Arctic Medal 1857 HMS Investigator. Historically Important Arctic Medal 1857 to a seaman who sailed on H.M.S. Investigator and is on the crew list for one of the most renowned voyages in Naval and Exploration history which was pre-eminent in both the search for the Sir John Franklin Expedition and the successful search for the North-West Passage.
The medal is named to John Ramsay H.M.S. Investigator in the form of engraving around the octagonal rim of the medal.
John Ramsay was an Able Bodied Seaman, crew member of HMS Investigator, Captained by Commander R. J. Le M. McLure.
The medal on offer here has been proudly worn, has signs of polishing and also has the usual running repair which is frequently seen on this medal due to its inherent design weakness. The ribbon is the correct 38mm width ribbon.
The following information about Ramsay comes from records, sourced from the Investigator’s Muster (ADM 38/1026), Board of Trade (BT 113/31), and Arctic Medal 1818-55 Roll (ADM 171/9):
John Ramsay was born and died in Leith, Edinburgh. He served as a merchant seaman prior to signing on to HMS Investigator when aged 31 with the rank of Able Seaman on the 9th January 1850. He signed on at Woolwich.
He spent three winters on the ice-bound Investigator and is named in lists of sledging parties.
He returned to the UK, arriving at Sheerness, October 7th, on the North Star with the rest of the crew of the Investigator. The crew of the Investigator were held to await court-martial. Sometime later, following the crew’s exoneration, John Ramsay would have been in receipt of his share of the reward for the discovery of the North-West Passage, which would have been £29 1 Shilling and 5 pennies along with his back-pay, which would have been a significant sum to a man of his standing.
The voyage of the Investigator under McClure is very well documented. It is subject to numerous articles on-line and is the subject of the excellent, investigative book by Glenn Stein, Discovering the North-West Passage – The Four- Year Arctic Odyssey of H. M. S. Investigator and the McClure Expedition.
The book Discovering the North-West Passage by Glenn Stein, as mentioned above, does record the existence of a second medal held at the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow. This medal is recorded as being named on the reverse. The existence of a second medal is not unheard of. The naming of this museum piece is in the style of late 19th Century and states in block John Ramsay.
We would like to thank Glenn for his interest and advice during our research of this superb medal. A copy of his book will also accompany the medals. It may be of interest to collectors that a 14-page appendix in Glenn Stein’s book details the creation and design of the Arctic Medal 1818-55.
Our research has also uncovered an Obituary of John Ramsay which also includes a sketch of the man. As a historical document this obituary is of significant social interest.
Along with this is a copy of a newspaper article reporting the presentation of a gift to the Ship’s Doctor, Armstrong, form the Officer, men and Marines at a re-union. John Ramsay features in this list.
It is also of note that the crew of the Investigator transferred to HMS Resolute prior to transferring, with the crew of the Resolute to HMS North Star once it was understood that the Resolute was also caught fast in the ice.
Whilst HMS Investigator sank after its release from the ice, the fate of HMS Resolute is equally interesting. The unmanned Resolute became free of the ice and was found some time later, adrift. Having been returned to the UK it was broken up with instructions from Queen Victoria that a desk be made from the timbers and presented to the Americans.
This desk, The Resolute Desk, now sits in the Oval Office in the White House and has been used by Presidents of the United States since.
As stated at the beginning this is a stunning and historical medal.