Adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes yesterday paid tribute to an explorer who died at the side of Captain Scott, during a ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of their ill-fated expedition to the South Pole.
Sir Ranulph proposed a toast to the “Spirit of Adventure” at a series of memorial events to commemorate Lieutenant Henry Robertson (Birdie) Bowers at Kip Marine, Inverclyde.
Birdie, from nearby Greenock, was one of the intrepid team that successfully reached the pole in 1912. But sadly the 5ft 4in explorer perished along with Scott on their return from the pole to base camp, at the age of 29.
The ceremony was also attended by Captain Scott’s grandson Falcon Scott.
Speaking at the memorial Sir Ranulph, who is in the process of planning his own Antarctic expedition called The Coldest Journey, said: “Birdie was a tough bloke and a very important part of the expedition. He didn’t have a bad word to say about anyone which is very important on an expedition like that in such extreme conditions.
“The 100th anniversary is a wonderful opportunity for me to come to Inverkip to celebrate Birdie on the 100th anniversary.”
Lieutenant Bowers was born the Greenock area of Esplanade in July 1883.
He was raised alone by his mother, after his father died in India when he was just three.
He became a merchant seaman and spent years travelling the world, but later enlisted in the Royal Indian Marine Service, serving in Sri Lanka and commanding a gunboat in Burma.
Lieutenant Bowers beat off applications from nearly 8,000 men to become the youngest member of Captain Scott’s 50-strong team to journey to Antarctica aboard the Terra Nova in 1910.
Thanks to his bravery and skill Birdie won the right to make the journey from the team’s base camp to the South Pole along with four other men, including Captain Scott himself.
The team trekked 800 miles to successfully reach the pole only to find they had been beaten by Norwegian Roald Amundsen. All five members of the pioneering team perished on the return trip.
Captain Scott’s grandson Falcon said: “The centenary is a very important year for my family and I. I had only found out recently that Birdie was from Greenock so it’s fantastic to be here.
“Birdy began as an ordinary member of the team but by the end he had become a close friend of my grandfather, and an important member of the group.
“My grandfather saw that he was very capable and he actually ended up as one of the five that went to the pole and sadly perished doing so.”
The event, organised by Discover Inverclyde, saw Sir Ranulph meet Falcon for the first time.
The pair also attended a celebratory dinner and a ceremony was held at Lieutenant’s memorial in nearby.
Birdie’s closest living relative John Ramwell, 71, from Bolton, Lancashire, also attended the ceremony.
He said: “I’m very proud to be related to Birdie. What he achieved all those years ago has gone down in history.
“I am very pleased to have been invited to attend the anniversary events.”
Birdie’s diary entries have been compiled by author and historian Anne Strathie in Birdie Bowers: Captain Scott’s Marvel.
The book includes a series of letters written by Birdie to his mother Emily and sister May.