Exceptional Naval and Polar Awards from the Collection of RC Witte

Date of Auction: 13th December 2007

Sold for £18,000

Estimate: £6,000 - £8,000

The Polar Medal awarded to Dr. S. E. Jones, who served with distinction in Mawson’s Expedition 1912-14

Polar Medal 1904,
G.V.R., 1st issue, silver, 1 clasp, Antarctic 1912-14 (Dr. S. E. Jones, “Aurora”), good very fine £6000-8000


Sidney Evans Jones was born in Adelaide, Australia but his family moved to Queensland, where he attended Ipswich School. Here he headed the state at the school leaving examination, winning the Lilley Medal. He proceeded to Saint Andrew's College, University of Sydney, to study medicine and graduated MB., ChB., in 1910. After a year as Resident Medical Officer at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital he was, together with a fellow graduate from Sydney University, appointed Medical Officer in Queen Mary Land to the Australian Antarctic Expedition 1912-14.

This expedition was led by Sir Douglas Mawson who had already accompanied Shackleton to the Antarctic in 1907. The team that set out at the end of 1911 aboard the Aurora soon had to amend the initial plan to establish three bases and finally settled for a main base at Cape Dennison in Commonwealth Bay, under Mawson, and another of eight men under Frank Wild further to the west.

Dr. Jones accompanied the latter party to establish the Western base on the Shackleton Shelf, which was accomplished towards the end of February 1912, when the Aurora departed. After sending a reconnoitring party to the South, where lay the mainland, they used the Antarctic Winter to make preparations for Spring expeditions. In preparation for his Spring expedition Dr. Jones set out at the end of September 1912 on a depot-laying journey. It reached the Helen Glacier about 45 miles distant only to find that the Davis Sea was open, which resulted in a circuitous return of 17 miles before they could ascend land reaching a height of 1000 feet. A blizzard of seven days delayed their return until the end of October and before they reached the main base they met Wild who had already set out to search for them. Wild commented that they had only one serviceable tent between them.

On 7 November, after less than a two week interval, Dr. Jones set out on his main expedition for Gaussberg in Kaiser Wilhelm 11 Land which was about 200 miles west of the Shackleton Shelf. His party of three men had two sledges and rations to last 13 weeks. The supplies were too heavy to haul in one load and had to be laboriously moved in relay. This arduous work, together with blizzards and crevasses, significantly limited their progress. Jones' diary describes some hazardous moments. When crossing the broken ice on the western edge of the Helen Glacier, he says:

'At this point three great crevassed ridges united to form the ice-falls on the western edge of the glacier. The point of confluence was the only place that appeared to offer any hope of a passage, and, as we did not want to retrace our steps, we decided to attempt It. The whole surface was a network of huge crevasses, some open, the majority from 50 to 100 feet or more in width. After many devious turns, a patch of snow between two large abysses was reached. As the ice in front seemed even more broken than behind, camp was pitched. After tea a search was made for a way out, and it was found that by travelling along a narrow knife-edge ridge of ice and névé, with an open crevasse on each side, a good surface could be reached within a mile of the camp. The ridge had a gradient of one in ten, and, unfortunately, also sloped down towards one of the open crevasses. Despite the dangers, this route was successfully negotiated and Helen Glacier was passed.'

At the end of the month members of the team sighted Drygalski Island and discovered a small group of islands off the coast which they approached to discover a large Emperor Penguin rookery, Adelie Penguin rookeries, as well as rookeries of many other birds, such as petrels and skua gulls. It must have been an awesome sight for the Emperor Penguins alone covered four or five acres on the floe about a mile from the island. Here they took photographs and searched for specimens while the birds provided a welcome variation to the party's diet. At the beginning of December the expedition continued westward and finally reached Gaussberg, an extinct volcano, by Christmas after their track had passed through 17 miles of dangerous country. On Christmas Day they ate tinned plum pudding and in the afternoon ascended the mountain.

At this point they decided to return to base because, though they had sufficient food for an outward journey of another week, there was no indication that the country would change and the view from the summit of Gaussberg was almost as far as could be marched in a week. On 26 December the expedition headed for home and successfully reached the main base on 21 January 1913.

Wild wrote that 'our joint efforts had been successful in charting and otherwise investigating a length of about 400 miles of coast in the region'. It was now a matter of awaiting the return of the
Aurora, though worsening weather and anxiety about the timing of the ship's arrival led the party to take steps to accumulate stores of seal meat for food and blubber for fuel to carry them through a second year if necessary. However on February they saw what they thought was a penguin standing on a distant pack ice, but which they soon reallsed was the mast-head of the Aurora. It was March before they arrived back in Hobart.

Mawson's book The Home of the Blizzard provides further information of the party under Wild and includes extracts from the diaries kept by both Wild and Jones during these expeditions. The original Jones manuscript is now lodged in the Australian National Library, Canberra. These accounts report unsettling moments such as when Jones fell into a crevasse up to his middle and particularly attest to his skills and resourcefulness. Jones was a good shot and is credited with shooting skua gulls for food. During the winter months Jones and a companion worked the acetylene plant. On one unfortunate occasion while he was charging the generators, one of them caught fire. For a while there was danger of the fire spreading and even of an explosion. Eventually it was extinguished with blankets though Jones suffered a scorched face and singed hair. Wild comments that, in addition to his ability as a surgeon, Jones showed himself to be an excellent plumber, brazier and tinsmith. He spent time contriving a harpoon for seals as hunting was a daily task required to augment the food supplies. He also experimented with glaxo with the intent of making biscuits which would be suitable for the sledging parties. After several failures he succeeded in compressing with a steel die, a firm biscuit of glaxo and butter mixed, three Ounces of which was the equivalent to four and a half ounces of the usual plasmon biscuit. With two companions he even constructed an igloo to be used as a magnetic observatory.

On his return, Jones entered the Mental Hospitals Department of New South Wales and was Medical Officer in Parramatta, Rydalmere and Callan Park Hospitals before taking up a post at Broughton Hall Psychiatric Clinic in 1925. Here, says his obituarist Professor W.S. Dawson, 'his life's work may be said to have begun.' The Hall had been used for First World War military psychiatric casualties but this ceased in 1923 after which it became a pioneering institution in making provision to deal with the needs of non-certified psychiatric patients. Jones' work at Broughton demonstrated his dedication to improving the diagnostic, medical and therapeutic facilities of the hospital. He even took responsibility for the extensive planning and planting of the grounds including the introduction of birds and fish, also for the design of additional buildings, all of which he considered integral to the process of bringing patients back to normality.

He also found time to contribute to psychiatric literature with his work on the delimitation and classification of certain clinical syndromes. His appreciation of military needs during the Second World War led to his collaboration in a handbook for Medical Officers entitled The Nervous Soldier. He was Chair of the Section of Neurology and Psychiatry of the New South Wales Branch of the British Medical Association and a founder member of the Australasian Association of Psychiatrists. Additionally he was an examiner in Psychiatry at the University of Sydney and through his life maintained a strong sense of duty to impart his knowledge to medical colleagues and students. A reticent, but warm, generous and dedicated man, Jones excelled at a range of activities and hobbies as he had ably demonstrated in the Antarctic - photography, radio technology, woodwork, and metalwork, especially the making of tools. He died in January 1948.