March 1954, The Himalayas by Ralph Izzard

March 1954, The Himalayas by Ralph Izzard

In early 1954 the Daily Mail spent the modern-day equivalent of one million pounds to send an expedition to the Himalayas to find the Abominable Snowman.

The 15-week expedition set off from Namche Bazaar in Nepal on 14th Feb 1954

This magnificent view of the Himalayas mountains was photographed by the Daily Mail Journalist Ralph Izzard who was documenting the trip. The photo was published on 9 Apr 1954.

It shows Sherpas Ang Tschering, Ang Tilay and Norboo.

There were scientists, mountaineers, biologists, and anthropologists on the campaign to find the Yeti and 200 Sherpas equipped with dart guns and a cage so that they might bring the Abominable Snowman back to London.

But sadly the expedition failed to find the legendary creature.

British Everest Expedition with Edmund Hillary

This was not the first trip to the Himalayas for Foreign correspondent Ralph Izzard.

The previous year Izzard had been dispatched by his news desk to cover the British Everest Expedition with Edmund Hillary. His challenge was to beat newspaper rivals, The Times on the story. The problem for Izzard was that The Times was the principal funders of the expedition and it was contractually obliged to them.

As the British Everest Expedition consisting of 370 Sherpas led by Colonel Sir John Hunt, and accompanied by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing set off, Izzard decided to pursue them.

Equipped with an umbrella, some pots to cook in, and a second-hand tent and with just two Sherpas and a porter he set off in their tracks.

Without a compass or map, 19 days and 18,000 feet later he caught up with the British Expedition. Hillary and his team were surprised by the arrival of this interloper.

Ralph Izzard had found his way to base camp, wearing a silk cravat, a golfing jacket, and a pair of plimsolls. The British Expedition were impressed that a journalist had not only climbed to base camp unsupported but had also managed to shave and brush his hair. Izzard, was always immaculately presented(Everest 1953 The Epic Story of the First Ascent By Mick Conefrey)

The expeditions doctor wanted to study the effects of the height and the cold on a man so poorly equipped.

Izzard wrote “The idea that a man could walk up from sea level to nearly 19,000 feet without pause seemed so disconcerting to him that for some time the only thing I could do to oblige him was to drop dead in my tracks. If the truth be known, I believe I very nearly did.”

Refusing to be distracted Izzard took the opportunity to photograph Edmund Hillary, without Hillary s approval and was told in industrial language to leave the camp.

Izzard retreated to his camp which was several hundred feet lower down the mountain than the British Expedition but it put Izzard in a great position to intercept the runners with their dispatches enabling him to write his own pieces for the Daily Mail.

James Morris (later Jan Morris), the Times correspondent who, fearing that the Daily Mail would scoop him, set off for Kathmandu personally with the news that the mountain had been climbed.

Izzard joined the Daily Mail as a foreign correspondent after leaving Cambridge and was posted to Berlin. There have been suggestions that he used his position as a journalist for the Daily Mail to cover his duties for MI6. Two years into his Berlin posting Adolf Hitler came to power, and in September 1939 Izzard left Berlin on a train bound for Denmark and then on to Holland, then from Holland to the UK on one of the last ships out. Always one step ahead of the Nazis.

Back in the UK, he joined the Navy but his German language skills soon singled him out for other duties and a friend of his, Ian Fleming who was the assistant chief of Naval Intelligence recruited him.

His wartime exploits earned him an OBE for his Intelligence work and he was mentioned in dispatches during Commando landings in Holland.

It appears that the friendship between Izzard and Fleming was helpful to Fleming who included in a book an incident when Lieutenant Commander Izzard was involved in a card game with undercover Nazi intelligence agents in a casino in Pernambuco in Brazil. Fleming wrote the first of his 11 novels, Casino Royale in 1953 and many believe that Ralph Izzard was the inspiration for Flemings’ James Bond.

Ralph Izzard worked for the Daily Mail for 31 years and after the war, he resumed his newspaper duties and traveled widely on stories for the foreign desk.

search for the yeti fleet streets finest
Sherpas on the Daily Mail search for the Abominable snowman

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