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The Naval Gold Medal

 

Following the first major naval action of the war with Revolutionary France, "the Glorious First of June", King George III signified his intention of instituting a Naval Gold Medal to reward the admirals and captains who were conspicuous for courage in that action, as well as those who might distinguish themselves on future occasions.  The Naval Gold Medal was to be the only campaign award for naval engagements during the years 1794-1815 and the medals issue was restricted to Flag Officers and Captains for services in specific actions:

 

Gold Medals (to Flag Officers and Captains) were issued by the Admiralty for Actions under mentioned:

Lord Howe's action of the 1st of June, 1794 Captain Michael Seymour, H.M.'s ship Amethyst, capture of Thetis, 10th November, 1808.
Lord St. Vincent's action, off Cape St. Vincent, 14th February, 1797 Captain Stewart, H.M.'s ship Seahorse, capture of Badere Zaffer, 6th July, 1808.
Lord Duncan's Battle off Camperdown, 11th October, 1797 Captain Mounsey, H.M.'s Sloop Bonne Citroyenne, capture of Furieuse, 6th July, 1809.
Lord Nelson's Battle of the Nile, 1st August, 1798 Captain William Hoste, H.M.'s ship Amphion, with H.M.'s ships Cerebus, Active, and Volage, action off Lissa, 13th March, 1811.
Captain Sir Edward Hamilton, H.M.'s ship Surprise, recapture of the Hermione, 25th October, 1799. Captain Christopher Cole, H.M.'s ship Caroline, capture of Banda Neira, 9th August, 1810.
Lord Nelson's Battle of Trafalgar, 21st October, 1805. Captain Talbot, H.M.'s ship Victorious, capture of Rivoli, 22nd April, 1812.
Sir Richard Strachan's action, 4th November, 1805 Captain Broke, H.M.'s ship Shannon, capture of Chespeake, 1st June, 1813.
Sir John Duckworth's action, off St. Domingo, 6th February, 1806. Captain E. Palmer, H.M.'s ship Hebrus, capture of L'Etoile, 27th March, 1814.
Captain Brisbane, H. M.'s ship Arethusa, with H.M.'s ships Anson, Fisgard and Latona, capture of the Island of Caraçoa, 1st January, 1807. Captain H. Hope, H.M.'s ship Endymion, action with President, 15th January, 1815.

 

 Two different sizes of medal were struck. The larger medal was given only to flag officers, commodores and captains-of-the-fleet; the smaller medal went to captains of ships of the line. The large medal which is 2.125 in. in diameter has on the obverse a figure of Victory, standing on the prow of an antique galley and placing a wreath of laurel to Britannia, who wears a helmet and stands on the galley, having at her side an oval shield charged with the crosses of the Union Flag. Britannia's her right foot resting on a helmet and holding a spear in her left hand. The reverse bears a wreath of oak and laurel, within which are engraved the name and rank of the officer, the event for which the medal was conferred and the date. Some recipients of the first medals also received a gold chain, but thereafter the medal was worn suspended from a white ribbon, with dark blue edges, 44mm. wide, round the neck.

Only 22 large medals were ever awarded and only one person received three, Lord Nelson, for St. Vincent, the Nile, and posthumously for Trafalgar. The latter contradicted the previous ruling that medals would not be given to the next-of-kin of officers who had been killed in action.