Collecting Victorian Royal Naval medals has been a serious passion of mine for over 30+ years. It is therefore my desire and goal to pass along the wealth of knowledge that I have acquired and to show new collectors the ins and outs of researching such medals. I would like to create and encourage the next generation of medal collectors, and am very willing to advise and teach anything that they care to know. My largest collecting interest is the Wide suspender Long Service & Good Conduct medal that was first issued late 1847. This medal replaced the Anchor type reverse that was issued between 1830 and 1847.
The wonderful thing about these medals and the vast majority of British medals is that they were issued named along the rim, allowing the collector to research the man who earned the medal. The Wide suspender LS&GC medals (medal with blue and white ribbon) were all named by a London firm called Hunt & Roskill. It is my intention to show the different naming styles produced by this firm throughout their tenure of naming the LS&GC medals 1847 thru 1875. It is also my intention to show you this medal paired with many Victorian campaign medals, that will cover the history of the Royal Navy inclusive of campaigns of Ava, Navarino, Syria, China 1842 (medal with gold and maroon ribbon), New Zealand 1845 and 1863-65, Pegu, South Africa 1853, Baltic, Crimean, Indian Mutiny, Fenian raids, Abyssinia and Ashantee campaigns. The careers of the men receiving this medal participated in the post Napoleonic navy of 1815 and onwards and participated in the prevention of smuggling on the coasts of England, the suppression of the slave trade on the coasts of Africa and South America, and numerous other “no medal” actions. It is the age where the Royal Navy goes from sail to steam, and ship design goes from wooden multi-decked sailing ships to steam powered, screw propelled, armoured iron-clad frigates like HMS Warrior.
As a collector, one can choose and number of areas to collect. One can collect men from a county or town, or medals with different ratings (Sailmaker, Quarter Master, Stoker etc.) or ships, or one could collect to a specific war, the possibilities are innumerable. I just want to encourage people to collect and reap the rewards of learning about a different time in history.
With the growth of the internet, much research is available on line. The following are invaluable resources to be aware of:
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/royal-navy-ratings-service-records-1853-1928/ is where one can type in a person’s name, date of birth, or place of birth and download a complete service record for a nominal fee.
With a subscription to ancestry.co.uk one can download UK, Naval Officer and Rating Service Records, 1802-1919, which includes ADM29 but not ADM139 where most of the Wide suspender men are. Also are ALL the RN/RM rolls for medals UK, Naval Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1972 and UK, Royal Navy Registers of Seamen’s Services, 1853-1928 – ADM188. Ancestry gives you access to all the census data starting 1841 through 1911 in 10 year increments. This makes it possible to find multi-generational RN families servicing from the Napoleonic Wars through WW1.
Many Royal Navy men ended up serving both the RN and the Coast Guard. http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/Coastguards/ is a very useful site for Coast Guard family census data.
The London Gazette, https://www.thegazette.co.uk/ is useful for dispatches from the campaigns, many lists of killed and wounded during various campaigns, and is an excellent source of slaving ships captured and “prize money” awarded to the men of many ships suppressing the slave trade.
For ship commissions the following three sites are excellent. It’s a simple matter of finding the ships which are arranged alphabetically:
One should not forget a simple Google search – often the ship’s name and a man’s name can rapidly find fascinating pieces of history. I generally find the captain’s name of the ship, and then Google search the ship and the captain.
Lastly, the British Newspaper Archive, which is a paid subscription, is another wonderful asset to have at your fingertips. http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/
So, I will now discuss the medals to Henry Norris. The LSGC medal happens to be the first Wide suspender medal to have been issued, so it seems appropriate that that this will be the start of many more blogs of combinations of Wide suspender LS&GCs and campaign medals. I will start by showing you his ADM29 which is his service record from 1820 to 1857. The columns are from the left, ship’s name, age, entry date, rate, discharge date, reason for discharge or comment, followed by four columns for pension time, years, months, weeks, days. Often the writing is cryptic and the ship websites named above can be valuable. His rate is often abbreviated but one gets the hang of these too. Often, but not always, his place of birth is indicated near to his name. When searching one has to understand that transcription errors are often made. He is actually listed and Henry Morris! The new medal collector will soon learn that uncommon names are easier to research, and finding a medal to a William Smith is often problematic.
