Lawrence Oates

Lawrence Oates

Captain Lawrence Oates represented the Army in the polar team and was responsible for looking after the ponies that helped pull the sledges in the early stages of the journey. His many nicknames included “The Soldier”, but he was also known as “No Surrender” Oates, after refusing to give in during a skirmish in the Boer War. Some of the polar team were reading Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” as they travelled and this song incorporates phrases from the poem, which resonate uncannily with Oates’ situation in the final days of his life. His last words before leaving the tent during a snowstorm and deliberately walking to his death were typically understated: “I am just going outside and may be some time”.

Maybe Some Time: Lawrence Oates


Last night I slept and woke with pain
I almost wished no more to wake again
And oh for an opiate trebly strong
To drug down this blindfold sense of wrong
But no surrender, no surrender
No surrender, no surrender

Like Napoleon under Russian skies
We lost our battle with the snow and the ice
No hero’s welcome, only retreat
No hope of glory, only defeat
But I soldier on, I soldier on
I soldier on, I soldier on

Now the grave seems bright to me
Stepping outside seems right to me
For a pick to the head, or a bullet to the brain
You can do it to a horse, you can’t do it to a man
But maybe some time, maybe some time
Maybe some time, maybe some time
Oh I may be some time, may be some time