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Naval General Service Medal (1793-1840): CM.1376-2009

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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 Josh Manning, who served aboard HMS Phoebe. Phoebe was one of three vessels which captured two French frigates, the Rénomée and the Néréide, running munitions to Mauritius off Tamatave in Madagascar, which unbeknownst to the French squadron had been in British hands for six months. Their short-lived capture of the island that gave its name to the battle did not secure their escape. The Rénomée was thus renamed, to HMS Java, her companion becoming HMS Madagascar. Java was another place where HMS Phoebe carried Manning into combat, as part of the campaign to capture the island from the Dutch in 1812, to which the Navy contributed 26 ships which fought alongside 8 cruisers of the Honourable East India Company.
By 1814 HMS Phoebe was off the western coast of South America, looking for the USS Essex which had been pursuing an effective campaign against whaling traffic and commerce there. Essex, her prizes and a sloop called USS Essex Junior ended up blockaded in neutral Valparaiso, and attempted to escape in a heavy storm. It is unclear whether the storm or Phoebe, in company with HMS Cherub, dismasted the United States vessel but she was forced to surrender by the loss of sail, and she and her prizes were captured.
Manning's presence on the ship during this period has been verified, and the Medals Roll confirms the award of this medal to him. Lester Watson purchased this medal in a New York auction in November 1926. Before this it had been sold at the London house Glendining in July 1904.


History note: Gift of L. Hoyt Watson; ex Lester Watson Collection, bt `NY auction Nov 1926'. Ex Glendining, July 1904.

Legal notes

Given by Lester Watson through Cambridge in America, 2009

Measurements and weight

Diameter: 36.2 mm
Weight: 38.09 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.1376-2009
Primary reference Number: 141470
Watson Catalogue: 284
Ordering: M-0259
Previous object number: LW.0259
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Saturday 22 January 2022 Last processed: Sunday 23 January 2022

Associated departments & institutions

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

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