A new beginning

As the year 1946 approached the twenty-one winterers of Operation Tabarin waited impatiently for news of their relief.

On board the Trepassey, Robert Sheppard (left), ship’s captain, Surgeon Commander E.W. Bingham (right), early 1946. (Photographer: K. Walton. Archives ref: AD6/19/2/E604/32) click photo to enlarge

Unbeknownst to the personnel at Hope Bay, Port Lockroy and Deception Island, Surgeon Commander Edward “Ted” Bingham and a new team of winterers were heading South aboard the MV Trepassey under the command of the SS Eagle’s former captain Robert Sheppard.

Botanist Ivan Lamb recorded the anxious and often frustrating days leading up to the relief of Hope Bay:

Crew of the MV Trepassey, Captain Sheppard at centre of the second row, his wife Sadie stands in the back row, 1945. (Photographer: Unknown. Archives ref: G10/2/1/1) click photo to enlarge

“Friday, 4th January.

[…]

In the evening a message came through for Taylor from the Governor of the Falklands, telling us that Cdr. Bingham had arrived in Stanley, and was being placed in charge of both incoming and outgoing parties; he would communicate with us direct.

Sunday, 6th January.

[…]

In the afternoon we picked up the weekly broadcast news from Stanley, and learnt that “Fitzroy” will be leaving to come to the South Shetlands on the 9th of this month. Despite Taylor’s request, we still have no official news regarding the arrangements made for our evacuation and that of our scientific material.

Monday, 7th January.

[…]

I made progress with the microscopic examination of my lichen specimens. Flett is still working on the packing and cataloguing of rock specimens and fossils.  James went out this afternoon with the plane table to conclude his large scale map of the Hope Bay area. A message came through from Bingham to tell us all that it is hoped to relieve all bases and evacuate us within the next ten days…

Friday 11th January.

A radio message from the “Scoresby”: now on her way to us, stand by ready for her arrival at 0800 hrs. tomorrow, arrange for rapid departure. We finished the packing of our effects, and our boxes and chattels are now all ready. There are 68 cases of scientific material, botanical, zoological and geological.”

Bad weather delayed the Scoresby for several days before she effected a successful relief:

“Monday, 14th January.

At 0330 hrs. we were suddenly roused from our slumbers by a voice bellowing: “Hey, you f—–s, don’t you want to be relieved?!” The “Scoresby” had in fact arrived, and Marchesi, Niddrie (the Port Stanley Meteorological Officer), and Dr. Andrews, the new medical officer for Base D, had entered the house and found everybody asleep. This was hardly to be wondered at, for we had no notification of the second attempt to get through to us. We tumbled out and dressed, and soon our scientific cases and personal baggage were being sledged down to the rocks and loaded aboard the waiting dingy from the “Scoresby”… [A]fter bidding farewell to Russell, James and Andrews, we all piled in among the boxes and bundled and pulled out to the ship. As soon as we and our gear were all aboard she turned and steamed out of Hope Bay towards the west, at about 0730 hrs. … Our mail was on the “Scoresby”, and as soon it had been sorted out we sprang upon it avidly and started to read letter after letter from home. Lunch and dinner of fresh mutton was relished by most of us. … At 2100hrs. we arrived at Deception, ran in through the “Bellows”, and tied up alongside the “Fitzroy”…  The “Trepassey”, the small diesel-engined vessel captained by our old friend, Capt. Sheppard, whom we saw standing on the oil barge to greet us, was lying at anchor some way off. We saw and saluted several familiar faces, including Reece of Base B, Capt. Pitt of the “Fitzroy” [and] and others. Cdr. Bingham…appeared and greeted us, then went onto the “Fitzroy” with Taylor for consultations. … Davies, Matheson and I went ashore in a dingy to revisit the old Base B house, and to look at the new dogs (nearly 50 of them) brought down for next year’s work.  …Bingham asked all members of both outgoing and incoming parties into the mess room of the “Fitzroy” for a drink, and introduced us to them with remarks expressing his appreciation of the work which we have accomplished. … It is understood that two new bases are to be established, one at Marguerite Bay and the other at the South Orkneys. We turned in some time after midnight.”

(Source: Ivan Lamb. Archives ref: AD6/1A/1944/B). Read Lamb’s account from the base diary here.

MV Trepassey at sea, Feb 1946. (Photographer: Unknown. Archives ref: G/10/2/1/3)

The homeward bound members of Operation Tabarin from Hope Bay and the new personnel under Bingham spent a short time together at Deception Island. The new arrivals were working feverishly to prepare the stores and equipment needed to build Base E on Stonington Island. Bingham recorded the day’s events:

“14th January 1946.

Started work at 0600 and worked right through until midnight so finishing the job. All Base B stores landed also Base E cargo was either put ashore or onto the lighter ready for reloading at a later date. Scoresby arrived at 2045 with Base D personnel. I had a long chat with Taylor and later about 0100 got both parties together and gave them some drinks to get over the rather cool atmosphere which had been evident.”

