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Lt Charles Royds and his Sporting Medal

Lt Charles Royds and his Sporting Medal

13 May – 28 June

Charles RoydsThe Polar Museum is delighted to display a Sporting Medal and tally from the British National Antarctic (Discovery) Expedition, 1901–04, led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott.

Charles William Rawson Royds volunteered as first lieutenant on board Discovery. He was a meteorologist (for which he received special training in the Ben Nevis Observatory) and in charge of physical training. Royds took part in the sledging programme, leading a sledging journey of exploration across the Ross Ice Shelf. Cape Royds on Ross Island was named for him.

When he returned from the expedition, the sporting medal and tally were given to Marguerite Makowski by Charles Royds during their courtship. Marguerite and Charles already knew each other, and first met when Royds was tutoring her brothers in maths. The story told by Marguerite in later life wass that the Royds family did not approve of their relationship and their engagement was subsequently broken off. Marguerite kept the love tokens and passed them down to her grandchildren who have kindly loaned them for this exhibition.

The tally and Sporting Medal was featured on a recent edition of the BBC programme Antiques Roadshow shown on the 22 June 2014.

Bridget Cusack, Museum Development Coordinator has written a blog post about this exhibition for the University of Cambridge Museum's blog pages.

Sporting MedalSporting Medals

Antarctic Sporting Medals were given to serving officers on the Discovery expedition as prizes for sporting achievements. Devised with the idea of keeping morale high, the blank medals were struck before the expedition left Britain in 1901. The silver medal were awarded to expedition members for their sporting achievements. In honour of King Edward VII's birthday on 8 November 1902 a general holiday was declared and the ship was decorated with Union flags and sports day competition was organised. Events included 'a flat skis race' (won by Petty Officer Edgar Evans) a ski race down one of the steep hillsides, a 'half a mile race on foot between teams of officers and men dragging heavy loaded sledges (won by the officers), a rifle shooting match and a toboggan race which was entered in pairs, each providing their own toboggan. Royds was in charge of physical activity on board Discovery and took part in the planning of the Sports Day, but on the day he was away on a sledging trip to Cape Crozier, returning on 17 November 1902. We think that he was awarded a personal medal in honour of his consistent record of achievement and high professional standards.

The British National Antartic Expedition, 1901–04

The British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901–04, generally known as the Discovery Expedition, was the first official British exploration of the Antarctic regions since James Clark Ross's voyage sixty -years earlier. This expedition aimed to carry out scientific research and geographic exploration in what was then largely an untouched continent. The expedition did not make a serious attempt on the South Pole, and the furthest south reached was 82°17′S. Led by Lt Robert Falcon Scott RN, 49 Royal Navy personnel and scientific staff sailed on board the ship Discovery. It launched the careers of many who became leading figures in the heroic age of Antarctic exploration including Scott, Ernest Shackleton, Edward Wilson, Frank Wild, Tom Crean and Williams Lashley.

Its scientific results covered extensive ground in biology, zoology, geology, meteorology and magnetism. There were important geological and zoological discoveries, including those of the snow-free McMurdo Dry Valleys and the Cape Crozier Emperor Penguin colony. In the field of geographical exploration, achievements included the discoveries of King Edward VI Land, and the Polar Plateau via the western mountains route.

The expedition was a success, despite having needed an expensive relief mission to free Discovery and its crew from the ice, scurvy and later disputes about the quality of some of its scientific records and assertions of failure to master the techniques of efficient polar travel using skis and dogs, a legacy that persisted in British Antarctic expeditions throughout the Heroic Age.


Charles William Rawson Royds was born in Rochdale, Lancashire, on 1 February 1876 He entered the Royal Navy as a cadet on HMS Conway and after varied service with the fleet, was promoted to lieutenant in 1896. He volunteered for the British National Antarctic Expedition from 1901 – 1904 (leader Robert Falcon Scott), as first lieutenant on board Discovery. Charles was promoted to Captain and became Flag Captain to Admiral Sir Stanley Colville commanding Orkney and Shetland and then given command of the battleship HMS Emperor of India, an important command for a junior Captain. Charles served in the Royal Navy until 1926 when he was appointed as Assistant Commission 'A' of the London Metropolitan Police. In 1929 he was appointed Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE) in the Metropolitan Police Centenary Honour and in the same year ADC to the King. In 1930 he was promoted to Vice-Admiral on the Retired List. Royds passed away on 5 January 1931.