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Naval General Service Medal (1793-1840): CM.1375-2009

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


Mint: London
Ruler: Victoria (1837-1901)
Artist: Wyon, William
Ruler: Victoria regina (With the title of)




Just as in 1848 the extensive land campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars and the other conflicts of the pre-Victorian era were recognised by the issue of the Military General Service Medal, those serving in the Navy at the time were recognised with the Naval General Service Medal. As with the Army equivalent and the East India Company's related award, many of the battles for which the medal was awarded had been fought so long ago that few if any claimants survived.
In addition, bars were awarded for many actions whose significance and size were, despite the heroism displayed by those involved, relatively minor. The result was that many of the bars were issued in tiny numbers, with some combinations all but unique, and the medals command a very high price among collectors because of this rarity and individuality. This in turn, along with the manufacture in most cases of more bars than were eventually issued, has led to the `improvement' of many common awards where recipients' names are shared with those present at `rarer' battles. The medal also shares with the Military General Service and Army of India Medals the oddity that Queen Victoria, whose portrait they bear, was not the ruler under whom the battles for which it was awarded were fought.
This medal was awarded to 2nd Lieutenant J. Meares, who served in the Royal Marines aboard the 38-gun 5th-rate frigate HMS Active in the Mediterranean. On 28 June 1810 Active was one of three vessels which sent boats into Grado harbour, near Venice, where they captured five ships and destroyed enemy stores. Meares was one of those aboard the boats, and he was also aboard Active, when, with HMSS Cerberus and Amphion who had joined in the previous action, but also with HMS Volage, engaged the combined French and Venetian Mediterranean fleets (7 men-of-war and 4 smaller vessels) off Lissa in the Adriatic on 13 March 1811. Despite being outnumbered the British vessels destroyed or captured two French frigates and three Venetian men-of-war, although one of the French frigates escaped after surrender, which, as Major Gordon puts it, "in those days was not considered very laudable" (British Battles and Medals (Aldershot 1947), p. 77).
The third bar that Meares's medal carries relates to an action off Pelagossa in which Active, this time with HMSS Alceste & Unité, encountered the French storeship Persanne under escort by two French frigates. The Pauline escaped but the Pomone was captured, as was the Persanne after a brief chase.
Meares's presence on the ship during this time has been verified, and the Medals Roll confirms the award of this medal to him. Lester Watson purchased this medal from the London dealer Spink at some point before 1928.


History note: Gift of L. Hoyt Watson; ex Lester Watson Collection, bt Spink before 1928

Legal notes

Given by Lester Watson through Cambridge in America, 2009

Measurements and weight

Diameter: 36.2 mm
Weight: 37.53 g

Place(s) associated

  • London

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Given (2009) by Watson, Lester


1849 - 1851

Materials used in production


Techniques used in production


Inscription or legends present

Inscription present: Bust of Victoria facing left

  • Location: Obverse
  • Type: Design

Inscription present: Britannia with trident seated sideways on seahorse

  • Location: Reverse
  • Type: Design

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: CM.1375-2009
Primary reference Number: 141469
Watson Catalogue: 282
Ordering: M-0258
Previous object number: LW.0258
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Monday 15 January 2024 Last processed: Monday 15 January 2024

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Coins and Medals

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Naval General Service Medal (1793-1840)" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-06-18 02:41:22

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