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Celebrating Lieutenant Charles Royds

Throughout this year, we’re marking the birthdays of some of the men who have been part of Discovery’s astonishing 120+ year history.

On 1st February 1876, Charles William Rawson Royds was born in Rochdale, Lancashire. Ahead of him lay an illustrious naval career, which led him to volunteer for a role on Discovery’s groundbreaking British National Antarctic Expedition that would begin in 1901, returning home in 1904; creating a legacy that lives on to this day.

(Read the original edit of this blog post here:

Royds began his naval career as a cadet on the HMS Conway. In 1898, he received early promotion to Lieutenant for his skilled command of a boat that rescued a man who had fallen overboard in the Baltic. Immediately before joining the Discovery, he had been aboard H.M.S. Crescent; the Royal Navy’s flagship in North America.

In 1900, he was appointed the First Lieutenant on the Discovery Expedition. His duties related to the everyday running of the ship, such as dealing with the crew, ensuring they knew what their work was and, most importantly, that they did it correctly. He also served as meteorologist on the Expedition, having trained in meteorology at the Ben Nevis Observatory in the winter of 1900.

Portrait of Royds, from family album of Hartley T. Ferrar (DUNIH 2018.24.25.1)

Writing in his diaries, Dr. Edward Wilson (pg.133-134)* describes the extent of the meteorological observations, taken every two hours daily;

“Barometer reading and temperature of the hut at the time
Temperature of the air by dry bulb
Temperature of the air by wet bulb
Minimum temperature of the previous 2 hours
Direction of the wind and its force by; Beaufort’s scale; Robertson’s anemometer; and Dines’ anemometer
Upper clouds and their direction and amount
Lower clouds and their direction and amount
Weather at the time”

“And besides these, at various hours in the day, the following are also noted:
Temperature of the air on board ship
Temperature of the snow
Temperature of the earth
Amount of snow fallen
Aurora, corona, parhelion etc. etc. etc”

“Altogether a most exhaustive detailed record of everything to do with the climate”

The meteorological work of Charles Royds truly was all-encompassing, with the First Lieutenant taking extra care to ensure that each value was recorded as precisely and accurately as possible. To aid in this time-consuming task, other officers often assisted Royds in taking the readings on the bi-hourly rota.

These readings were consequently published by the Royal Society as part of the scientific results of the British National Antarctic Expedition. On the western side of Ross Island in Antarctica, a cape discovered on the Expedition was named after Royds – where Shackleton would later build a hut, during his 1907 Nimrod Expedition.

A key role in the smooth operations of everyday life aboard Discovery, Royds also excelled in sporting opportunities that arose, including winning this medal during the sports day competition held in Antarctica on 8th November 1902, in honour of the King Edward VII’s birthday. It is inscribed “Antarctic sports won by Lieutenant C.W.R. Royds. RN”. The reverse bears a penguin on ice flow with the words “National Antarctic Expedition “Discovery”.

Sports medal awarded to C. Royds (W 79.133.44)

The blank medals were struck before the Expedition left Britain, ready for engraving. A general holiday was declared in honour of the King’s birthday; the ship was decorated with union jacks, a large union jack was hoisted at Hut Point and a sports competition was organised. Events included ‘a flat skis race’, a ski race down one of the steep hillsides, a ‘half a mile race on foot’ between teams of officers and men dragging heavy loaded sledges, a rifle shooting match and, a toboggan race which was entered in pairs, each providing their own homemade toboggan.

Fittingly, Royds rose to become a Director of Physical Training and Sports in the Royal Navy, then Commodore of the Royal Naval Barracks at Devonport and Rear-Admiral in 1926. At this time he retired from the Navy to become a Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, London – during which time, he was appointed Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE).

Portrait of Royds from a scrapbook compiled by Sir Clements Markham, from our collections (DUNIH 444.1)

Experience the story of Royds and his Discovery officers and crew brought to life at Discovery Point as you walk aboard the remarkable Royal Research Ship Discovery in her home town of Dundee.

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