Admiral Edward Ratcliffe Garth Evans

Edward ‘Teddy’ Ratcliffe Garth Evans was born in London on 28 October 1881 one of five children to Welsh barrister Frank Evans and his Irish wife Eliza Frances Evans (née Garth). He was educated in London and Croydon before entering the Mercantile Marine training ship HMS Worcester in January 1895, having failed to obtain a cadetship in the Royal Navy. Evans was a very capable, but at times troublesome Cadet, and on graduation entered the Royal Navy on 14 January 1897. He was promoted Midshipman in May 1897 and joined his first ship, the cruiser HMS Hawke in the Mediterranean later that year.

Following a period of ill-health, in 1898 he became a physical fitness fanatic often walking 40-50 miles a day and swimming long distances. Midshipman Evans served in the battleship HMS Repulse and the sloop HMS Dolphin, a sea-going sail training ship, before being promoted Sub Lieutenant in 1900 and training at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. On completion of courses for promotion to Sub Lieutenant he joined the battleship HMS Majestic where he first met Lieutenant Robert Falcon Scott, RN with whom Evans was later to serve during two expeditions to Antarctica.

In July 1901 the British National Antarctic Expedition sailed from England in the Royal Research Ship Discovery with Lieutenant Scott in command. The expedition plan included a relief ship to follow a year later, in case Discovery was lost in the Antarctic. Evans saw this as an opportunity for adventure and contacted the expedition organisers offering his services on board the relief ship. In early 1902, Sub Lieutenant Evans was seconded from the Royal Navy to be Second Officer of the Antarctic relief ship, the Steam Yacht Morning, which departed England in July 1902 bound for Christchurch, New Zealand. Morning arrived in New Zealand later in the year and following a refit sailed for Antarctica in early December and eventually located Scott’s party at McMurdo Sound where Discovery was trapped in the ice. In late March 1903 Morning left supplies with Scott’s expedition and returned to New Zealand.

Evans, by then a Lieutenant, served briefly in HM Ships Phoebe and Ringarooma, based in New Zealand waters, while Morning was prepared for a second relief voyage to Antarctica. Morning sailed again in November 1903, in company with a second relief ship - the Terra Nova and they met up with Discovery in January 1904; still trapped by ice in McMurdo Sound. Evans then took charge of a party of men laying explosives to blast a channel through eight miles of ice and this was achieved in eleven days allowing Discovery to be extracted before bad weather struck.

In recognition of his work with the expedition, Scott named a mountain overlooking the sound Mount Evans and he was also awarded a Bronze Polar Medal. While in New Zealand Lieutenant Evans met Hilda Beatrice Russell, the daughter of a prominent local solicitor and the niece of a New Zealand Member of Parliament. They subsequently married on 13 April 1904. Upon returning to England he returned to Royal Navy service specialising as a navigator and serving in the battleship HMS London, cruiser HMS Talbot and the torpedo-gunboat HMS Dryad. He considered taking part in Ernest Shackleton’s 1907 Antarctic expedition but instead decided to progress his naval career. In 1908 he was awarded the Shadwell Testimonial Prize for non-surveyors “for the most creditable plan of an anchorage or other marine survey, accompanied with sailing directions recently executed by himself”.

In 1909 Evans proposed an expedition to the Antarctic to circumnavigate the icy continent, and this was approved, however Scott, by then a Royal Navy captain, also decided to conduct an expedition in order to reach the South Pole. As only one expedition could be funded Evans cancelled his proposed expedition and became second in command of Scott’s expedition. Despite this partnership the two men were never close; Scott was more reserved while Evans' demeanour was open and forthright. There was also a difference in rank and age and Scott was to record in his diary that Evans possessed “boyish enthusiasm” and “well-meaning”, but was “terribly slow to learn” and unlikely to be suitable to command his own expedition.

The expedition departed from Cardiff, Wales in the Terra Nova in June 1910 landing on the west side of Ross Island 4 January 1911, at a site that Scott named Cape Evans in Evans' honour. The next six months were spent in exploration, building a winter accommodation hut, and setting up a series of stores depots along the Great Ice Barrier to enable an expedition team to reach the pole after winter. After spending winter in the Cape Evans hut the expedition party began to prepare for the main expedition to the Pole in August/September. Evans commanded the experimental motor sledge party, which was to leave first, with supplies for the main expedition while other groups would follow using dog and pony sledges. The motor sledges engines failed to work in the freezing conditions and were soon abandoned and the men were forced to ‘man-haul’ their sledges and hundreds of pounds of equipment and stores.

