Born on July 20th 1886, Raymond Edward Priestley grew up and went to school in Tewkesbury, before going on to become an explorer, scientist, soldier and educator.
At the age of 20, whilst studying geology at Bristol University, chance gave him the opportunity to join Ernest Shackleton’s 1908 expedition to Antarctica as a geologist. This experience allowed him to be offered a place on Scott’s 1910, Terra Nova Expedition.
As a member of the scientific Northern Party led by Lieutenant Victor Campbell, Priestley lived with the five other members in a hut at Cape Adare for a year. After a summer spent camping further down the coast the Northern party became stranded and had to spend the next winter living in an ice cave on very strict rations eeked out with penguin and seal meat. All six of them survived until the spring and then they trekked 200 miles to Scott’s base, to be greeted with the news of the deaths of the polar group.
Serving in the Great War in the Signals Division of the Royal Engineers, Priestley attained the rank of Major and was awarded the Military Cross.
Post-war he worked at Cambridge University, then took the post of Vice Chancellor at Melbourne University in Australia, then was appointed Vice Chancellor of Birmingham University in 1938.
He was knighted for Services to Education in 1949.
After retirement he retained his interest in all Polar expeditions and always kept contact with Tewkesbury, living at nearby Bredons Norton until his death in 1974.
Come and see our exhibition on the life of Raymond Edward Priestley in the Museum