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In Passing: Remembering Kevin Walton
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Kevin Walton photo: G. Montcombroux, 2005
E. W. Kevin Walton
May 15, 1918 – April 13, 2008
by Geneviève Montcombroux
Eric William Kevin Walton was born in Kobe, Japan, the son of a missionary, Murray Walton and his wife Myra (née Hebbert). He spent his early years in Japan before being sent to study in England at Monkton Combe School, then at Imperial College London where he trained as a civil engineer. An officer in the Royal Navy during WWII, he served on HMS Rodney, one of the ships that sank the Bismarck.
Subsequently, he worked for the British Antarctic Survey from 1945 to 1948 (then known as the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey). He holds the George Cross (Albert Medal) for a crevasse rescue. Part of a four-man team seeking a dog sled route, Major John Tonkin was walking ahead of the dog team when he fell into a crevasse. Kevin Walton, an experienced mountaineer, volunteered to be lowered into the crevasse to rescue Major Tonkin, as described in the following citation which was published in the London Gazette on 8 June 1948:
"Whitehall, May 28, 1948:
The KING has been pleased to award the Albert Medal to Temporary Lieutenant (E) Eric William Kevin Walton, D.S.C., R.N., a member of the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey, in recognition of his gallantry in the following circumstances:
At about 12 noon on 24th August, 1946, while on a sledding journey, a member of the Survey fell through a badly-bridged crevasse and disappeared. Major Tonkin had fallen some forty feet and was jammed in a narrow part of the crevasse. Ropes were lowered to him and he managed to get loops round his forearms, but could get no higher, and it was found impossible to pull him out as he was jammed in the ice. Lieutenant Walton volunteered to be lowered in the crevasse to free Major Tonkin by chipping away the ice. Because an ice axe could not be used in the constricted space of the crevasse, the spike was sawn off and used as a hand tool. Lieutenant Walton was lowered down a wider part of the crevasse and worked his way along until he reached and succeeded in freeing Major Tonkin, who was eventually pulled to the surface, after having been three hours in the crevasse. During that time. Lieutenant Walton was lowered down to him on five separate occasions, remaining there for considerable periods on each occasion. His persistence was most commendable, and it was due solely to his efforts that Major Tonkin was finally rescued."
During a mission to South Georgia, Kevin made an even more dangerous rescue saving a geologist who had fallen into a crevasse and was jammed 200 feet down. For this Kevin received the Queen's Commendation on his return to England.
Kevin also was awarded the Polar Medal with Antarctic clasp, 1946-47, and the Distinguished Service Cross.
After leaving the Navy, Kevin taught engineering, became an instructor at the Outward Bound School in Eskdale, England, and later a schoolteacher and a consulting and site engineer. Kevin also served as British Secretary of the International Antarctic Expedition and kept Inuit dogs in the gardens of the Royal Geographical Society in London during his tenure.
He wrote Two Years in Antarctica (Knell Press, 1982) and contributed to Portrait of Antarctica with Jonathan Walton, 1983; Of Dogs and Men with Rick Atkinson, 1996.
Kevin was married to Ruth Yule and they lived in Malvern, Worcestershire England. They have one son and three daughters. Mount Walton in British Graham Land, Antarctica commemorates this man of great charm and modesty.