Victor Hayward

10 Dec

I was interested to see that the Albert Medal and the Polar Medal, awarded to Victor Hayward, are to be auctioned. It is anticipated that thousands of pounds will be realized. I am delighted that there is still such interest in the expeditions of the Heroic Age.
The Albert Medal was awarded for the saving of life on land or sea (two medals with different inscriptions depicting the two groups). The medal was discontinued in 1971 and replaced by The George Medal. The land version, which was awarded posthumously to Victor, was in red with a red and white ribbon.
The Polar Medal is awarded to citizens of the UK and Northern Ireland who have made conspicuous contributions to knowledge of the Polar Regions, or who have
given service of outstanding quality in support of acquisition of this knowledge and who, in either case, have undergone the hazards and rigours imposed by the Polar environment.
It is greatly valued. William Speirs Bruce, whose biography I have just completed, battled unsuccessfully for years to get the medal awarded to members of his Scotia Expedition The medal is octagonal, with a white ribbon. It depicts a ship surrounded by ice floes. The obverse has a portrait of the reigning monarch, in Victor’s case George V.
Shackleton’s support team went to McMurdo Sound. Their story has been overshadowed by the Endurance saga. The Captain of the Aurora was Aeneas Mackintosh. Victor Haywood was a member of the Ross Sea party, which included the Reverend Arnold Patrick Spencer Smith and seven other members. Mackintosh was in charge of laying a series of depots across the Great Ice Barrier from the Ross Sea to the Beardmore Glacier for Shackleton to pick up when he had crossed the Antarctic from the Weddell Sea. Shackleton’s party could not carry sufficient food and fluid for the entire journey and depended on these depots for the final quarter of their journey (as is well known, in the event, Shackleton did not actually make landfall on the Antarctic as ‘The Endurance ‘became icebound, and drifted around the Weddell Sea from February 1915 to November 1915, when she sank.
Mackintosh sailed to Antarctica from Tasmania. On arrival in Antarctica three camps were prepared, the largest in Cape Evans, Scott’s hut of 1910, the second in Hut Point Scott’s original camp of 1902 (relatively poorly equipped and separated by sea/ice from Cape Evans by thirteen miles), and thirdly at Safety Camp, a staging area from which the parties would set out for the south. Mackintosh followed instructions with enormous difficulty. The first party, January to March 1915, reached 80 degrees S. At each parallel they left depots, made out of ice blocks to about 12 feet and topped by a high black flag. By the time they returned to Hut Point they had lost all of the ten dogs they had taken.

In May 1915 the Aurora was torn from her moorings in a gale and carried out to sea. The men at the base were marooned.
Mackintosh and his party spent the winter preparing to set up more depots in the south. The second depot laying party worked from September 1915 in three teams of three. A failure of a primus stove meant that three of the party returned to Cape Evans leaving six to sledge south. During the journey the Reverend Spencer-Smith failed rapidly and became so debilitated with scurvy that he had to be left behind in a tent whilst the others progressed south, passing the 83 parallel (where Shackleton had turned back from his ‘Furthest South’ in 1909). They finally got to the base of the Beardmore Glacier leaving a depot with two weeks supply of food and fuel.
On their return the party picked up Spencer Smith. When Spencer-Smith was alone and dying slowly in his tent, he hallucinated and wrote notes that are touching to read – he thought that the war was over, that Sir Ernest and Frank Wild had appeared, both clean and neat, and that he had spent the day delivering a sermon in execrable French. He was conscious enough to write ‘Laus Deo’, as the team approached his tent. The return journey was terrible. Both Mackintosh and Spencer-Smith had to be pulled on a sledge and Victor Hayward was also very weak, but he looked after his two ill companions putting their wellbeing above his own and it was for this service that he was to be awarded the Albert Medal. As the awful return continued, Mackintosh was left behind behind as Victor and Spencer-Smith were taken north by sledge. Spencer-Smith died, worn out by exhaustion and scurvy. On the return there was no conversation ‘all our energies are needed for the job in hand’ -to bring the party to the relative safety of the Hut Point shelter where Victor recovered slowly. Mackintosh was able to follow later.
The party reached the Hut Point camp in mid March. Here they were marooned waiting for the ice between Hut Point and Cape Evans to be strong enough to stand their weight. They ate seal meat morning, noon, night. They lived ‘like troglodytes’.
On May 8th Mackintosh and Victor Hayward decided they had had enough of the conditions and the unending seal meat. They decided to cross the thirteen miles of ice to Camp Evans (warm and well supplied with food in comparison to Hut Point). They left against the advice of their companions, who watched their figures slowly becoming fainter and fainter in the dim light. Two hours later a blizzard swept over the Sound Mackintosh and Hayward were never seen again. They could have fallen through the ice, or been carried out to sea when the ice broke up. If, by any chance they had managed to reach land, they would have succumbed to hypothermia.
Seven years later, in 1923, Hayward was posthumously awarded the Albert Medal for gallantry, in recognition of his efforts to save the lives of Mackintosh and Spencer-Smith on the Barrier. The award of the Polar Medal recognized his prolonged support, service and contribution to advances of knowledge in the Antarctic. He was a man who had suffered and endured the hazards and rigours of the continent with courage.

albert medal on the left Polar medal and bar

albert medal on the left
Polar medal and bar




2 Responses to “Victor Hayward”

  1. Mike Wain December 13, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    I was fortunate to be able to buy these medals last week- Mike

    • isobelpwilliams December 13, 2016 at 10:08 pm #

      I am very interested–Congratulations! Please give some details of competition etc

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