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Maurice Wilson Story

Extract from 1934 newspaper


  In April 1933 while the world was ringing with the exploits of the Everest Air Conquerors a young Yorkshire man, Maurice Wilson, began to trouble the authorities at the London Flying Club. He said he was going to fly to Everest, and single - handed, assault the peak. He did not think too much of the Housten Air Expeditions achievement.

Nobody took him very seriously at first. He had completed his first solo flight only two months before. He had never climbed a high mountain in his life. Experts warned him of the dangers and the difficulties; his lack of flying experience. He got small photographs in the newspapers, as a man might who announced his intentions of swimming the Atlantic with water - wings.

Wilson had his tiny plane fitted with long distance tanks. He said quietly that he did not intend to fly over Everest. He would fly as high as the machine would go, crash it on the mountain side , and proceed to the summit on foot . His Gipsy Moth he named the "Ever-wrest." He had a weekend try out from Stag Lane Aerodrome, Middlesex and crashed not on the slopes of Everest but at Cleagheaton , Yorkshire. People smiled . He smiled back.

Sixteen months later they found his body a few hundred yards above camp 3 of the Ruttleedge expedition, more than 20,000 feet up Mount Everest. Beside it, his diary.

Last Entry, May 31 ,1934, Said: "off again, gorgeous day."
Surley the strangest oddessy in the history of aviation and mountaineering? Was Maurice Wilson mad, a stunt merchant, publicity seeker? These things were thought, if not said, of him at the time of his setting out, and disappearance. They are said no longer.

The memory of his strange idealism in the minds of his friends; the body on the glacier are refutation of both charges. Wilson was 35 . During the war he won the M.C.
After the war he evolved a theory that by certain rules of health, dieting and fasting, a race of supermen might be evolved. This theory his decided to put to the supreme test.

The Housten Expedition, he thought, had not conquered Everest mearly by flying over the top of it. Expeditions on foot cumbered by personnel and equipment would always fail. One man alone, ////////////// and mentally for the endevor would succeed /////////
" Stop me Never" he said after the Cleckheaton fiasco. " ive been studying the mountain I've spent two months in an aeroplane." I want to show that long training for flying is not necessary." He took with him a silken Union Jack to plant on the summit. "Everest Airman Missing " said the headlines in May 1933; then a month later, little paragraphs from Karachi saying that he was being held up though not receiving permission from the NEPAL Government to fly over Nepalese territory.

The police took technical possession of his machine (although he was allowed to fly it ). Little gap of time in the story, then more paragraphs. Missing again. He never got to SARAN, south of Nepal and left for Lucknow, after weeks of bad weather hold up on the way. Nothing daunted.
Lapse of a year, then we hear of him from Darjeeling He has sold the second hand Gipsy Moth, and for month has lived in Darjeeling training for the assent on a diet of dates and cereals , fasting, practicing deep breathing //////// Yogi ///////////

Disguised as an Indian, he has secretly got together a number of experienced Everest guides and left with them for the Tibetan frontier. Three porters accompany him from the Monastery on the climb to camp 3 . Here they strike. One can go no further without ropes and help. To do so would be madness. Well he will go it alone. That is what he has come to do . He bids the porters goodbye, leaving to one his pony. They tie to restrain him by argument ,by force. It is no use He sets out alone on foot to conqueror Everest, Taking with him a tent three loaves, two tins of oatmeal, camera, and a silken Union Jack. Over the Glacier, swept by avalanches where the temperature is 50 degrees below zero. He hope to find the track and ropes left behind by the Ruttleridge party. The porter wrath hid figure grow smaller and smaller as he struggles over the ice of the glacier. They call for him to come back, "you go to Death".

He turn and waves to them encouragingly, pointing to the peak and goes on . The porter are poor men accustomed only to obey the orders of the strange white men who have no fear of the wrath of the mountain gods or devils. This one strangest of all with his iron will and his knowledge of the ways of the gods, was different. He had said he would conquer and return Now he had gone they must wait. Night fall ,He had told them to wait a fortnight for him .

