Explorer, Author & Civil Servant

14th April 2015

Bertram Sidney Thomas C.M.G., O.B.E., (1892 – 1950), winner of gold medals for endeavour and exploration and the first European to cross The Empty Quarter of Arabia known as Rub al Khali.

Thomson Roddick Scottish Auctions are honoured to have been instructed to sell the medals and ephemera of the late Bertram Sidney Thomas, which will be sold in Edinburgh on 21st May.

The Cambridge graduate served with the North Somerset Yeomanry in Belgium in WW1 before further service with the Somerset Light Infantry in Iraq. The War having concluded he stayed there and took up the position as assistant political officer in Iraq until 1922. It was under his next post as the Finance Minister to the Sultan of Muscat and Oman, Taimur bin Feisal that Thomas is most famously remembered.

Laurence of Arabia famously purported in 1929 that the only way to cross the Rub al Khali also known as the Empty Quarter (a barren expanse of desert covering 250,000 square miles of Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE and Yemen) was by an airship. However after a tortuous 58 day long expedition Thomas and his team reached the sea at Doha, the unforgiving desert having not claimed a single life.

This achievement was recognised by The Royal Scottish Geographical Society, who presented him with the David Livingstone Medal.  The Livingstone medal is awarded for Outstanding Service of a Humanitarian Nature with a clear Geographical Dimension.  It was first awarded in 1901 and Bertram Thomas received his in 1932.  There have only been 63 recipients of this prestigious award.

The Royal Geographical Society of London presented him in 1931 with The Founder’s Medal in recognition of him crossing the Rub al Khali.  His exploits were recognised by The American Geographical Society of New York, who awarded him The Cullum Medal.  It was first awarded in 1896 and other famous recipients include Sir Ernest Shackleton.

The Royal Asiatic Society and The Société Royale de Géographie D'Anvers also awarded him medals and these, along with his Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George Companion medal (CMG), Order of The British Empire medal (OBE), WW1 and WW2 war medals, General Service medal (GSM), dress miniatures and Sultan of Oman neck and breast badges will be sold.

Please contact the medals and militaria specialist, Gavin Tavendale for further enquiries 0131 440 2448, alternatively contact Sybelle Thomson, managing director, on 01387 721635.