Over the following weeks groups of men using dogs, ponies or manpower hauled sledges across the ice to set up more stores depots to support the final team who would make the dash to the pole. Evans’ health began to break down due to excessive man-hauling of sledges but he also developed severe scurvy, as he was the only man in the expedition who did not eat seal meat which was rich in vitamin C. Eventually Scott ordered Evans, with Chief Petty Officer Stoker William Lashly and Petty Officer Thomas Crean, to return to the base camp at Hut Point while he and his companions pushed on to the South Pole.

The three men reluctantly turned back and were the last to see Scott and his companions who, while reaching the South Pole, perished on the return journey. Evans, Lashly and Crean headed north but eventually Evans health completely broke down and he had to be placed on a sledge and dragged by other two men. Bad weather nearly killed all three and eventually Crean had to push on alone to Hut Point to bring back a rescue team for Evans who was being nursed by Lashly. Evans was bedridden for several weeks, and in April 1912 was sent back to New Zealand to recover from his ordeal. Crean and Lashly were later awarded Albert Medals for their actions.

Rear Admiral ERG Evans, CB, DSO, RN Commanding His Majesty's Australian Squadron and his staff on board HMAS Australia. From Left: Flag Lieutenant Commander ICR Macdonald RAN, Flag Captain WS Chalmers DSC RN, RADM Evans and Paymaster Lieutenant Commander RW Lethbridge RN, circa May 1929.

Evans then headed back to England where he spent the northern summer of 1912 recuperating. In July that year he was promoted Commander by King George V, before returning to New Zealand where he took command of the Terra Nova for its relief voyage to McMurdo Sound. The ship arrived in Antarctica on 18 January 1913 where Evans learned of Scott's arrival at the Pole but also that the men had died on the return journey. Evans then formally assumed command of the expedition and organised the final departure of the expedition from Antarctica. Further tragedy struck Evans when his wife Hilda became ill and died on 15 April 1913. Commander Evans was subsequently awarded a Silver Polar Medal and also made a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB), in the Civil Division in May 1913 for his efforts during the expedition. During 1913-14 he travelled extensively throughout the United States and Canada while on leave.

Commander Evans was in command of the destroyer HMS Mohawk when war broke out in August 1914. His ship took part in bombarding German forces as they advanced south along the Belgian coast and in recognition he was mentioned in dispatches and appointed an Officer of the Order of Leopold (Belgium). In December 1914 he took command of the larger destroyer HMS Viking operating from Dover on patrols of the English Channel and French/Belgian coastlines. In March 1915 he was commended for his ship’s role in the destruction of the German submarine U-8. In December 1915 Evans took command of the destroyer HMS Crusader which also served as part of the Dover Patrol and for which he was commended for service in action. Evans married Norwegian-born Elsa Andvord (1890-1963) on 22 January 1916 and they later had two sons.

After a year in command of Crusader he was appointed captain of the destroyer HMS Broke in which he took part in one of the most dramatic actions of the war. On the night of 20-21 April 1917 Broke and HMS Swift were patrolling the English Channel when they encountered six German destroyers returning from bombarding the port of Dover. The ensuing action, the Second Battle of Dover Strait, saw the two British destroyers open fire on the enemy with their 4-inch guns and torpedoes. In the ensuing melee Broke rammed the German destroyer G42, nearly cutting her in two and the two ships were locked together for some time as Broke continued to surge forward. Broke’s ship's company used small arms to shoot several of the German crew seen on the upper deck. G42 soon sank and Swift sank the German destroyer G85 by torpedo. Despite the damage to Broke’s bow she stayed afloat and was later towed back to port with nearly 100 German prisoners on board.

Evans became an overnight celebrity and was promoted Captain on 21 April 1917. He was rewarded with a Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and henceforth became well-known as ‘Evans of the Broke’, a title which stayed with him for life. He received wide recognition from serval of Britain’s allies being appointed an Officer of the Legion of Honour by the French and also awarded a Croix de Guerre. Italy bestowed upon him the Cavaliere of the Military Order of Savoy. Captain Evans remained in commanded of Broke until November 1917 when he briefly took command of the submarine depot ship HMS Arrogant. In April 1918 Evans was appointed Commanding Officer of the cruiser HMS Active, then serving in the Mediterranean, and he commanded her for the remainder of the war.

