Ice hell secrets revealed at last

ICEMI'''arthur rollinson, left, with a pal in thec early 1940s.
ICEMI'''arthur rollinson, left, with a pal in thec early 1940s.
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THE full story of the lonely death of a Sheffield soldier in the frozen wastes of wartime Iceland is set to be revealed in a new TV documentary.

Arthur Rollinson, from Ecclesfield, was just 23 when he died of hypothermia after getting lost while on a routine mountain warfare exercise in January 1942.

He was known to be one of eight men from the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry who perished when they were caught in a blizzard.

By a tragic irony, safety was little more than half a mile away.

Now a complete account of the tragedy - and the heroism which led to 48 other men in their unit being miraculously rescued - is to be told in a two-part TV series which is being filmed by an Icelandic film crew.

They have just completed a visit to Sheffield to meet Arthur’s relatives, who two years ago paid an emotional pilgrimage to the remote cemetery where Arthur is buried.

Nephews Gerald and Ian Smart were amazed to discover that they only knew a small part of what happened on that fateful day nearly 70 years ago.

“We were astonished by what the film’s director Sturla Palsson told us - from being a tragic story it’s now also a heroic one,” Gerald said.

Sturla found that an everyday exercise became perilous when a fierce storm blew in and one of the officers in charge slipped and broke his leg - later dying of exposure.

“They were a group of 60 men but after the accident they dispersed and wandered in the dark without direction,” he said.

“Eight young men lost their lives, including Arthur, while four more managed to get to safety on their own.

“The rescue of the remaining 48 was nothing less than a miracle.

“It was by mere coincidence that people from a remote farm stumbled upon an exhausted soldier a short distance from their home. The farmers then spent the night looking for more survivors on the mountain side.

“The farmer’s wife looked after those who were brought to safety,” Sturla said.

“Two brothers bore the burden of carrying many of the unconscious men to safety.

“One was only 14, and he is still with us.”

Now Sturla and his team are searching for other survivors from that night, or for their relatives, most of whom are believed to have come from the Sheffield and South Yorkshire area.

“Arthur’s family are our only connection to a victim of this ordeal.

“We are still looking for survivors, their relatives or any other relatives of the dead,” he said.

Gerald, aged 67, said he believed the surviving brother deserved some kind of recognition for his heroism.

“What they did that night was incredible, to save so many of those men.

“When we went over there we knew absolutely nothing about it.”

Gerald said he and Ian now hoped to go to the film’s premiere in Iceland next year.