Arctic Medal 1875-6, the 2nd Issue Round Medal with milled rim, for the members of HMS Discovery and Alert, to Stoker and Blacksmith Thomas Stubbs, HMS Alert, who was one of only 8 men to go on the sledging journey under perilous circumstances to reach the highest latitude ever attained at the time (83*20’26” N), this record stood for 20 years.
It also appears that “Stubbs Point” in the far north of Ellesmere Island was named for him.
Thomas Stubbs was very well mentioned in the journal of Pelham Aldrich. Officially a Stoker, he also made himself most useful as the party’s blacksmith, a rate which he later served as for many years until his untimely death during his service on HMS Boadicea at the age of 37 off the coast of Zanzibar.
Officially engraved as issued in signature unique style for this medal: “Thos Stubbs. Stoker. H.M.S. Alert.”
This medal was issued to him on HMS Swallow on 16th May 1877.
During the expedition the “Challenger” Sledge Crew was led by Lt Pelham Aldrich and consisted of:
Sledge Capt – Josh Good, Acting Chief Boatswain’s Mate
William Wood, Sergeant Royal Marines.
Adam Ayles, 2nd Class Petty Officer.
David Mitchell, Able Seaman.
James Doidge, Captain of Foretop.
Henry Mann, Shipwright
Thomas Stubbs, Black Smith.
They rode with the motto “Fortitudo Vincet” which translates to “The strength will prevail”.
An entry from 29th April, Saturday:
“Some cooks are apt to play curious, but inconvenient, pranks at the beginning of a journey. Our kettle leaked today; on examining it I found a small hole, and further enquiry elicited information that the cocoa had given some trouble in dissolving and that the point of a knife had been used to overcome its scruples. Fortunately the Blacksmith (Stubbs) was able to tinker it up again all right.”
Thursday, 8th June:
“At 10, Stubbs came to me with swollen testicles, having come on the night before last. I extemporised a suspensory bandage from a blue comforter, and excused him from the drag-ropes. Shortly after the Sergeant became out of breath and too weak to get on, so I sent him back ready for the second load….After Lunch started whole load, snow a little crisper. Stubbs following in rear, got along tolerably for half an hour then came to a dead stop. Canted sledge onto the medical box, and scraped the runners, which in some places had as much as 3 inches thick of ice on them underneath. Which assisted in enlarging the tremendous cakes of snow the sledge forced before it. A second time we did this, and at the end of an hour we have advanced just 10 years. However we got on much better afterwards and camped at 8.”
The next day, Friday 9th June:
“68th Journey, 5 days provisions, Cook at 7:20. I ought to put Stubbs on the sledge, the Sergeant ought to be put there too, but there is not strength enough left to drag them.”
Under way at 9.35, came across numerous deep places, which cost us much trouble to get through. I found it a good thing dragging the sledge over the shovel occasionally. Pitched tenth for lunch, and gave Stubbs warm water for bathing purposes. He is perfectly easy, so he says, though I daresay he does not feel as well as he wishes to make out, as he puts a very good face on things in general. After lunch the Sergeant and Mann both gave in, leaving 5 of us to drag ropes, Ayles and I becoming permanent leading men. Did a very good afternoon’s work, considering all things.”
Thomas Stubbs was born at Bootham Row, Clifton, Yorkshire on 9th April 1850. He first entered into the Royal Navy for the Arctic Expedition on HMS Alert as a Stoker, with number 91718 on 9th May 1875.
Following the expedition he left the ship with “Exemplary” character on 5th December 1876.
He then joined HMS Asia being advanced to Blacksmith on 21st February 1877, he would be a Blacksmith for the rest of his Naval career.
Joined HMS Swallow on 1st May 1877 until 3rd June 1881. Following a further period on HMS Asia and Duke of Wellington he joined HMS Northampton from 21st November 1882 until 21st April 1886. After three more months on HMS Asia he moved to HMS Excellent from 1st August 1886 until 3rd March 1888. After another 6 weeks on HMS Asia he joined HMS Boadicea on 24th April 1888, but shortly afterwards died of fever on 7th September 1888.
The announcement of his death, Hampshire Telegraph 13th October 1888:
“STUBBS – On the 7th Ult, on board HMS Boadicea, off Zanzibar, Thomas Stubbs, Blacksmith, from fever, aged 37 years. Deeply lamented and respected by all who knew him.”