At the end of this ADM29 Service Record, we see the terminology “Date of Letter”. My belief that this is the letter written by the Captain to the Admiralty stating that Henry Norris had attained 21 years of service, and that he is recommending him for the LS&GC medal. It does not necessarily mean that the Admiralty approved of the recommendation. There is what appears a scribble followed by the date 8 Dec 47. I believe this is a shortened “Admiralty” and is probably when the Admiralty received the letter and acted on the recommendation. Since the medal exists, we know that in this case the medal was granted. Often you will specifically see M & G followed by a date, this means Medal and Gratuity. The gratuity was 5, 10 or 15 pounds and was in addition to the pension. Further down after the HMS Conflict entry was see DSQ in the right column, this means Discharged Sick Quarters, so he was discharged injured or sick, and may have been admitted to Haslar Hospital. Sick time did not count towards the 21 years. However this is when Henry Norris ends his career. His total time is added as 25 years 13 days, and the notation W 24 Jany 1857 is seen at the end of the service record. The “W” refers to Whitehall, where the Admiralty was located. In red on the right, his time as a Superior Petty Officer and Inferior Petty Officer is tallied up. It is assumed that this added money to his pension dependent of time spent at each level. Bosun’s Mate was a Senior Petty Officer, whereas Captain of the Foretop was an Inferior Petty Officer. Able Seaman was not at the petty officer level but was usually the rate achieved at 21 years of age, and when time to pension started. The following are the ships that he served on. Researching the ship’s commission can uncover wonderful snippets of history :
Boy (15) 3rd Class – 29th Sept. 1820 to 9 Aug 1821 – note 18 months absence until he rejoins. Since he is a non-Continuous Service man, he can do what he likes, but read on, I believe there is a reason for this – he is VERY much under aged! On will also note that there is no “pensionable time” allotted on the right hand side of the page. Pension time did not start to accumulate until the age of 21.
Landsman (20), Ordinary Seaman, LM again & Able Seaman – 28 Aug 1823 to 27 Jan 1828
Employed on the coast blockade to prevent smuggling. If he was 15 in 1820, how can he be 20 in 1823? Obviously lying about his age, also note he is rated as a Landsman, as if no sea experience, although he does aboard HMS Leven! He makes it to AB, but then gets bumped back – he is struggling with his duties – physically he is not ready! Census data shows he was born in 1811, so was still very young.
Able Seaman – 28 Jan 1828 to 15 May 1830 – Plymouth -fitting out to carry troops from Portugal, possibly to the Mediterranean, later is blockading the coast of the Morea. In Sept. 1828 Ocean recovers five brass guns from the bottom of the sea; 7 Apr 1835 the proceeds of the sale of the salvaged guns will be paid. Norris gets about 2 shillings out of the deal!
AB & Capt Top – 12 Aug 1830 to 3 May 1831 – Coast Blockade
AB, Yeoman of Signals and Captain Fore Top – 27 May 1831 to 28 Jul 1834 – Capt. Robert Maunsell, in the Mediterranean, where they witnessed the establishment of King Otho on the throne of Greece, and watched the motions of the hostile fleets of Turkey and Egypt.
AB and Yeo. Signals – 22 Nov 1834 to 5 Nov 1835
Capt. Hon. Henry J. Rous. Sailed Lord Amherst to Quebec. On their return in foggy conditions the Pique grounded off Labrador on rocky shoals not 50 yards off of the beach which could not be seen. The Captain and crew apparently performed miracles to get the ship free. 20 guns were thrown overboard, along with much shot, and over 100 tons of fresh water was pumped overboard to make the ship lighter. Boats were sent out with anchors to try to pull the ship away. After much effort and danger the ship was freed, only to lose its rudder in violent storm. The ship was then sailed over 1400 miles without a rudder taking in apparently as much as 1 to 3 feet of water per hour! Pique eventually arrived in England in a very leaky state. The Captain and the Master were summoned to a Court Martial, but were acquitted, and the officers, crew and marines were commended for performing so well under very trying conditions.
Yeo Signals, AB, Capt. Foretop – 6 Nov 1835 to 18 Jul 1839 – South American station – brought 700,000 dollars of treasure back to England, and brought home several Portuguese prisoners, taken out of slavers captured on the coast of Brazil. It is also noted that Norris “ran” during this commission, but somehow was reinstated by Admiralty Orders! Don’t know how this occurred, he may have “accidentally missed the boat”, or it could be you are allowed to run on a ship called “Harrier”. The fact that he was reinstated says that he didn’t run. Receiving the LSGC medal required 21 years of impeccable service, and if one “ran” at bare minimum, all previous pensionable time starts over.
