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Macklin, Alexander Hepburne

Macklin, Alexander Hepburne

Alias: Mack

Title: Mr

Rank: Lieutenant-Colonel (Royal Army Medical Corps)

Dates: 1889-1967

Nationality: British

Awards: Polar Medal (silver); Order of the British Empire; Military Cross

Alexander Macklin was born in India, where his father was a doctor. However, his parents soon thereafter moved to the Scilly Isles, where young Macklin fell in love with the sea and became an excellent boat-handler. He attended the University of London and then Victoria University in Manchester, qualifying in medicine. During his time in Manchester, Macklin was a prominent figure as a forward in the Manchester University Rugby Team and also played for Manchester Football Club (today Manchester Rugby Club).

Shortly after finishing his studies, Macklin applied to join Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Not hearing back, he travelled to London and presented himself at Shackleton's office, where, after a typically random interview, he was accepted as one of the two surgeons. In addition to his medical duties, Macklin was also eventually put in charge of one of the dog teams, and he became one of the best sledgers on the expedition.

Although quick-tempered at times, Macklin was popular, in part for his hard work and in part for his unwaveringly positive attitude. After the abandonment of Endurance, he summarised the situation the party faced, and showed he was positive despite the circumstances, writing: 'Really, this sort of life has its attractions, I read somewhere that all a man needs to be happy is a full stomach and warmth, and I begin to think it is nearly true. No worries, no trains, no letters to answer, no collars to wear – but I wonder which of us would not jump at the chance to change it all tomorrow.'

After reaching Elephant Island, Macklin and his fellow surgeon Jim McIIroy had their hands full with Lewis Rickinson's heart troubles, Huberht Hudson suffering from a painful abscess as well as his nervous breakdown, Alexander Kerr requiring a tooth to be taken out, James Wordie having a hand infection, and, of course, the amputation of Perce Blackborow's toes. But Macklin maintained his positive outlook, and when the party at Cape Wild sighted the rescue ship Yelcho on the horizon, he 'dashed to the flag-staff to hoist the flag, but everything was frozen up, so he hoisted his sweater instead' (Worsley, Endurance, 1931: 192). For his great value to the expedition, Macklin later was awarded the Polar Medal in silver.

After returning to England, Macklin received a commission in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and he served during the First World War in France, Russia, and Italy, in the last of which he earned the Military Cross for bravery. In 1921 Macklin joined the Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic Expedition 1921-22 (Quest), on which he tended Shackleton in his final hours.

In 1926 Macklin established a medical practice in Dundee, where he remained until 1947 other than a period serving as a lieutenant-colonel in the Medical Corps in East Africa during the Second World War. After the war he married and took up several consultative posts at hospitals in Aberdeen. He retired in 1960 and died seven years later, one of the last surviving men to have sailed on Endurance.

Mount Macklin (54°45'S, 36°03'W), a twin-peaked mountain in the southern part of the Salvesen Range in South Georgia, was named in his honour.


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