Statues and Monuments: Sir John Franklin

Posted: November 27, 2018 in History, London, UK
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John Franklin was born in Lincolnshire in 1786. He went to sea in a merchantman at the age of 12 and in 1800, his father secured him a position aboard the 64 gun Royal Navy vessel HMS Polyphemus. He saw action at the battle of Copenhagen. Transferring to HMS Investigator he was appointed midshipman and travelled to Australia. He returned to Europe to serve on HMS Beelerophon at the battle of Trafalger. 

In 1819 Franklin was chosen to lead an expedition overland from Hudson Bay charting the coast of Canada. He returned to England in 1823 but was soon back in Canada leading expeditions to chart the Mackenzie River and surrounding areas returning each year to winter at Fort Franklin. In Summer of 1827 he returned to England.

He was knighted in April 1829 for his expeditionary work. He also recieved awards from France and Greece in recognition of his work. In 1836 he was appointed Lieutenant Governer of Van Dieman’s Land (modern day Tasmania) and he served until 1843. In 1845 it was decided to send another expedition to complete the mapping of arctic waters and Franklin was named as the Commander. Two ships and 129 men set off from Greenland and were last seen by a whaler on 26 July.

After 3 years a search party was dispatched. Eventually, they found some evidence of the expedition on Beechey Island where 3 graves were found. Although no evidence of survivors was found, Franklin, in absentia, was promoted to Rear-Admiral. A note found on Beechey Island reported that Franklin had died there in 1847. It was not until 1854 that John Rae, an explorer learnt from Inuit Indians that the two ships had become ice-bound and that the men had tried to escape on foot, but had succumbed to the cold. The wrecks of the two ships were eventually found in 2014 and 2016.

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