James Martin collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to six polar expeditions which Martin took part in from his voyage in Garthpool, the British, Australian, New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition, 1929-1931 (leader Douglas Mawson), sealing in Quest in 1932, the expedition to the Northwest Territories of Canada, 1932-1933, Arctic sealing in 1934 and the British Graham Land Expedition, 1934-1937 (leader John Rymill).

Administrative / Biographical History

James Hamilton Martin was born in 1899 at Malvern. He was educated at Harrow School and was commissioned in the Grenadier Guards in 1918. He first went to sea in the sailing ship Garthpool before joining the British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition, 1929-1931 (leader Douglas Mawson), serving as a seaman and later boatswain in RRS Discovery. After the expedition, he went sealing in the White Sea, serving as seaman in the Norwegian sealer Quest. In 1933 he was chosen to lead the Oxford University Expedition to Spitsbergen, but was unable to participate due to frostbite suffered whilst sledging in northern Canada.

Martin joined the British Graham Land Expedition, 1934-1937 (leader John Rymill), serving as first mate in Penola under the command of Robert Edward Dudley Ryder. He participated in several sledging journeys and his skills as ship's rigger proved invaluable. At the beginning of the Second World War he transferred to the Royal Navy as a lieutenant. He died when the Q-ship in which he was serving was sunk in June 1940.


The collection is split into six sub-fonds comprising of expedition material.

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to British polar exploration and research a historical and medallic record with biographies 1818-1999 by Lieutenant Colonel Neville W Poulsom and Rear Admiral John A L Myres, Savannah Publications, London (2000) SPRI Library Shelf 737.2 and 'Lieutenant James Hamilton Martin' by James Mann Wordie in Geographical Journal volume 96 number 5 November 1940 p375-376 SPRI Library Shelf Pam 92[Martin] and 'Lieut J H Martin' by James Mann Wordie in Nature volume 146 October 1940 p553

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible.

Related Material

The Scott Polar Research Institute holds a number of photographs, film and other illustrative material in the Picture Library, some of which covers the expeditions Martin participated in. The catalogue can be searched on line by going to the Picture Library Database and selecting the Enter Polar Pictures link.