In April 1919 Captain Evans was appointed Senior Officer Ostend, overseeing the repair of the port that had been badly damaged during the war. There he was responsible for controlling the salvage of several sunken vessels and returning the port to a functional state. In 1919 he was made a Grande-Official of the Order of the Tower and Sword (Portugal) as well as being awarded a United States Navy Cross and a Belgian Commander of the Order of the Crown and the Medaille Civique. In 1920 his book 'Keeping the Seas', an account of his activities on the Dover Patrol, was published and the following year he published his first-hand account of the 1901-04 Discovery Expedition entitled 'South with Scott'.

In late December 1920 Evans was appointed in command of the light cruiser HMS Carlisle then serving on the China Station. He was soon back in the press when Carlisle was involved in a significant rescue off the Chinese coast. On the evening of 3 March 1921, the SS Hong Moh ran aground off Lamock Island, Swatow (now Shantou) China and was wrecked with the loss of an estimated 900 lives. The SS Shanti found the wreck the following day and after rescuing 45 survivors steamed to Swatow to raise the alarm. The British consul at Swatow requested immediate Royal Navy support. The Royal Navy sloop HMS Foxglove arrived at Lamock Island on the night of 5 March but could not find the wreck in the darkness.

Carlisle joined Foxglove at dawn on 6 March and the two ships located Hong Moh and began to rescue additional survivors, with Foxglove taking 28 people on board before having to depart late in the afternoon to refuel. Carlisle continued to work throughout the night of 6-7 March using her searchlights and throughout the following day. Captain Evans swam to the wreck on the evening of the 7th to help the last few survivors get aboard the ship′s boats. Carlisle finally ceased rescue operations at midnight on 7 March. The following morning, at dawn, Carlisle's boats approached the wreck of Hong Moh but finding no further signs of life the cruiser departed for Hong Kong with 221 survivors aboard. Several of Carlisle’s ships company were commended for their service in this rescue; including Evans who was awarded the British Board of Trade Silver Medal for Gallantry in Saving Life at Sea as well as a special gold medal by Lloyds for his leadership during the rescue.

In January 1923, Captain Evans was appointed as Captain of the Fishery Protection and Minesweeping Flotilla and Commanding Officer of the sloop HMS Harebell operating in British waters. These were interesting times as Evans dealt with fishery issues involving French, Belgian, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Irish Free State fishing vessels and the frequent disposal of World War I mines in the fishing grounds. Following this he served as the Commanding Officer of the battle cruiser HMS Repulse from June 1926 until September 1927 during which time the ship operated in British waters and in the Atlantic Ocean. On 24 February 1928, Evans was promoted Rear Admiral and served as the Naval Aide-de-camp to HM King George V as well as completing the Senior Officers War Course.

Rear Admiral Evans CB, DSO, RN was appointed Rear Admiral Commanding the Australian Squadron (RACAS) in April 1929 arriving in Australia on 17 May 1929, taking over from Rear Admiral George Francis Hyde, RAN. During his time in command of the Squadron the RAN suffered severe cutbacks as part of the world-wide Great Depression. By 1930 only four RAN ships remained in commission, the seaplane tender HMAS Albatross, the two heavy cruisers Australia and Canberra and a single destroyer HMAS Anzac. The RAN College at Jervis Bay was closed and the training of Cadet Midshipmen transferred to HMAS Cerberus (Flinders Naval Depot). Pay was reduced for all ranks and the recruitment of sailors ceased in October 1930 and did not resume until January 1932.

In late 1929 and mid-1930 further personnel reductions were implemented with sailors being offered the opportunity to accept free discharges, however, with insufficient numbers forthcoming forced discharges followed as part of the Depression ‘Reduction’. Officer numbers were also reduced with many placed on half pay for six months, to find alternative employment, before being placed on the retired list. Evans wrote:

I had my dark days in Australia when I said good-bye to the cream of Australia’s officers and men under the Reduction Scheme, keen, expert and highly trained youngsters and oldsters to face life a new and to seek a new career.

