Naval General Service Medal 1793 -1840

Authorised by General order 1st June 1847 to embrace the period 1793 – 1840. Applicants were asked to submit in writing the statement of their claims, specifying for what action and at what period of time the claim is preferred, names of the persons or the titles of the documents by which it could be established. The fact that many of those entitled could not read the papers and notices, and that even these notices would have been poorly circulated resulted in many fewer applicants than could have claimed. Applications were not accepted from next-of-kin on behalf of deceased relatives.

1 June 1794 (28th May – 1st June 1794)

538 Medals issued – 25 attributable to Royal Sovereign

The action became known as “The Glorious First of June”

Navy General service Medal

Naval General Service Medal – 1st June 1794 James McDonald HMS Royal Sovereign

The Glorious First of June (also known as the Third Battle of Ushant, and in France as the Bataille du 13 prairial an 2 or Combat de Prairial) of 1794 was the first and largest fleet action of the naval conflict between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the First French Republic during the French Revolutionary Wars.

1st June 1794 Map

1st June 1794 Map

The British Channel Fleet under Admiral Lord Howe attempted to prevent the passage of a vital French grain convoy from the United States, which was protected by the French Atlantic Fleet, commanded by Rear-Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse. The two forces clashed in the Atlantic Ocean, some 400 nautical miles (741 km) west of the French island of Ushant on 1 June 1794.

The action was the culmination of a campaign that had criss-crossed the Bay of Biscay over the previous month in which both sides had captured numerous merchant ships and minor warships and had engaged in two partial, but inconclusive, fleet actions. During the battle, Howe defied naval convention by ordering his fleet to turn towards the French and for each of his vessels to rake and engage their immediate opponent. This unexpected order was not understood by all of his captains, and as a result his attack was more piecemeal than he intended. Nevertheless, his ships inflicted a severe tactical defeat on the French fleet. In the aftermath of the battle both fleets were left shattered and in no condition for further combat, Howe and Villaret returning to their home ports. Despite losing seven of his ships of the line, Villaret had bought enough time for the French grain convoy to reach safety unimpeded by Howe’s fleet, securing a strategic success. However, he was also forced to withdraw his battle fleet back to port, leaving the British free to conduct a campaign of blockade for the remainder of the war. In the immediate aftermath both sides claimed victory and the outcome of the battle was seized upon by the press of both nations as a demonstration of the prowess and bravery of their respective navies.

The Glorious 1st of June

The Glorious 1st of June

The Glorious First of June demonstrated a number of the major problems inherent in the French and British navies at the start of the Revolutionary Wars – both admirals were faced with disobedience from their captains and ill-discipline and poor training among their crews. During the height of the combat they both failed to control their fleets effectively, their ships suffering further from a shortage of crewmen and reliable officers. In Britain the conduct of a number of officers was subsequently called into question and one even faced a court martial for his conduct, leaving a lasting legacy of bitterness in the Royal Navy

Algiers (27th August 1816)

1328 Medals Issued

Naval General Service Medal 1847 - Algiers - William Stephens HMS Severn

Naval General Service Medal 1847 – Algiers – William Stephens HMS Severn

 

Following the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the Royal Navy no longer needed the Barbary states as a source of supplies for Gibraltar and their fleet in the Mediterranean Sea. This freed Britain to exert considerable political pressure to force the Barbary states to end their piracy and practice of enslaving European Christians.

In early 1816, Exmouth undertook a diplomatic mission, backed by a small squadron of ships of the line to Tunis, Tripoli, and Algiers to convince the Deys to stop the practice and free the Christian slaves. The Deys of Tunis and Tripoli agreed without any resistance, but the Dey of Algiers was more recalcitrant and the negotiations were stormy. Exmouth believed that he had managed to negotiate a treaty to stop the slavery of Christians and returned to England. However, due to confused orders, Algerian troops massacred 200 Corsican, Sicilian and Sardinian fishermen who were under British protection just after the treaty was signed. This caused outrage in Britain and Europe, and Exmouth’s negotiations were seen as a failure.

