Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
The official start of Queen Elizabeth II's reign was highlighted by the conquering of of Mount Everest by Edmund Hillary and the Nepalese mountaineer, Tenzing Norgay. Hillary was knighted for his feat by the queen a month later. An excerpt from The Post of June 3, 1953:
KATMANDU, Nepal, June 2 (AP) --
The hardy British-directed team that conquered the world's highest peak as a coronation gift for Queen Elizabeth II drank a toast to her on Mt. Everest's stormy slopes today and began the perilous descent.
Native runners, speeding in relays from Everest's desolate heights, brought down the news that the Union Jack had been planted on top last Friday.
And while the dramatic news was being flashed to London, Col. John Hunt and his team -- radio sets tuned to the coronation celebrations -- quaffed their toast.
Two of the 15-man team succeeded in sealing the icy summit above 29,000 feet -- New Zealand's Edward Hillary, a beekeeper, and the famous Napalese Sherpa guide, 39-year-old Bhutia (Tiger) Tensing.
The cryptic message brought by the runners to Namche Bazar said only that Everest had been conquered May 29 on the party's third try and that "all is well."
There were messages going back to the mountaineers too. A stream of congratulations poured into this Nepalese royal capital to be relayed to the men now huddled a little below the peak.
News of the conquest came as a surprise, because Hunt's team had failed in two earlier attempts and reports to Katmandu had indicated the party was returning in defeat.
Enthusiasm was all the greater since Everest finally had yielded to man after his 11th try in 32 years.
Some Himalayan mountain experts surmised that Hunt's team had "caught Everest napping" during a lull in the ferocious weather which howls almost incessantly about its heights.
British members of the Himalayan Club in New Delhi were elated. One said: "Pardon my insular outlook -- it's the proudest day for Englishmen everywhere." ...
The perils of the intrepid team are still not over. A dangerous descent awaits them. For this reason the Indian government radio will continue to radio daily weather forecasts to the team. But today, instead of relaying the forecast for the 29,000 foot level, the radio beamed it at 25,000 feet.
Radio officials said they had been ordered to continue the forecast until at least June 15.
The latest forecast was occasional snow showers, 30-mile winds and temperatures of four below zero.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman in London disclosed last night news of the first successful assault on the icy peak and described it as a coronation "gift." Today the newly crowned queen, her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, and Prime Minister Churchill cabled their congratulations.
In her message, sent to the British minister, the Queen said:
"Please convey to Colonel Hunt and all members of the British expedition my warmest congratulations on their great achievement in reaching the summit of Mount Everest.
(signed) Elizabeth R."
This series is available at www.washingtonpost.com