6th January 2016: Members' Evening

Over 40 members gathered for the annual members' evening. The first talk was from Trudy Sellers who spoke passionately about the research she has done into her family history. She focused on three military figures and the amazing women in their lives. The first, John Holbourn, was sent with his brother to the military school in Dover to become a drummer boy. Trudy brought along his sword and his brother William's diary from the Boar War. She also showed a wedding picture for John's second marriage to Florence, who died a poor widow in Folkestone. Her second subject, John Naylor from Bradford, married Ann Caffrey who had travelled to Australia aged fifteen as a servant. She became a camp follower - a wife who went on campaign with her husband and lived in camp - and during this time had five children. Trudy's final story concerned John Hyde, a soldier in the Crimea who was later a Chelsea Pensioner. She is now in the process of writing up her findings for her family to enjoy.

The second talk, by Dr Michael Wain, concerned Frank Wild, an Antarctic explorer who went on more polar expeditions than any other person. While in the Navy he applied to join Scott's scientific trip to the Antarctic on the 'Discovery' in 1901. His second trip was on the 'Nimrod' with Shackleton. They came within 97 miles of the pole but had to turn back because of scurvey. He joined an Australian expedition while Scott was on his ill-fated venture to the pole, so avoiding certain death. He then joined Shackleton again for his famous expedition on the 'Endurance'. As second in command, Wild was instrumental in keeping up morale of the men when their boat sunk in the ice. He stayed behind on Elephant Island for four months while Shackleton sought help. Wild was also part of the 'Quest' expedition in 1921, but Shackleton died from a heart attack on the first night in South Georgia. Dr Wain then focused on his own connection to the Frank Wild story. Angie Butler, a South African journalist, felt that Wild had been forgotten. She found out that after the First World War he had farmed in Nyasaland but went bankrupt, and died in Johannesburg in 1939. Dr Wain got to know Angie in 2010 while she was on a quest to find Wild's ashes. When she located them they both travelled to South Georgia, with Wild's family, where a ceremony was conducted to reinter Wild's ashes alongside the grave of his friend Shackleton. This trip gained much media interest including a BBC documentary. Angie has since written a book entitled 'The Quest for Frank Wild'.

Ellie Morris