by Brian England


It was many years after Everest was first recognised to be the highest mountain in the world, before political conditions in Nepal and Tibet allowed an attempt to be made to climb it. The first expedition eventually took place in 1921 organised by the Royal Geographical Society. This was mainly a reconnaisance and mapping expedition. So the 1924 Expedition


led by General Hon. G. C. Bruce C.B. was early indeed and, apart from very bad weather, was plagued by the effects of high altitude on the human body, about which, little was then known.


It was on the 1924 Expedition that G. L. Mallory and Andrew Irvine were seen going well at 8589 metres. They never returned, and, whatever disaster befell them is still unknown. What is even more intriguing is whether they died on the way to the summit or on the way back. Could the first conquest of Everest have taken place in 1924 rather than 1953, we shall probably never know. Knowing how crudely the team was equiped in 1924, this would have been a remarkable feat.



Among other features of the card illustrated, which are particularly interesting are the special 'Mount Everest Expedition' stamp and the base camp cancellation applied to it. Captain J. B. L. Nash, whose handwriting appears on the face of the card, paid from his own resources, 10,000 to be appointed official photographer to the expedition. These cards and their special stamps were devised by him. Together with the films and photographs he was able to show on his return, he hoped to make a financial success of the adventure. Captain Nash seems to have been something of an 'ideas man' as, at his suggestion, snow tractors, made by Citreon, were used in the early stages on the lower slopes.


As is so often the case when you start to research your latest postcard find, it's surprising how much interest there can be in one unusual item. Part of the Indian Pavilion at the British Empire Exhibition Wembley was given over to Nepal, and as a centrepiece in their 'court' was a model of Mount Everest. Throughout the exhibition small flags were fixed day by day to mark the progress of the expedition based on messages which were specially radioed back. Just when it seemed a celebration was in order, news of the loss of Mallory and Irvine was received. For the rest of the time the exhibition was open to the public, a wreath of bay leaves was placed over the model as a mark of respect to two very courageous men who had typified the best traditions of exploration and Empire.



            © Exhibition Study Group 1994