25 Apr 1981

Leslie Quartermain: an Antarctic explorer's letters home from WWI

From Spectrum, 9:15 am on 25 April 1981
Leslie Quartermain at the South Pole Traverse, 1959-1960

Leslie Quartermain at the South Pole Traverse, 1959-1960 Photo: ANMM Collection / reproduced courtesy of Alan Quartermain and Marion Rego

Leslie Quartermain (1895 - 1973) is remembered largely for his connections with the Antarctic and his books on the Southern Continent.

But there exists an earlier, more personal body of his literature – his letters home from the Western Front during World War One.

Actor Peter Vere-Jones reads some of them.

More on Leslie Bowman, via the Scott Polar Research Institute Archives:

Leslie Bowden Quartermain was born in Hororata on 10 June 1895. He taught for eight years at Christchurch Boys' High School before becoming head of the English department at Wellington College in 1930, a post held until 1956.

Contacts with Antarctic expedition ships passing through New Zealand ports inspired him and several colleagues to found the New Zealand Antarctic Society, which for many years helped to develop and publicise Antarctic interest in New Zealand.

In 1950 the New Zealand Antarctic Society began to publish Antarctic News with Quartermain as editor. His eighteen years in this post brought him into touch with innumerable Antarctic explorers ranging from veterans of the heroic era to the newest recruits to the polar scene.

He visited Antarctica on three occasions, on his second foray from 1960 to 1961, he went as leader of a team to restore Shackleton's hut at Cape Royds and Scott's hut at Cape Evans.

In 1959, having retired from teaching, Quartermain joined the newly established Antarctic Division of the New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research as Information Officer, a post that gave him opportunities for historical research and writing. He at once began work on chronicling the history of the Ross Dependency.

In 1967, he was awarded the MBE for his outstanding contribution on Antarctic affairs. He died in Wellington, New Zealand on 28 April 1973.