As a result, Exmouth was ordered to sea again to complete the job and punish the Algerians. He gathered a squadron of five ships of the line, one 50-gun fourth-rate ship (HMS Leander), four frigates (HMS Severn, Glasgow, Granicus and Hebrus), and five bombs (HMS Belzebub, Fury, Hecla and Infernal). HMS Queen Charlotte—100 guns—was his flagship and Rear Admiral David Milne was his second in command aboard HMS Impregnable, 98 guns. This squadron was considered by many to be an insufficient force, but Exmouth had already unobtrusively surveyed the defences of Algiers: he was very familiar with the town, and was aware of a weakness in the field of fire of the defensive batteries. He believed that more large ships would have interfered with each other without being able to bring much more fire to bear. In addition to the main fleet, there were four sloops (HMS Heron, Mutine, Cordelia and Britomart), eight ships’ boats armed with Congreve rockets, and some transports to carry the rescued slaves.

When the British arrived in Gibraltar, a squadron of five Dutch frigates (Melampus, Frederica, Dageraad, Diana and Amstel) and a corvette—led by Vice-Admiral Theodorus Frederik van Capellen—offered to join the expedition. Exmouth decided to assign them to cover the main force from Algerian flanking batteries, as there was insufficient space in the mole for the Dutch frigates.

Plan of Bombardment of Algiers

Plan of Bombardment of Algiers

 

The day before the attack, the frigate Prometheus arrived and its captain Dashwood attempted to secretly rescue the British Consul and his wife and infant. Some of the rescue party was discovered and arrested. The attack was described by the US Consul.

The plan of attack was for the larger ships to approach in a column. They were to sail into the zone where the majority of the Algerian guns could not be brought to bear. Then, they were to come to anchor and bombard the batteries and fortifications on the mole to destroy the defences. Simultaneously, HMS Leander—50 guns—was to anchor off the mouth of the harbour and bombard the shipping inside the mole. To protect Leander from the shore battery, two frigates—HMS Severn and Glasgow—were to sail inshore and bombard the battery

Exmouth in Queen Charlotte anchored approximately 80 yd (73 m) off the mole facing the Algerian guns. However, a number of the other ships, notably Admiral Milne aboard HMS Impregnable anchored out of position, in the case of Milne’s ship 400 yards from where it should have been. This error reduced the effectiveness of these ships and exposed them to fiercer Algerian fire. Some of the other ships sailed past Impregnable and anchored in positions closer to the plan. The unfortunate gap created by the misplaced HMS Impregnable was closed by the frigate HMS Granicus and the sloop Heron.

In their earlier negotiations, both Exmouth and the Dey of Algiers had stated that they would not fire the first shot. The Dey’s plan was to allow the fleet to anchor and then to sortie from the harbour and board the ships with large numbers of men in small boats. But, Algerian discipline was less effective and one Algerian gun fired a shot at 15:15. Exmouth immediately began the bombardment. The Algerian flotilla made an attempt to board but thirty-three of their boats were sunk. After an hour, the cannon on the mole were effectively silenced, and Exmouth turned his attention to the shipping in the harbour, including a number of naval vessels of frigate size or smaller, which were destroyed by 19:30.

Although the fleet also bombarded the city, there was comparatively little damage as the construction of the houses meant that cannonballs passed through the walls, leaving a neat hole without destroying them. The explosive mortar shells and rockets caused some destruction to domestic buildings, and the shipping in the harbour burned so fiercely that the warehouses nearby caught light and were burnt down.

At 20:00, Milne asked that a sloop that had been fitted out as an explosion vessel, with 143 barrels of gunpowder aboard, be used against the “Lighthouse battery”, which was mauling his ship. The vessel was exploded, but to little effect and against the wrong battery.

Bombardment of Algiers

Bombardment of Algiers

Despite this, the Algerian batteries could not maintain fire and by 22:15, Exmouth gave the order for the fleet to weigh anchor and sail out of range, leaving HMS Minden to keep firing to suppress any further resistance. By 01:30 the next morning, the fleet was anchored out of range. The wounded were treated, and the crew cleared the damage caused by the Algerian guns. Casualties on the British side were 16 percent killed or wounded. As a comparison, the British casualties at the Battle of Trafalgar had been only 9 percent.

The allied squadron had fired over 50.000 round shot using 118 tons of gunpowder, and the bomb vessels had fired 960 explosive mortar shells.

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