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Armytage, Bertram

Armytage, Bertram

Alias: None

Title: Mr

Rank: Imperial officer

Dates: 1869-1910

Nationality: Australian

Awards: Polar Medal (silver); Queen's medal with three clasps

Bertram Armytage was born in Lara, Victoria, Australia. He was the fourth son of a family who had achieved their wealth through the wool industry. His education spanned the globe; he attended school at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School and went to university at Jesus College, Cambridge. He was a keen rower and was in the Jesus rowing team when they finished first on the river during the 1888 Lent races. Following university, Armytage returned to Australia, and was on his father's station—Wooloomanannta—for some years, and afterwards on a station in Queensland.

He was always interested in soldiering and joined the Artillery in Victoria. After some experience as an artillery man he went to England and joined a cavalry regiment. He fought in the Boer War in South Africa with the 6th Dragoon Guards, where he earned many distinctions, including the Queen’s Medal with three clasps.

Although being one of the oldest members of the team at 38, he was selected for Shackleton’s Nimrod Expedition on the basis of his physical strength and hunting skills. Armytage was given charge of the ponies on the expedition, famously narrowly escaping the jaws of killer whales while shepherding them across the sea ice. During the expedition he was part of the Western party and the South Pole support party. He also helped on depot laying trips, such as stocking Hut Point on 12 August and Butter Point on 5 December. Although he did not participate in any of the great achievements of the expedition, he was a steady workman who contributed to the successes of many of them.

Sadly, Armytage’s life after the expedition was very difficult; he struggled to find any form of permanent work either in the United Kingdom or in Australia. This caused such depression that on 12 March 1910, at the age of 41, he shot himself in the head in his room in the Melbourne Club. He was thus the first member of the expedition to die, causing great sadness for all the other members. Armytage is commemorated by Mount Armytage, 76°02’ S 160°45’ E. A sledge used by Armytage on the Nimrod Expedition is held in the Museum Victoria Antarctic collection in Australia.


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