The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History
ROBERT FALCON SCOTT (1868-1912)
Mr Robert Scott was the first of the family to settle in Plymouth. He was of Scottish descent, where his ancestors had long been in military service of one kind or another. In 1819 he bought Outlands House in the Parish of Stoke Damerel.
Outlands House at Milehouse, Devonport.
He had five sons, the last of which, John Edward Scott, was born in 1830. In 1862 he married Miss Hannah Canning and they also lived at Outlands along with his parents and a great aunt. John managed the family brewery business at Hoegate Street. They had four daughters and two sons.
Robert Falcon Scott was the third child and the eldest son and was born at Outlands on June 6th 1868. His younger brother was called Archibald. Robert was sent to school in Stoke Damerel at first and was a choirboy at Saint Mark's Church, Ford. He later went to a private school at Stubbington House, Fareham, in Hampshire. From there he started his career in the Royal Navy by joining "HMS Britannia" at Dartmouth in 1880.
He served as a midshipman on "HMS Boadicea" in 1882 and "HMS Rover" in 1887, as a sub-lieutenant on "HMS Spider", and a s a lieutenant on "HMS Amphion". In 1897 he was promoted to first lieutenant and the following year was appointed as torpedo-lieutenant on "HMS Majestic", the flagship of the Channel squadron.
The family ran into financial difficulties around this time and were forced to sell the brewery in Plymouth in 1893. The money gained from that soon ran out and in 1895 John Edward Scott took his family to Somerset, where he managed a brewery until his death in 1897. Sadly, he was to know nothing of his eldest son's achievements.
In 1900 Robert was promoted to commander and appointed to "HMS Discovery" to take charge of the first Antarctic expedition. This expedition left England in August 1901, sailing under a merchant flag rather than the White Ensign. They reached the Ross Sea in January 1902 and set about exploring. The "Discovery" anchored for the winter but unfortunately the ice failed to melt the following summer and this became the base of the expedition. After two years of exploration, the ship returned to New Zealand in April 1904.
Scott had proved himself to be an admirable leader and when he returned to England later that year he was promoted to captain and resumed his duties in the Royal Navy. After commanding the "Victorious", the "Essex" and the "Bulwark", in 1909 he was appointed Naval Assistant to the Second Sea Lord at the Admiralty. It was also the year in which he announced his intention of a journey to the South Pole.
It was in 1908, during a brief period of service at home, that he married Miss Kathleen Bruce, the daughter of Canon Lloyd Bruce of York.
In June 1910, Scott set off on the expedition that was to prove both ill-fated and a triumph at the same time. Aboard the "Terra Nove", they established winter quarters at Cape Evans and the ship left them and sailed to New Zealand. The sledge journey to the South Pole began on November 1st 1911.
The journey started well but it was not long before the motor sledges broke down beyond repair, causing the rest of the expedition to be made with the assistance of dogs and ponies. On December 11th, at the foot of the Beardmore glacier, the last pony was shot for food. The dogs were sent back with a returning support party.
On January 4th 1912 the last of the support parties left Scott, Doctor E A Wilson, Captain L E G Oates of the Inniskilling Dragoons, Lieutenant H R Bowers RIM and Petty Officer Edgar Evans to continue towards the Pole. Amidst temperatures as low as -23%F, they finally reached the South Pole on January 18th, only to discover that the Norwegian explorer, Amundsen, had got there on December 14th 1911.
In spite of terrible travelling conditions, the party made it back as far as the head of the Beardmore glacier. But Petty Officer Evans was breaking down under the severe strain and he died on February 17th 1912. Captain Oates was also in trouble, with frost-bitten feet, and he became a liability. On the morning of March 17th 1912 he walked out of the tent into the blizzard, thereby making the ultimate sacrifice by which he hoped to save his companions.
Four days later, after making slow progress because of the severe weather conditions, Scott, Wilson and Bowers made their last camp, just eleven miles short of the supply depot they had been hoping to reach. There, Scott completed his diary and wrote letters that have become part of the national heritage. In one, to his wife, he urged her to make their son, Peter, interested in natural history. 'It is better than games', he added. Captain Robert Falcon Scott is thought to have perished on March 29th 1912.
Eight months later a search party found the tent and the three bodies, along with their diaries, letters, photographs, and valuable geological specimens they had managed to carry with them in spite of the horrors of the journey. The full news of the disaster reached New Zealand in February 1913.
Following a memorial service at Saint Paul's Cathedral in London, the widows and dependants of the men were all granted pensions and Scott's wife, Kathleen, was granted the style and precedence of a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB).
His son, Peter, went on to gather gallantry awards during the Second World War, in the Royal Navy, of course, and to establish himself as a world-renowned authority on bird life.
There is a memorial to Scott of the Antarctic at Mount Wise, Devonport.
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