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image for Village item typeGestingthorpe







Nr Halstead,


Gestingthorpe is a small pleasant village. The village has reduced in occupancy over the years, which is quite rare.
In the tower of the Norman Church of St. Mary is a message; with hindsight a message of sadness and regret. The fifth and sixth bells are inscribed 'In gratitude to god for the safe return with honour of my beloved son from the dangers of war in Soth Africa'. That son was Lawrance Edward Grace Oates. He grew up in Over Hall, better known today as Gestingthorpe Hall, in the 1880's. He was a frail boy, sent on sea voyages to improve his health, who grew up with a passion for horses. At 20 years old he was a subaltern with the Inniskilling Dragoons. In December 1900 he stepped ashore in Cape Town and was immediately sent into action against the Boers. His bravery earned him promotion to Lieutenant, and subsequent daring feats in action earned him the nickname 'No surrender Oates'. After a particularly bad injury he returned to Gestingthorpe to convalesce - the reason for the inscription on the bells.
To cut a long story short Oates got special leave from his regiment to join the famous Captain Robert F. Scott in his attempt to reach the South Pole. It was an ill-fated expedition. By 16th January 1912 they were just 27 miles short of the Pole. They saw the tracks which showed them that Amundsen had beaten them to it. They struggled on to the Pole just to say that they had made it. On the fearful fight back to their base camp Oates, already badly frostbitten, became desperately ill. He knew he was holding back the small band's attempt to reach safety. He purposely walked out of the tent into a blizzard saying, 'I am just going outside, I may be sometime'. Of course he never came back. The date was 17th March 1912 - his birthday. Essex, and Gestingthorpe, are proud of him. There is a brass on the north wall of the church which records this last act of bravery.



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Map reference: TL 813375  Lat: 52.00631 Long: 0.64003