Source: Edward Bingham. (Archives ref: AD6/2E/1946/B1)

Members of Operation Tabarin on board SS Eagle, Deception Island: back row from left, Tom Berry, David James, Jock Matheson, Victor Russell, Ivan Lamb, James Farrington, Tommy Donnachie, Alan Reece, Andrew Taylor, Gwion Davies, Charles Smith and Eric Back, front row from left, Lewis Ashton, John Blyth, Norman Marshall and William Flett, Feb 1945. (Photographer: I.M. Lamb (E. Mackenzie). Archives ref: AD6/19/1/B160)

Victor Marchesi, commander of the HMS William Scoresby recalls how Bingham’s arrival marked the end of Operation Tabarin and the beginning of the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey (FIDS):

 

Three of Operation Tabarin’s number agreed to remain South for another winter, Frank White, cook at Port Lockroy, Victor Russell, surveyor at Hope Bay and Alan Reece, meteorologist at Deception Island. All three had joined Tabarin during the expedition’s second year.

On the 15th January 1946 the SS Fitzroy sailed from Deception Island to relieve the wintering party at Port Lockroy before returning the Tabarin members to the Falklands.

The SS Fitzroy, early 1946. (Photographer: A. Taylor. Archives ref: AD6/19/1/D1266/2) click photo to enlarge

Chief Wireless Operator “Fram” Farrington recalls his experience of relief and repatriation:

 

Taylor on Goudier Island, Dec 1944. (Photographer: I.M. Lamb (E. Mackenzie). Archives ref: AD6/19/1/A74)

Captain Andrew Taylor, the commander of Operation Tabarin during the second year recalls with some wry humour the expedition’s arrival in the UK at Chatham Docks on 9th March 1946:

“In the morning we were in sight of southern England off Dungeness, with many ships all about us, each intent upon her own business. … We passed below Dover’s grey cliffs in mid morning, the hills behind them being covered with snow. The coast of France was invisible as we passed through the Straits, owing to a light fog which lay low on the water. At reduced speed, we wove a course through the shallow Goodwin Sands, and were in the estuary of the Thames shortly after noon. The Customs authorities came aboard at Sheerness and our party got through with little delay or difficulty. Passing through the lock gates, we tied up at Chatham docks just before 1600 hours, with a small crowd of people at the quayside waiting to see their returning relatives. None of our officials were there, but Flett’s wife and relatives, Smith’s wife and child and a friend of Mayne’s were on board shortly after we docked. Half an hour later, Messrs Wordie, Roberts, Luke and MacIntosh came aboard for half an hour.  Each of us was given the following note;

 NOTE FOR RETURNING MEMBERS OF OPERATION TABARIN

  1. Any press reporters should be referred to the [P]ublicity Department of the Colonial Office.

  2. Any articles by members intended for publication should be submitted in draft to the Under Secretary of State, Colonial Office.

  3. If pressed regarding the locality of bases in the Antarctic there is no objection to your saying that administrative bases in the Falkland Islands Dependencies with meteorological stations, post office, etc., exist at Port Lockroy and Hope Bay in the Dependency of Graham Land, at Deception in the Dependency of the South Shetlands and at Cape Geddes in the Dependency of the South Orkneys; and that, as research and survey of these regions develops, further bases will be established by the Falkland Islands Government in the Dependencies.

In addition, all of the party except the scientists were handed a letter of welcome, in which, also, their services were terminated, except for the leave which was due them. Cmdr(S) evidently having misinterpreted the signal concerning our ten pound advance only as one of post-authorization of a similar advance made earlier in the voyage (which, incidentally, had been largely expended on Customs duties) no money was available for us. Eventually I prevailed upon him to cash my personal cheque for £30, out of which I doled out personal loans to those requiring them. No transport turned up, but Number One kindly made arrangements for it for us, and most of the party got away with their luggage before 2100 hours. Those who had homes to go to nearby London reached them before midnight, but Davies, Donnachie and Matheson, not being so fortunate, were unable to find a hotel in which to sleep and spent the night in a deserted air raid shelter. Postponing my search for accommodation until the morrow, I spent a quiet evening aboard the now deserted Ajax.

A few moments after the last of our party had left the ship, I received a copy of the following signal;

 To Ajax (R) C in C Nore, AS Chatham, NSO Chatham from Admty 092227

“Your 081833.  NSO Chatham will arrange road transport for (A) and (B) for delivery to Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road., SW 7.  Stores should arrive at Museum before 1600 Monday 11 March or if this is unpracticable before noon Tuesday 12 March.

(2) NSO Chatham is requested to inform Museum Authorities by Telephone Kensington 6323 of approx time of arrival stores at Museum

(3) Individuals should make own arrangements for transport of (C) but NSO will provide local Naval Transport to take luggage to railway station Chatham if required.”

Also had a letter from Mr Barton dated 7th March, 1946, as follows;

Would you please let us have a note of the amounts drawn in Montevideo and on the journey home by members of your party with all details and if possible receipts. It would be most helpful if we could have this as soon as possible in order that there should be no delay in issuing pay to the men concerned.

The party having returned to England, no further entries for this journal were kept after 9th March, 1946.”

Source: Andrew Taylor. (Archives ref: AD6/1D/1945/B)

For the men who had arrived South with James Marr in early 1944 over two years had passed since their departure from England. They had left their families and friends during wartime but would return in peace.