They Waited a month He did not come back. They waited a month these humble natives because they regard him as a demi-God. It was said that in the months before his departure from Darjeeling he live with Indian Mystics mastering the Science of Yogeism sub-ordinating the body to the will the will to the spirit , until he could live for days without food, and endure cold and hardship sufficient to kill an ordinary man. It was Eric Shipton, leader of the advance party of the present Everest expedition who found the body 21,000 feet up on the East Ronghuk Glacier on July 9 1934. He had died in his sleep of exhaustion and cold. Beside his body was his diary, his camera, and other equipment and the union jack he had hoped to plant upon the peak 8,000 ft above .the tent had blown away. They buried him in a crevasse icy tomb of the mountaineer, and Shipton built a cairn to mark the spot where the body was found.

Other reports have that it was Charles Warren who was in the group that found Maurices's remains and his rucksack along with a small Union Jack on which were the signatures of his girl friends, and most important of all his diary now kept at the Alpine club in London

sheet 6
LAST SEEN AT 21,000 feet
From our own correspondent, Calcutta ,19 July

The report the Mr. Maurice Wilson, a member of the London Aero Club, had attempted to climb Mount Everest alone is confirmed from Darjeeling. It apppears that three porters accompanied Mr. Wilson as far as camp 3 of the Ruttledge expedition, at 21,000 ft., where they declared that they were unable to advance without ropes and help.
Mr. Wilson therefore decided to go on alone, carrying a small tent, three loaves of bread, two tins of porridge and a camera. He was last seen making off along the glacier.
The porters were ordered to wait at camp 3 for a fortnight. They waited a month, when they were almost foodless, as well as being ill clothed for the height, and returned then to Kalimpong, arriving on July 7, and thence to Darjeeling.

Mr. Wilson's last advance was to be his final assault. He expected to find the track and ropes left by the Ruttledge party. From camp 3 the track goes over a glacier continually swept by avalanches, where the temperature is probably 50deg. below zero. there is no hope of his having survived.

Mr. Wilson left Darjeeling with the three porters, all in Tibetan clothes, about March 25, and his disapearance was noted on March 28. He reached Rungpo on the evening of March 25, passed the outpost unsuspected, and crossed Sikkim by night marches. Once in Tibet he wore european clothes, as there was little likelyhood of his being stopped except by direct orders from Lhasa, since he was then ahead of the possibility of being caught by political communications from the rear.

He reached Rongbuk Monastery on April 18 - that is, 25 days from Darjeeling beating the 1933 expedition's time by 10 days, a remarkable feat, especially as part of the route was covered by night and he had only three porters and one pack pony. He rested one day at Rongbuk and then went on to Ruttledge camp 2 , using a light tent, while the porters used a Tibetan tent. After some days he returned to Rongbuk for a rest , whence, refreashed, he set out on April 30 by slow marches to camp 3. From there, on May 17 he started on the last climb. From the porters' story this is likely to have ended at about 23,000 ft.

The three porters knew Everest. When they returned to Darjeeling they told the complete story to the police. Mr.Wilson had long been pondering the attempt. He believed that most expeditions had been hampered by their size and the weight of thier stores. He had been know to say that the man who would get up Everest was an Indian YOGI, who had no possesions and was innured to hard and simple living. In this faith he appears to have dared and died.

** Mr. Maurice Wilson who is the son of the late Mr. Mark Wilson, a Bradford manufacturer, served in the West Yorkshire Regiment during the War and was awarded the Military Cross. He flew to india a year ago in a light aeroplane, stating that it was his intention to attempt to land the machine at 10,000 ft. below the summit of Everest and then climb to the top. He was however, refused permission to fly over Nepal.

An expanded story of Maurice wilson can be found in the book Strange and Dangerous by Geoff Powter ISBN 10:0-89886-987-0 chapter nine An elabourate Suicide page 175
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