhelm IV announced his abdication in order to marry "the woman I love", that he was succeeded by Kaiser Wilhelm III - his father, the infamous "Little Willie" of allied wartime propaganda, the "General von Amerongen" of peacetime news. "German democracy can absorb and rechannel his antics in a way that German autocracy could not," said Chancellor Brüning.]
The mini-German Army became augmented by auxiliary police, auxiliary security forces, anything but the name of an army. If Germany were tied down trying to bale out the East, it couldn't be stirring up trouble in the West.
Which boomed. Some strains resulted from the war, from positive ones (votes for women, and for the less-propertied) to negative ones (cynicism about the meaning of society). Britain owed on its war loans, yet possessed the sinews to recover; admittedly, the removal of much of the German economy, by the need to keep up a state of not-war, helped in recovering markets.
A greater boost came from the stress on technology launched by Shackleton's drive. His daring proposal for training institutes for engineering ameliorated the anticipated post-war recession, it is considered, and laid the foundations for further development. The men who had toiled in the trenches and seen the advantages of technology did not disdain engineering as "navvy's work"; nor did they look down on science, its beneficient mother.
In the States, 1921 had seen the third inauguration of President Roosevelt, with among the notable American men supporting him being both Admiral Peary (his last public appearance) and Matthew Henson. The re-elected President, hiding his personal infirmity, proposed a policy of renewed national vigor, supporting the training of the mind and body. "Politically, America is a friend to all, an enemy of none," he said. "Shielded from the world by two great oceans during our youth, in our maturity we step forward, ready to face its challenges."
Rather than found and fund them directly, like a good Republican Roosevelt preferred to foster the development of technological institutions by private hands. And yet his most daring initiative was yet to bear fruit.
"We are joined by the ties of language and of society," said Prime Minister David Lloyd George. "Let us, then, make this a union of powers, rather than an empire." With these words, the British Prime Minister signed the Treaty of Havana, formalizing the Anglo-American Alliance. For the first time ever, a formal intergovernmental body would come into being, where representatives of the nations would determine policy. "It's equally unpopular here and there," said President Roosevelt, "which means it'll be a bully success!" Those who pointed to the "British majority" of two representatives from the United Kingdom and one each from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa were counter-argued by those who pointed to the "American power bloc" of the five American representatives.
So, on the Admiralty yacht Enchantress, the famed Minister of Supply strove to restore his battered spirits and shattered health. Promoted in the War Honors List, raised to the heights of Haig and Allenby, Jellicoe and Beatty, Shackleton remained unaffected by his exalted nobility. All he wanted now was to rest.
He is buried on South Georgia, among the Antarctic wastes he loved.