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Polar Medal in bronze, with bars for Anarctic 1910-13 & Antarctic 1914-16

Polar Medal, 1913-1916

Obverse, a bust of King George V

Polar Medal, 1913-1916

Reverse, explorers arrayed in foreground with an icebound ship behind

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Polar Medal, 1913-1916

British medals for polar exploration were first issued in 1857, though their issue was not confined to British explorers, and was also made to civilians. This design was first issued in 1904.
The bar for 1910-1913 on this medal indicates that the recipient, whose name is not known, was one of the landing party in the fatal expedition of Captain Scott to the South Pole. Only four such medals were issued in bronze. Furthermore, the second bar was awarded to members of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition under Sir Ernest Shackleton. Sources suggest that only two of the men on that voyage held a bronze medal for a previous expedition, but which of them this medal belonged to, if it has not been tampered with or as has been suggested is only a proof issue, is unknown.
Lester Watson purchased the medal from the London dealer Baldwin in 1927.