An unusual group of medals in the museum reveals a little of the
adventurous life of Major Frederick George Jackson of The East Surrey
Regiment. Two medals are unique and were awarded before he had even
joined the Army.
Jackson was born in 1860 in the quiet country town of Alcester,
where his grandfather was rector. On leaving school, he went out
to Australia and worked on a Queensland cattle station for three
years where he also learned to handle and break horses. Here he
started his life of travelling by a trip in the Australian Desert.
On returning home, he read medicine at Edinburgh University, but
did not qualify. It was while he was a medical student that Frederick
Jackson plunged into the icy waters of a loch at Linlithgow on 1st
January 1885 to rescue a 17 year old girl from drowning. For this
he was awarded the Royal Humane Society’s Bronze Medal.
Two years later, he sailed across the Atlantic in a whaling ship
for a voyage to Greenland. He then made a preliminary expedition
across the Great Russian Tundra to Archangel and then on to Lapland
in mid-winter. This experience in the Arctic inspired Jackson to
make an attempt on the North Pole from Franz Josef Land to the north
of Russia. After some further expeditions to gain experience and
to test equipment, he found a patron for his Polar project in Alfred
Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe.
Jackson organised and led the Jackson-Harmsworth Expedition which
sailed for Franz Josef Land in 1894. A base was established at Cape
Flora in the south and the next two years were spent in exploring
Franz Josef Land, and in surveying and mapping. On 17th June 1896
the Norwegian explorers, Nansen and Johansen, arrived at the Cape
Flora base from their own attempt ton the Pole. After incredible
dangers and hardships, they had hoped to reach Spitzbergen by Kayak
en route for Norway, but it was then too late in the year. They
were hospitably received by Jackson’s expedition with whom
they stayed for seven weeks. Rather than spend a fourth winter in
the Arctic, the two Norwegians were glad to avail themselves of
a passage home in the Expedition’s supply ship, The Windward.
African Medal (1899-1902)
Bars South Africa 1902, South Africa 1901
Transvaal, Orange Free State, Cape Colony
1914 Star Bar 5th Aug - 22nd Nov 1914
British War Medal (1914-20)
Order of St Olaf, Knight First Class (Norwegian)
Bronze Medal of the Royal Humane Society
their third season exploring the innumerable small islands of Franz
Josef Land, the Jackson – Harmsworth Expedition completed
the survey of the western part of the archipelago, but a further
journey north was made too late in the season and they had to turn
back on account of the ice. In September 1897, the Expedition returned
to London, having covered about 1,140 miles and added about 500
miles to the chart of Franz Josef Land. During the next year the
affairs of the enterprise were wound up. No sponsors for further
Polar exploration was forthcoming, and Jackson found himself nearing
forty and with no occupation. For his services to the Norwegian
explorers, Jackson was awarded the Norwegian Order of Knight (First
Class) of the Royal Order of St Olav in 1898. It was in this year
that he first married.The South African War broke out in October
1899, and Jackson saw his opportunity to be of service. He applied
to join the Army, and in March 1900 was granted a direct captain’s
commission in the 5th (Militia) Battalion The Manchester Regiment.
He was appointed to train a Mounted Infantry Company, and here his
experience with horses in Australia came into its own. He served
with them in South Africa, being Mentioned in Despatches and receiving
the Queen’s South Africa Medal with five bars. In 1905, Captain
Jackson was transferred to the 4th (Special Reserves) Battalion
The East Surrey Regiment, and in January 1910 was promoted Major.
In October 1914, Major Jackson, who was then 54, was sent with a
draft of two officers and 65 other ranks to the 1st Battalion in
action near La Bassee in France. All the company commanders had
been wounded, and Major Jackson temporarily took command of the
two forward companies in the advance towards La Bassee. It is indeed
remarkable that an officer of his age (in fact, seven years older
than his commanding officer!) should be sent to a battalion in the
line, but a man of Major Jackson’s adventurous spirit would
not have missed such an opportunity for active service. He was later
invalided home and commanded the Southwark Recruiting District for
more than two years. After his wife died in 1918, Major Jackson
went abroad again to command prisoner of war camps in Germany. He
was awarded the 1914 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal for
his services in the Great War.
Jackson now transferred his interests from the Arctic to Africa.
In the 1920s he crossed the Continent from east to west, travelled
across Mashonaland, Matabeleland and Northern Rhodesia and trekked
across Urundi and Ruanda. From Lake Kivu he crossed the Congo Forest
to the Lualaba River, visited the sources of the three great rivers
of Africa, the Zambesi, the Nile and the Congo, and followed the
whole length of the last named river to the sea. He was a member
of a League of Nations Commission to inquire into slavery, said
to be practised in Liberia. There was no end to his interest in
exploration and travel.
At the age of 69 he married for the second time and settled down
to writing. He was the author of three books, ‘The Great Frozen
Land’, ‘A Thousand Days in the Arctic’ and ‘The
Lure of Unknown Lands’ and wrote numerous papers and articles.
He was a man of phenomenal energy and wide interests. He listed
as his recreation big game shooting, fishing, hunting and polo.
Unorthodox to the end, he spent his last years with his wife in
a houseboat, called ‘Afterglow’, on the Thames.
Major Jackson died in 1938 at the age of 78, having led a full,
active and useful life. After the Second World War a memorial to
him was unveiled in St Paul’s Cathedral.