SHACKLETON NEWS ARCHIVE
HMS PROTECTOR DOES THE HONOURS AT THE GRAVESIDE
Sailors on board HMS Protector have returned a stone to an isolated grave 75 years after it was removed by a young rating.
Joseph Collis served on board HMS Ajax when it anchored in South Georgia in 1937. During a brief visit to Grytviken, the former whaling station, Collis, still virtually a teenager, was one who visited the grave site of Sir Ernest Shackleton; and being moved by the experience, decided to pocket a piece of green granite as a trophy.
But the decision stirred remorse within the sailor, who always regretted taking the stone. Now Portsmouth-based HMS Protector has fulfilled his long-held wish to return it to its rightful place.
Captain Rhett Hatcher, HMS Protector's commanding officer, said: 'HMS Protector was pleased to be able to carry the stone on what was the last leg of its long journey. Returning the missing stone to Sir Ernest Shackleton's grave made an excellent finale to our period completing important work with the government of South Georgia and members of the South Georgia Heritage Trust.'
At his funeral, Joseph's son, Malcolm, recounted his father's remorse at taking the stone, and pledged to see it returned. Malcolm Collis contacted the government of South Georgia and asked for assistance. Touched by his story, the government said it was happy to help, and arranged for Malcolm to send the stone to HMS Collingwood in Fareham, Hants.
The stone was then flown to the South Atlantic and passed on to the first ship heading for South Georgia: HMS Protector. The Portsmouth-based ice patrol ship has been tasked to visit Grytviken to collect hydrographic data. So Captain Hatcher seized the opportunity to replace the stone, ending its 8,000 mile journey around the world.
[Joseph retained the relatively small stone as a treasured keepsake throughout his adult life. His feeling it was important perhaps showed discernment and a respect for courage and adventure in the young man.
Since he survived to the grand old age of 95 - double Shackleton's age - it would be nice to think that his trust in Sir Ernest gave him just a bit of help along the path to such an august age!]