Official Campaign Medals

The Naval Gold Medal

Before 1848 the only campaign award for naval engagements was the Naval Gold Medal, which was conferred on Flag Officers and Captains for services in action during the years 1794-1815.

Following the first major naval action of the war with Revolutionary France, known as "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.

Two different sizes 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 on 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, with her right foot resting on a helmet and holding a spear in her left hand. The reverse bears a wreath of oak and alurel, 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 riband, 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.

There was much heart-burning on the part of Nelson and his officers when the Government refused to sanction a medal for the battle of Copenhagen in 1801 because it might offend the Danes.

When Nelson was advised of his second medal he was also given instructions as to how it should be worn. (see Nicholas vol. 3 p. 473)

   DIRECTIONS FOR WEARING THE MEDAL

In the same manner as the Medal which Lord Nelson received on the occasion of the Victory obtained by his Majesty's Fleet under Lord St. Vincent's command is worn; hanging it a little higher or lower than that, as may be most convenient, so that both the Medals may be distinctly seen.

The wording on Nelson's St. Vincent medal read "HORATIO NELSON ESQUIRE, COMMODORE AND FIFTH IN COMMAND ON THE 14TH FEB, 1797 - THE SPANISH FLEET DEFEATED.

The wording on Nelson's Nile medal read "SIR HORATIO NELSON. K.B. REAR-ADMIRAL AND COMMANDING OFFICER ON 1st AUGUST 1798 - THE FRENCH FLEET DEFEATED.

The wording on Nelson's Trafalgar medal read "HORATIO VISCOUNT NELSON VICE-ADMIRAL AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF ON THE 21 OCTOBER MDCCCV. THE COMBINED FLEETS OF FRANCE AND SPAIN DEFEATED.

The three medals were stolen, along with others from the Painted Hall of Greenwich Hospital in December 1900. They were never recovered.

The Naval General Service Medal

Nelson never received this medal but it was of great significance to the men who served with and under him. It was issued retrospectively in 1849 only to those still living who had been present at some 230 actions between 1793 and 1840.

Only one medal was issued to each person and a bar for each action at which he had been present.

Obverse: Head of Queen Victoria, diademed, facing left, Legend: VICTORIA REGINA. 1848.

Reverse: Britannia seated on a sea-horse, in her right hand, a trident, in her left, a laurel branch.

 

< Semi-official Campaign Medals

Two medals warrant mention here. They were both minted by Matthew Boulton, one after the Battle of the Nile at the expense of Alexander Davison, and one after Trafalgar at the expense of Boulton himself. They were made in sufficient numbers that one could be given to all the officers, men and marines present at the battles.

Alexander Davison's Nile Medal

Nelson appointed Alexander Davison sole prize agent for the ships captured at the Battle of the Nile and the latter had this medal struck from the profits he thus obtained. Specimens in gold were presented to Nelson and his Captains; Lieutenants and Warrant Officers received it in silver; Petty Officers in gilt copper and the seamen and marines in copper. The total cost was 2000.

Obverse: Peace standing on rocky shore holding in left hand an oval medallion with bust of Lord Nelson. EUROPE'S HOPE AND BRITAIN'S GLORY. Above: REAR-ADMIRAL LORD NELSON OF THE NILE.

Reverse: A view of the British fleet going into action against the French. Above: ALMIGHTY GOD HAS BLESSED HIS MAJESTY'S ARMS. In exergue: VICTORY OF THE NILE/AUGUST.1.1798.

Edge: Incuse legend FROM ALEXR DAVISON, ESQR, ST JAMES' SQUARE = A TRIBUTE OF REGARD.

 

Matthew Boulton's Trafalgar Medal

This medla was produced at Matthew Boulton's own expense and was intended for presentation to the seamen and marines who took part in the action. The intention was for copper specimens only and Boulton notes in an undated holograph that some 14001 specimens were distributed. Strikings in other metals were made at about the same date but were not intended for the survivors of the battle.

Obverse: Uniformed bust of Lord Nelson with pigtail, left. HORATIO VISCOUNT NELSON . K . B . DUKE OF BRONTE. &c.

Reverse: View of the battle, on a ribbon above, ENGLAND EXPECTS EVERY MAN WILL DO HIS DUTY In exergue: TRAFALGAR/OCT.21. 1805

Edge: incuse, TO THE HEROES OF TRAFALGAR FROM M. BOULTON

 

 

Other Awards

1797 City of Bath Bath council voted Nelson the freedom of the city in 1797 for his victory under Sir John Jervis at St Vincent although he never actually received it.
1798 Nelson's Captains at the Nile A magnificent sword, the hilt of which most appropriately reprsented a crocodile, very finely executed in gold.
1798 King Ferdinand of Naples

The Duchy of Bronte - an estate of 30,000 acres in Sicily

A diamond-hilted sword which had once belonged to Louis XIV.

1798 The Greek island of Zante

A gold sword

A gold cane

1798 The East India Company 10,000
1798 The Emperor of Russia

A miniature of the Tsar

A box set with diamonds valued at 2500

1798 The King of Sardinia A gold box and chain set on a silver waiter
1798

London's Turkey Merchants

(the chartered "Company of merchants trading in the Levant seas"

The silver Nile Cup

by Paul Storr of London

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1798

Selim III

Sultan of Turkey

(Grand Signeur)

A canteen

A musket mounted in silver and ivory

1798 ditto A pelisse of the finest scarlet cloth, lined with most beautiful sable fur - valued at 1000
1798 ditto

A diamond aigrette, or plume of triumph, valued at 2000, known as a chelengk, and taken from one of Selim's turbans.

The chelengk was the highest Turkish award for valour. It was made from Brazilian diamonds. The blaze of brilliants was crowned with a vibrating plumage and a radiant star in the middle which turned on its centre by means of a watch-work which wound up from behind

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1798 ditto

A scimitar with a gilt crocodile grip.

(Nelson left it to his friend and banker Alexander Davison)

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1798 Mother of Selim III A diamond-studded box worth 1000
10 Nov 1799

The City of London

(to whose Lord Mayor Nelson had given the sword of the French commander-in-chief's flag officer)

A gold sword

(also given to Nelson's captains)

20 Dec 1800 Salisbury Freedom of City of Salisbury
21 Jan 1801  Exeter Freedom of City of Exeter
24 Jan 1801 Plymouth Freeman of the Borough

1801

In N's absence

Monmouth Freeman of the Borough
1 Aug 1801 Sandwich Freedom of the Corporation of Sandwich
22 Jul 1802 Oxford Freedom of City of Oxford
23 Jul 1802 Oxford The university in full Congregation bestowed the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law upon Nelson
23 Aug 1802 Hereford Honorary Freeman of Hereford
27 Aug 1802 Worcester Freedom of City of Worcester

1805

Posthumous

Lloyds of London Trafalgar Vase  

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