John ‘Brummie’ Stokes

Mountaineer and SAS Officer

"...an intrepid Brummie who cheated death THREE TIMES whilst climbing Mount Everest..."

Birmingham Mail, obituary 11 January 2016

As his name suggests, John ‘Brummie’ Stokes was born in Birmingham. Following a Sunday School adventure trip, he developed a love of climbing and mountaineering. In 1963 he entered the British Army at the age of 17, joining the Royal Green Jackets. As his army career developed he decided to attempt to pass the stringent standards for the SAS.

His success led to a Special Forces career lasting two decades during which he served in Borneo, Malaya, Singapore, Hong Kong and Guyana as well as the Canadian Rockies, southern Germany and the Falklands. In 1978 he was liaison between Army and police in Northern Ireland. ‘Brummie’ was shot through the knee while in Dhofar, which didn’t preventing him from scaling the world’s highest mountain on more than one occasion!

His first attempt at scaling Everest came in 1975, as a member of the Army Mountaineering Association team. This expedition tragically resulted in the deaths of four men. However, ‘Brummie’ teamed up with Major Michael ‘Bronco’ Lane once more the following year and the two managed to reach the summit on 16 May – the first British Army officers to attain this feat.

During their return to base camp, they were forced by the weather to camp in a snow hole at a temperature of minus 20 degrees celcius – their frostbite being worstened by problems with an oxygen bottle which needed to be handled with bare hands. Both climbers lost their toes and ‘Bronco’ lost the ends of his fingers.

Despite the loss of his toes, ‘Brummie’ returned to Everest following the conclusion of the Falklands conflict to attempt the summit via the notorious North Face. An avalanche not only killed one of the expedition members, but also resulted in ‘Brummie’ breaking his neck. Undeterred, in 1985 and after leaving the armed forces, he returned to Everest – reaching the summit by a previously unclimbed route. Again, ‘Brummie’ paid a high price for his success with partial paralysis on three occasions due cerebral edema brought on by altitude.

Despite having no toes and only one knee, in later life Stokes completed the London Marathon. He was awarded the MBE in 2004 due to his charitable work. He died aged 70 in January 2016.