Oates, Lawrence Edward Grace, 1880-1912

Alternative names
Birth 1880-03-17
Death 1912-03-16

Biographical notes:

Lawrence Edward Grace Oates was born in Putney, London, on 17 March 1880. He was educated at Eton College and privately until 1898, when he was gazetted to a militia regiment. Two years later, he joined the Iniskilling Dragoons, a cavalry regiment, and served with distinction in the Boer War in South Africa.

Severely wounded in March 1901, he was invalided home for a short time, before returning to the front by the end of the year. Promoted lieutenant in 1902, Oates served with his regiment in Ireland, then in Egypt, where he became captain, and later in India.

Oates volunteered to join the British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913 (leader Robert Falcon Scott), and was placed in charge of the nineteen ponies, which he cared for throughout the expedition, assisted by the Russian, Anton Omelchenko. During January and February of 1911, Oates took a prominent part in depot laying in preparation for the following summer's polar journey.

Setting out from Hut Point in November 1911, the Polar and support parties reached the foot of the Beardmore Glacier in December 1911, here the remaining ponies were shot and the dog teams sent back. Somewhat to his surprise, Oates was included in the five-man Polar Party, with Scott, Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers and Edgar Evans. Continuing south, they reached the Pole on 17 January 1912, only to find that Roald Amundsen had forestalled them by almost five weeks. On the return journey, the weakened party faced exceptionally unfavourable weather and sledging conditions, and Oates suffered gravely from frostbite. On 16 or 17 March 1912, laid up in a blizzard and concerned that he was reducing his companions' chances of survival, he ended his life by leaving the tent, his famous last words being 'I am just going out. I may be some time.'

Biographical work A very gallant gentleman by Louis Charles Bernacchi, Thornton Butterworth Ltd. London (1933) SPRI Library Shelf 92 [Oates, L.E.G.] Captain Oates, soldier and explorer by Sue Limb and Patrick Cordingley, Batsford, London (1982) SPRI Library Shelf 92[Oates, L.E.G.]

From the guide to the Lawrence Oates collection, 1899-1912, (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)


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  • South Africa (as recorded)
  • India (as recorded)
  • Ireland (as recorded)
  • Egypt (as recorded)
  • Antarctica Discovery and exploration (as recorded)