George Leigh Mallory

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Mount Everest climber George Leigh Mallory (1886-1924) was found climbing the roof of Mobberley Parish Church in Cheshire in 1893, aged seven, after being banished from the nursery for unruly behaviour. His love of climbing had started early and in 1909, aged 16, he traversed the 13,524ft Aiguille Verte Mountain in the Western French Alps. He continued his passion for climbing in the Alps and Wales.

In 1910 he started teaching at Charterhouse School, and was elected to the Alpine Club. He was also a writer and published Boswell the Biographer in 1912. A year later he collaborated with Robert Graves and two other Charthouse boys to bring out a new school magazine, Green Chartreuse.

Mallory became close to the family of architect, Hugh Thackeray Turner, who lived at Westbrook. Mallory married his daughter, Ruth Turner, within months of meeting her on the 29th July 1914 at Godalming Parish Church.

He was commissioned in December 1915 as Second Lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery. In 1919 he was appointed Assistant Master at Charterhouse.

In January 1921 the former President of the Alpine Club, Captain J Farrar, wrote asking if he was interested in a Mount Everest expedition, and this was to be Mallory’s first attempt. A second attempt was made a year later. Everest beckoned again in March 1924 under the leadership of General Bruce. Already famed for his previous attempts and hesitating to risk everything a third time on the mountain Mallory wrote to his father: “My present feeling is that I have to look at it from the point of view of loyalty to the expedition and of carrying through a task begun”. His reply when being asked why he wanted to climb Everest was, “Because it’s there”. It was to be his last expedition. Mallory and fellow climber, Sandy Irvine, disappeared on the mountain on the 8th June 1924.

A film was made in 1998 with Brian Blessed wearing period clothes to recreate the journey for the film Galahad of Everest as a tribute. A year later the frozen corpse of Mallory was found 75 years after his disappearance at 26,800ft (8,170m), 400ft (121m) higher than when last seen, and about 2,000ft (620m) below the summit. Clothing, personal belongings, goggles, penknife and altimeter identified him. Some clothing on the body bore the label: W F Paine, 72 High Street, Godalming, a local knitwear company. Finding his body has raised the question of whether he actually reached the summit as his wife’s photograph to be left at the summit has not been found, nor his snow goggles and his camera. In 2007 an expedition led by the American mountaineer, who found the body of Mallory in 1999, re-traced Mallory’s route using the same equipment and wearing the same clothes as he did in 1924. In 2009 this expedition has been recreated for a feature-length documentary film by the British producer Anthony Geffen, called The Wildest Dream, which sets out to answer the mystery. In 2009 a book to accompany the film has been published also called The Wildest Dream: In the Footsteps of Mallory by Mark MacKenzie. In 2009 Jeffrey Archer has written a semi-historical novel based on Mallory’s life, Paths to Glory.  In 2012 Into the Silence, Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis won the Samuel Johnson prize for a non-fiction book, and can be seen in the Local Studies Library. 

Godalming Museum © 2009



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