One of the most famous moments of self-sacrifice in British history is to be honoured at a special event at Meanwood Park in Leeds this weekend.
On March 17 1912 Captain Lawrence Oates, suffering from severe frostbite on the return journey from the South Pole as part of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s historic expedition, uttered the phrase which has since passed down into folklore: “I am just going outside and may be some time”.
It was the day of his 32nd birthday and to try to save the lives of the rest of the party who were trapped in an Antarctic blizzard with little or no rations left and no hope of rescue, Oates knowingly walked out into the frozen wastes to his certain death and was never seen again.
Now 100 years on a special memorial event to mark the death of Captain Oates will take place on Saturday at noon at Meanwood Park, which was the Oates family’s home in Leeds before they sold it to Leeds Corporation in 1954 for the people of the city to enjoy as a public park.
The ceremony will see the unveiling of new interpretation panels and a blue plaque to tell the story of the Oates family in Leeds.
The plaque will honour Captain Oates, with the inscription repeating the reference to him being “a very gallant gentleman,” a phrase which features on the Antarctica memorial created for him by the rescue team who discovered the bodies of Captain Scott and his colleagues. They also found Scott’s diary which told of Oates’ self-sacrifice and his poignant final words.
Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes said: “Captain Lawrence Oates was a true explorer and very brave man. Most explorers today can call on support from satellite phones and helicopters but in Oates’ day they were completely alone.
“Few men have laid down their lives to give their friends a better chance of survival. I’m delighted that the centenary of this hero’s death is to be remembered.
The ceremony has been organised by Leeds City Council and Meanwood Village Association,