The Squadron operated chiefly in Australian waters undertaking a standard summer cruise to Tasmania and a winter cruise to Queensland waters. Training in Victorian waters was planned to coincide with the running of the Melbourne Cup allowing the ships to be open to visitors. Evans’ flagship, the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia, undertook a showing-the-flag cruise to Papua and New Guinea visiting Port Moresby and Samarai followed by Rabaul, Bougainville, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia and the New Hebrides. Meanwhile her sister ship HMAS Canberra conducted a circumnavigation of the continent to remind the Australian people they still had a navy. Despite the reduction in naval activity, Evans proved a popular officer with both the navy and the general public. He later stated:

I could write a whole book on Australia, of friendships cemented, on work and on play, on skies and seas tumultuous and calm; but I must draw to a close and bid that sea-girt Continent goodbye.

Evans relinquished command of the Australian Squadron, on 29 May 1931, to Commodore Leonard Holbrook, RN. On departing Australia the 1st Naval Member (Vice Admiral William Kerr, CB, CBE, RN) stated that Evans:

Possesses exceptional qualities of leadership, and extracts from those serving under him a remarkable degree of loyalty, devotion to himself and the service. He is fearless in expressing his opinions, but most loyal and helpful to his superior officer. Possesses great tact and is an outstanding personality. His physical qualities are unique in my experience for a man of his age (50) - his powers of endurance and vitality being quite exceptional. He has brought the Australian Squadron to a high pitch of efficiency and the ships compare most favourably with similar vessels in the RN. He has used every opportunity to popularise the RAN and his efforts in that direction involving sacrifice of leisure and considerable expenditure of private means, have been most successful. His high spirits and generous nature make him a great social favourite and his departure from Australia is universally regretted by the large numbers with whom he has been in contact.

Rear Admiral Evans proved popular with both the Navy and the general population during his role as Rear Admiral Commanding the Australian Squadron (RACAS). His flagship during that time was HMAS Australia (II), seen here at Cockatoo Island, circa 1929.

Rear Admiral Evans returned to England where he undertook the Senior Offices War Course, Technical Course and Tactical Course during 1931-32. Evans was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB), in the Military Division, in the New Year’s Honours List 1932.

In November 1932 Evans was promoted Vice Admiral and in January 1933 was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Africa Station. He also served as Deputy High Commissioner of the British Protectorates of Bechuanaland, Swaziland and Basutoland (now modern day Botswana, Eswatini and Lesotho) during 1933-1935. In 1935 Vice Admiral Evans was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in the Military Division. He returned to England in 1936 and was appointed as Commander-in-Chief, The Nore which was an operational command based a Chatham, Kent controlling naval forces in southern England. On 12 July 1936 Evans was promoted Admiral and the following year appointed a Knight of Grace of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. He relinquished his command on 9 January 1939 and retired from the Royal Navy. His retirement was short lived as following the outbreak of World War II he was recalled to naval service on 3 September 1939 and appointed as the London Regional Commissioner for Civil Defence.

Evans participated in the ill-fated Norwegian Campaign as a special Naval Attaché, during April-June 1940, for which he was made a Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of St Olaf. After returning from Norway Admiral Evans was seconded to the Ministry of Aircraft Production to enhance the mobilization of the factories in the face of the potential invasion of Britain by German forces until finally retiring, aged 60, on 9 January 1941. He was also Rector of the University of Aberdeen, Scotland from 1936 to 1942 and was awarded an Academic Degree in Law: LLD.

On 12 November 1945, Evans was created Baron Mountevans of Chelsea (County of London) after which he and his wife Elsa, retired to Norway where he wrote his autobiography 'Adventurous Life', which was published in 1946. On 4 March 1947 he was on board the Norwegian MV Bolivar, when it ran aground and broke in two off the east coast of Ireland. He and 44 others on board were rescued by the Irish and British lifeboat services. He then chaired a committee to formalise the rules of professional wrestling in Britain and these rules subsequently became known as the Admiral-Lord Mountevans Rules.

Admiral Edward Ratcliffe Garth Evans (Baron Mountevans) died at Golaa in Norway on 20 August 1957 and was buried at Our Saviour’s Cemetery in Oslo, Norway, having indeed lived an adventurous life.

Royal Navy records state his date of birth as 28 October 1880; however his headstone, in Oslo, states 28 October 1881.