High Arctic: The Story of the British North Greenland Expedition.

Captain Banks was in the Royal Marines and was Officer-in-Charge of a Weasel team on this 1952-54 expedition.

p. 23: Knowing that I should sadly miss the warmth and strong colours of the South, I bought a book of reproductions of Van Gogh’s paintings, and was thus able to carry with me the diaphanous sunlight and vivid colours of Arles. Also I spent many evenings at Covent Garden and the Festival Hall, again storing up precious souvenirs. I remember in particular the Verdi Requiem, with de Sabata, and Turandot at the Garden. One of my jobs had been the procurement of gramophone records, and I made sure that we had an adequate supply of serious music. We took Decca long-playing records, and excellent they were.

p. 104: We also thought that it was the plain duty of four lonely men to have a pin-up, so we cast about for one and Taffy [Sgt. Oakley] found an advertisement in a Danish paper depicting a very finely endowed nightclub artiste, one Anna Laurie, unencumbered by too many clothes. She was framed [and] we grew very fond of her….By some mischance she died a sad death by cremation, and for some time we were inconsolable.

p. 131, winter distractions: What I enjoyed most about the hut, even more than its considerable comfort, was playing the Deccalion gramophone. We had a good supply of long-playing records, and this number had been almost doubled by George’s [Cadd] personal collection (was there anything he did not have?). I remember playing La Bohème—we had the complete recording, with Tebaldi singing Mimi—and the great pleasure it gave me, not only for its own sake but because it took me back to that wonderful place, the Paris Opéra. But soon most of the novelties of base waned, and we settled into our winter rut.

p. 153—reference to The Naked and the Dead and the introduction of its choice vocabulary to the Danes they visited.

p. 159, Banks on re-reading the Odyssey: As the journey progressed I became more and more engrossed in the book, and regret to say I was often guilty of remaining in absorption long after the Weasel in front of me had moved on.

p. 189: In 1953 a columnist in the Daily Mail solicited letters from readers to members of the expedition for an impending air-drop—large response included 80 % from women who, knowing little or nothing of polar exploration either enjoyed playing a small vicarious part in our adventure or, often in the case of the teenager, sniffed romance in the form of a lonely explorer.

p. 218-19: The mural decorations of the common-room were a fairly reliable index of our mental state. Just after the hut was built a few pin-ups of fairly adequately clad females had been added…the only colourful decorations to hand….When a few landscape reproductions, including Constables ‘Hay Wain,’ were produced, the erotics were taken down without regret. This state of affairs continued until the second winter, when a quantity of magazines of the Lilliput type arrived. This, coupled with the fact of not having seen a girl for eighteen months, made us think about feminine charms very much more, and tended to render the Constable less aesthetically satisfying. At last Buck Taylor, a more honest type than most, could stand the strain no longer, and overnight a positive academy of females, mostly nude, utterly ousted Constable. Marilyn Monroe reigned supreme.

The lectures given under the auspices of the University of Dronning Louise Land restarted with a swing when Jock delivered two lectures on sex: a subject which seemed to preoccupy our thoughts and monopolize our conversation as the winter wore on and ‘demob’ could be reckoned in terms of less than two hundred days! The first lecture, more or less on the mechanics of the thing, was followed (very appropriately) by one on childbirth, detailed enough to enable anyone in the audience to act as midwife in a straightforward delivery. … By carefully removing from the library any reference books on the subject of a fortnight before the lecture, I [Banks] got away with ‘A History of European Art.’

Illus., opp. p. 218: photography of an expedition member looking at a reproduction of Constable’s ‘Hay-Wain,’ surrounding by pictures of nude women, with steak sauce and ketchup bottles in the foreground.

p. 220, on alcohol-aided Christmas festivities: By this time Angus and I felt the familiar symptoms of culture creeping on. He read extracts from Richard II to me and I read Peer Gynt to him. Neither of us was so indelicate as to listen to the other, so we recited simultaneously and to our mutual satisfaction. Yes, it was certainly a memorable Christmas!

p. 223, during the second winter: We spent some cheerful evenings selling certain items of expedition equipment, notably the gramophone, records, books, and kitchen utensils. There was keen competition for all these articles.

‘What’s that ruddy noise?’ Eddy Jones asked me one day when somebody had a record on.
‘You ought to know,’ I told him, ‘you’ve bought the record!’
‘Oh! Then I must have bought the other side,’ he answered.

p. 224, the delights of mail after a long winter: The tedium of the second winter has wrapped us about like a depressing blanket, which the sun could not entirely disperse. We had grown bored of the base hut, the food, and the never-ending work on the rickety trailers. Only the thought that this was the last lap sustained us…