Go out, buy, and read, Wade Davis' magnificent book: "Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest".
Do I really need to explain what this book is about - with a title like that?
The men - it is mostly although not all about men - it describes were of the generation who stood as grandchildren of Franklin's men and thus they are in time equidistant between us and 'the men who sailed with Franklin'. Like Franklin's generation, they were traumatised by War - in their case the First World War, not the Crimea. But they seemed to be cut from remarkably similar cloth. And talking of cloth, like many of the nineteenth century Arctic explorers, they tackled the harshest climates in the world in tweeds and worsted. Indeed, this prompted a great wisecrack by George Bernard Shaw who, as Davis reports, when he "saw a portrait of the 1921 Everest Expedition - the men dressed in Norfolk Jackets, knickerbockers, and puttees, Howard-Bury in Donegal tweed, with matching dark tie and waistcoat, Mallory wrapped in a woollen scarf - he famously quipped that the entire scene resembled a 'Connemara picnic caught in a snowstorm'." Inevitably this reminds me of the pathetic five layers of clothing I saw still adhering to Franklin Expedition surgeon Harry Goodsir's scapula, which included a silk undervest and a herringbone woollen waistcoat. Not much to keep you alive on King William Island...
The book took ten years to write and the quality of this research shows on every page. I must share with you two wonderful character sketches. Do people like this still exist today?
Of Charles Bruce:"Warfare suited Bruce. He was a man of action and deed, as subtle in movement as an ox. Given to horseplay and crude practical jokes, a brilliant mimic with a voice like a bass drum and a great hissing laugh, he was a figure cut to inspire Kipling: a British officer fiercely loyal to his regiment, paternally protective of his men, fluent in a dozen native tongues, with a limitless appetite for drink, sport, food and anything Indian. Martin Conway described Bruce's energy as that "of a steam train plus an express train". As a young man he was so strong that he could, with his arm extended, lift a grown man seated in a chair off the ground to ear level. To keep fit he regularly ran up and down the flanks of the Khyber Pass, carrying his orderly on his back. As a middle-aged Colonel he would wrestle six of his men at once. It was said by some that he had slept with the wife of every enlisted man in his force. To his friends he was know as 'Bruiser' Bruce; the men of his regiment called him simply Bhalu, the bear, or Burra Sahib, the Big Sahib."
You get the picture?
Or this man: "F.M. Bailey was no slouch. A veteran of the Younghusband invasion, he had been with Ryder and Rawling on the 1904 exploration of the Tsangpo/Brahmaputra headwaters, reaching Kailash and beyond. In 1910 he'd come up with the plan to disguise the thirteenth Dalai Lama as a postal runner during his escape from India - the only time, he later quipped, that a God incarnate had carried His Majesty's mails. In 1911 he'd walked 1,715miles through southeast China, crossing the headwaters of the Mekong and the Salween to approach India from the northeast, through the very jungles of Assam. A brilliant naturalist, he discovered scores of new species, including the legendary Himalayan blue poppy that bears his name. He once saved his own life by using a butterfly net to self-arrest and thus escape a snow slide as it grew into an avalanche. Seriously wounded three times during the war, in France and in Gallipoli, he became a British spy, a master of a dozen disguises, travelling as a Buddhist priest, an Austrian soldier, and an Armenian prisoner of war, and caused the Bolsheviks in Tashkent and Samarkand such grief that he would live with a Soviet bounty on his head for the rest of his days."
Incidentally, although born in Lahore in 1882, Bailey died only 85 miles from where I live, and he was still alive until I was nine years old. It seems strange that I could have met him.
This is a sophisticated, subtle and masterly book, and I earnestly recommend it to you all.