Thomas Orde-Lees


“Orde-Lees was a public schoolboy, from Marlborough. His father was a formidable Victorian eccentric, who had been Chief Constable of Northamptonshire, and designed a chief constable’s dress uniform. Tall, dark, with an enigmatic ghost of a constant private smile, Orde-Lees had served in China during the Boxer Rebellion. It was on hearing Nansen lecture in 1897 after his return from the drift of the Fram that Orde-Lees “came to the conclusion,” as he put it, that he “would go polar exploring one day.” He tried unsuccessfully to join Scott’s second expedition. … What persuaded Shackleton to take Orde-Lees, however, was that he was a skier and climber. In addition, he was a motoring pioneer, and was experimenting with motor sledges.

“As Orde-Lees told the tale, he rode up from Deal to London on his motorcycle for his first interview with Shackleton ‘to give him some idea that I had a practical knowledge of internal combustion engines’. Shackleton, in what was becoming a familiar pattern, instantly, and to Orde-Lees’ amazement, accepted him.”

Roland Huntford

About Ernest Shackleton

Polar Explorer. Leader of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-1917.
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