Bradninch Cricket Club is proud of its history and very proud of the fact that one Lt Col Fawcett – and his son – once played for the club. Some scribes suggest that the massively successful Indiana Jones films were born out of the adventures of Lt Col Fawcett. Our very own Will Birley has been doing some research and here are his findings.
The Story of Lieutenant Colonel Percival Harrison Fawcett
On 18th August 1867 in Torquay, Devon, a child was born – and that child was destined to become Lieutenant Colonel Fawcett – who was also a devoted member and player of Bradninch Cricket Club, writes Will Birley.
Fawcett was a British artillery office, an archaeologist but most famously, a South American explorer; and a very successful one of that. His name rang all around the country with people believing in his theories and his observations so much so that they began to say that he had been blessed from above. Fawcett’s most famous theorem was that of the Lost City of ‘Z’. He claimed that he had gathered enough evidence to justify going on an expedition to locate and discover what he said to be an ancient city, very much similar to the mind-blowing Atlantis. ‘Z’ was to be located in the uncharted jungles of Brazil and in 1925, Fawcett, along with his son Jack and Jack’s good friend Raleigh Rimmel, they set off to Brazil for his third, and what proved to be his final expedition to find the great city of ‘Z’. He believed that this city could be uncovered somewhere within the Mato Grosso region.
In addition to his two companions, he was also accompanied by two Brazilian labourers who were to help guide them through the forest to the beginning of the territory which was still yet to be explored by any expeditioner before him. Once they arrived at Dead Horse Camp, he wrote his final letter back home to his wife Nina in Devon. A native runner dispatched this letter so that it would be received by no one other that Fawcett’s beloved wife. In this letter, he told Nina that she ‘need have no fear of any failure’. From here on in, Fawcett, his son Jack and Raleigh were on their own and to this day, it is unknown as to what happened to the three of them after this letter was sent.
Many people assumed that local Indians had killed them, simply because of the fact that most tribes had never before seen a white person. The Kalapalos tribe, a generally harmless group, claimed that they were the last to see Fawcett and his companions. They have since been questioned about the whereabouts and fate of the explorers but they claimed that they did not know for sure what had happened. They said that both Jack and his friend were falling ill when they saw them but still, there is no proof that it was natural causes that took their life.
Over the years there have been several small finds and discoveries but none have brought considerable light to this incredible mystery.
In 1927, a name-plate of Fawcett was found with an Indian tribe and in June 1933, a compass that belonged to Fawcett was found near the Baciary Indians by Colonel Aniceto Botelho. However, despite these finds, they have since been deemed as insufficient to help with the search for the truth as according to previous records, we now understand that the name-plate was from a Fawcett expedition five years prior to this one and was likely to have been given away as a gift to the tribe. As for the compass, it has proven to have been left behind before he entered the jungle for what was his final journey.
During the following decades after Fawcett’s disappearance, various groups have mounted several rescue expeditions, all being unsuccessful in finding the truth. There have been various rumours, none of which have ever been verified. These vary from the three of them being killed by Indians, eaten by wild animals, fallen ill from disease and even how Fawcett had lost his memory and lived out the rest of his life as the chief of a tribe of cannibals.
It is believed that over 100 would-be rescuers have died on countless expeditions to find the truth to this head-spinning mystery. Several of these search-parties claimed to have uncovered the truth but were later proven wrong. In 1927, American explorer George Dyott claimed he found evidence of Fawcett’s death but it was later proven that he was incorrect and an expedition in 1951 unearthed human remains which were claimed to be those of Fawcett’s but like most other discoveries, this was also deemed to be inaccurate and in fact, the remains had no connection to Fawcett or his companions at all.Here are some of the theories that have been claimed to be the fate of Fawcett and his two companions;
Orlando Villas-Boas said that he knew of Fawcett’s fate beyond that final letter which he wrote to his wife, Nina. He claimed that he had heard it from one of Fawcett’s murderers. According to this story, Fawcett and his companions had a mishap on a nearby river which led to them losing all of the gifts that they had brought with them for the Indian tribes. Continuing without gifts was seen to be a huge offence to the Indians and therefore, one of the tribes they encountered decided to kill them. Danish explorer, Arne Falk-Ronne journeyed to the Mato Grosso in the 1960s where he visited the tribe and reported back that one of the tribesman confirmed Villas-Boas’s story about how and why Fawcett was killed. However, there is still no certainty to this being the truth; thus being why it has been titled just a theory.
Commune in the Jungle
On 21st March 2004, British newspaper The Observer reported that television director Misha Williams, who had studied Fawcett’s private papers, believed the Fawcett had, in fact, no intention of ever returning but rather he wanted to live a new life in the jungle far away from any civilisation. It had even been recorded that blue-eyed, light-skinned Indians had been spotted running around in the jungle. People claimed these were the offspring of Jack Fawcett, Colonel Fawcett’s blue-eyed son.
This account claims that Fawcett and his party had stayed at a Kalapalo village and when they left, they headed eastward. The Kalapalos warned them that they should avoid going that way as they would be killed by the ‘fierce Indians’ who occupied the territory eastward, but Fawcett insisted on going. The Kalapalos observed smoke from Fawcett and his companions campfire each evening for a total of five days but on the sixth night the fire disappeared. The tribe claimed thereafter that they were sure the fierce Indians had killed them.
The discovery of the Lost City of ‘Z’
This theory claims that in actual fact, Fawcett, his son and Raleigh actually made it to the Lost City of ‘Z’. That they had actually found this incredible, ancient city which prior to the expedition had been deemed as just a myth. Once they had arrived, there was so much there for them so see that they simply didn’t want to leave and so they stayed there at ‘Z’ for the rest of their lives. Although people may find this theory laughable, you have to ask yourself, would you want to leave an ancient city filled with gold and riches that was thought to be just a myth?
There are extracts available from Fawcett’s actual letters that he send to Nina, see a quote below about ‘Z’:
‘I expect to be in touch with the old civilization within a month, and to be at the main objective in August. Thereafter, our fate is in the lap of the gods!’
This was in Fawcett’s final letter which he sent on May 20th 1925. It is clear that despite the problems that he would no doubt have faced on his way, he ALWAYS believed that he would make it to the lost city. As you can see, he claimed that he would make it to the main objective, Z, within the three months after he wrote this letter.
Colonel Fawcett never gave in and so you have to question it, was his fate really to be killed by the fierce Indians? Was it really to be killed by wild animals? Or was his fate, in actual fact, to find what he had been searching for all that time? This is without a doubt, one of the most incredible and fascinating mysteries of all time and although there is no real explanation for what happened to Fawcett and his two companions, their story lives on and perhaps one day, the truth can be revealed as to just what did happen to them after they reached Dead Horse Camp.
For those that are interested in this extraordinary story, later this year a film titled ‘The Lost City of Z’ is going to be released.
Please see the gallery below for images relating to this great expedition as well as one Bradninch Cricket Club team photo, with that of Colonel Fawcett in.