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BELCHER, Adm Sir Edward (1799-1877)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0402 SEB
Held at: Royal Geographical Society
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Full title: BELCHER, Adm Sir Edward (1799-1877)
Date(s): 1837-1877
Level of description: collection
Extent: 3 folders
Name of creator(s): Belcher | Sir | Edward | 1799-1877 | Knight | Admiral


Administrative/Biographical history:

Sir Edward Belcher, was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 27 February 1799. Belcher entered the navy in April 1812, and after serving in several ships in the channel and on the Newfoundland station was a midshipman of the Superb (Captain Charles Ekins) at the bombardment of Algiers in August 1816. He was made lieutenant on 21 July 1818; appointed assistant surveyor to the Blossom, and in May 1825 sailed for the Pacific Ocean and Bering Strait on a voyage of exploration of more than three years. He was made commander on 16 March 1829, and from May 1830 to September 1833 commanded the Aetna, surveying parts of the west and north coasts of Africa.

Following this Belcher was employed for some time on the home survey, principally in the Irish sea, and in November 1836 was appointed to the Sulphur, a surveying ship. After visiting several of the island groups in the south Pacific and making such observations, Belcher arrived at Singapore in October 1840, where he was ordered back to China, due to war; during the following year he was actively engaged, especially in operations in the Canton River. He returned to England in July 1842, after a commission of nearly seven years. Belcher had already been advanced to post rank (6 May 1841) and was made a CB (14 October 1841); in January 1843 he was made a knight.

In November 1842 Belcher was appointed to the Samarang for the survey of the coast of China, which the recent war and treaty had opened to British trade. More pressing necessities, however, changed her field of work to Borneo, the Philippines, and Taiwan, and on these and neighbouring coasts Belcher was employed for nearly five years surveying and fighting pirates. In 1852 he was appointed to command an Arctic expedition in search of Sir John Franklin. The appointment was unfortunate; for Belcher, though an able and experienced surveyor, had already demonstrated that he had neither the temper nor the tact necessary for a commanding officer under circumstances of peculiar difficulty. Belcher was never employed again, though he attained his flag on 11 February 1861, became vice-admiral on 2 April 1866, and admiral on 20 October 1872. Belcher was a Fellow of Royal Geographical Society 1830-1877. He was made a KCB on 13 March 1867. He died on 18 March 1877.


Scope and content/abstract:

Six personal letters of Belcher, 1864-1865 with some reference to Arctic matters. Record deposited at Arthur Strait in 1853 and recovered by Sverdrup expedition 1899-1902. Table of latitudes from west coast of America and Pacific determined on board HMS Sulfur, 1837-1842. Geographical subject headings: 1) ARCTIC 2) CANADA 3) UNITED STATES 4) PACIFIC OCEAN.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Items have been brought together from disparate sources over time and have not undergone any arrangement beyond the internal structure of the files.

Conditions governing access:

Open by appointment only, subject to completion of application form. Non-Fellows require a letter of reference.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopying at Archivist's discretion, and subject to completion of 'application for copies' form. No reproduction or publication without permission of the RGS-IBG Archivist.

Finding aids:

The RGS archives: a handlist compiled by Christine Kelly. London: RGS, 1977.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Folder of personal letters presented to RGS in 1939 by R.F. Perachie (or Perry) FRGS; material from the Arctic presented by Capt. V. Badman 1905.

Allied Materials

Related material:

RGS Archives - Correspondence blocks 1851-1860, 1861-1870, 1871-1880: Belcher, E. Jnl Mss. Arctic 1855: Belcher, E.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Source: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online. Prepared by David Tatham, Archives Volunteer using existing finding aids and edited by Samantha Velumyl, AIM25 cataloguer.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
16 October, 2000 modified in May 2008.

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