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Caring for the crew...

In mid-winter 1915, Orde-Lees had an attack of sciatica (generally pain in the lower back or leg). He was nursed back to health by Shackleton. His extended time with the Boss led to some interesting riffs on Shackleton's leadership.


Orde-Lees' Journal, Friday, 23 July, 1915


"Sciatica has at last got the better of me.


Sir Ernest, in the nicest way, tells me that I have been imprudent in my dress; not wearing enough clothes, and although I can honestly say that I have never once felt the cold, I daresay he is right. Certainly I must admit that I have been out a good deal lately when the thermometer stood at about -30 in just the ordinary things one would wear on a mild cold day in England.


Saturday, 24 July, 1915

I am afraid I am in for a rather bad attack of sciatica. I have now been immovable on the flat of my back for a week, quite unable to sit up or even raise my head much.


At first I was in my own bunk lying in indifference & almost complete darkness all day, but it was draughty there and knowing warmth to be the best cure Sir Ernest had me taken up to his own cabin and placed in his own bunk! Here I have lain in the utmost comfort but severe pain for the last fine days whilst Sir Ernest has coiled himself up as best he could on a narrow little bench much too short for him!

He is a wonderful man. He takes the minimum of sleep; seldom more than three or four hours a night, sometimes less, but how he manages to get even that on such an uncomfortable couch is a puzzle.


His parental kindness in having me here at all needs no comment. Instead of reproaching me for being ill at all, which he would be quite justified in doing, he looks after me himself with all the tender care of a trained nurse, which indeed he seems to me to be far more than merely my leader & master for the time being. He attends to me himself, making up the fire day & night, making me a cup of tea during the night if I happen to say that I am thirsty, reading to me & always entertaining me with his wonderful conversation, making me forget my pain by joking with me continually just as if I was a spoilt child. What sacrifices would I not make for such a leader as this who gives up his own comfortable bed to cue a sick subordinate; but this is typical of him.


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