The Queens’ Truncheon
August 1, 2016
The Gurkha Hat
August 1, 2016

1924 Winter Olympic Medal

This Olympic medal was one of several awarded in the wake of the 1922 British Mount Everest Expedition. It was led by Brigadier-General Charles Bruce, a Gurkha Officer, and Lt Col Edward Strutt, who attempted to reach the summit with their party three times, but were ultimately unsuccessful.

The expedition is considered to be the first serious attempt to climb Everest, and resulted in the first recorded fatalities in trying to climb the mountain. The event was followed by George Mallory uttering the now famous words “Because it is there” in response to questions regarding the purpose of the attempt.

Among the members of the expedition was a Gurkha named Naik Tejbir Bura, whom along with the other members were awarded an Olympic medal in Alpinism following the 1924 Winter Olympic Games. It was presented by Pierre de Coubertin, the then head and founder of the International Olympic Committee. The Indian members of the expedition were awarded medals posthumously, following their tragic demise in the course of the attempt.

The city hosting the games was Chamonix in France, from January 24th to February 5th. Following the award, Edward Strutt decided to attempt to place one of the medals at the summit of Everest, which led to a recently resurrected promise to do just that; the 1922 attempt was groundbreaking and only narrowly unsuccessful. Although it was trialled in the first few years of the twentieth century, the 1922 expedition marked the first use of oxygen as a systemic aid to ascent.

The medals themselves were designed by Raoul Bernard and minted in Paris. At the time of writing Bernard remains the only individual to be named on an Olympic medal. It is thought that some of the medals awarded to expedition members were issued as gold, however the award to Tejbir Bura which is actually silver, can be seen on display at the Gurkha Museum Winchester.
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