Cox of Pinnace & Bosun’s Mate – 30 Sept 1839 to 28 March 1843
Commanded by Captain Humphry Fleming Senhouse until he died, then by Captain Thomas Herbert during the First China war – Blenhiem was to see considerable action during the capture on Canton, suffering 2 dead and 9 wounded. The seamen performing alongside the land forces. During the capture and silencing of the Anunghoy batteries the main-top-mast and foreyard of the Blenheim were shot through, one thirty-two pounder gun was rendered unserviceable, several shot in the hull, and the rigging much cut up with one seaman wounded. The edge details of the China 1842 medal are as such shown below. This is an officially impressed medal, take note of the style, and the * before HENRY. This is very typical of the naming style, if it is different to this it could have been renamed and may be questionable.
Bosun’s Mate – 10 July 1843 to 13 Dec 1847.
I just happened to have a copy of the Muster Book, his age at entry 33½! WOW, he was maybe 10 when he said he was 15, and maybe 13 when he said he was 20! According to census records they all seem to point to being born 1810, take your pick, he was a very young entry to have got away with adding under aged years to pension. Ship’s description book entries, and muster books are available for viewing at the National Archives in Kew England. Copies can be ordered, or researchers can be hired to provide copies. During this age, a sailor was entitled to a full pension after 21 years of service after he had reached the age of 21. This rule encouraged sailors to lie about their age so that they could reach pension at an earlier age. So it is not unusual to find that the age stated on the service record to be different from the age found in census data or birth records. Generally their RN age is greater than their census age!
Commanders George Thomas Gordon and Frederick Beauchamp Paget Seymour , Pacific coast of South America. Sent to Peru for protection of British interest and threatened to bombard Callao if demands were not met. Brought back 1.6 million worth of freight from Brazil, along with many passengers, some invalids from HMS Grampus from Brazil.
On the left we can see the engraving of this medal. It has a very distinct style which will change over the century. Of note is the LARGE first letter of each name. It is name, rate, ship, and number of years of pensionable time. Since this is the very first medal engraved the engraver may be learning or feleing his way a little. Almost all Wide LS&GCs have “HMS” before the ship, it would appear this was forgotten, or the engraver felt he was running out of rim space. Also note that the years is abbreviated as such – large capital Y with smaller RS following. Also Queen Victoria’s head/bust is above the naming, we will see in subsequent blogs that she will suddenly start to be under the naming, the YRS will become Ys, and eventually a sloping Yrs.
From the British Newspaper Archive:
The crew of her Majesty’s Ship Cormorant has contributed £200 13s 4d to the fund for the relief of distress in Ireland and Scotland. The circumstances attending this munificent donation are thus stated in a letter from Capt. F. B. Seymour, R,N., late in command of the Cormorant, to Mr. J. H. S. Haly, the Secretary of the British Relief Association:- “On the night of April 1, 1847, the crew of the Cormorant, in conjunction with the crews of the French Frigates Virginie and Heroine, succeeded in extinguishing a dangerous fire which broke out in the Custom-house stores, in the castle of Callao, in Peru, and saving thereby an immense amount of property, amongst which was British property to the value of 2,000,000 dollars. So sensible were the British merchants of the services rendered, that eleven British firms and on American firm immediately subscribed 4000 dollars, to be distributed, as a testimony of their gratitude, amongst the crews of the respective vessels. The sum of 1000 dollars was the portion of the crew of the Cormorant; but the gallant men who composed it informed their captain that they declined to receive any pecuniary reward whatever, considering themselves amply repaid by the thanks of those who had benefited by their services. The merchants declined to take back the money, and suggested that if the crew would not receive it for themselves, they would direct such use to be made of it as they might think proper. The crew of the Cormorant then decided that it should be disposed of in alleviating the miseries of their fellow country-men in Ireland and Scotland, and in accordance with that decision it has been paid into the hands of Mr. J. H. S. Haly.”
Bosun’s Mate – 22 Feb 1854 to 23 Feb 1856. It should be now noted that Norris was pensioned at the age of 37, and now waits over 6 years before he signs up for one last commission. Unusual to wait this long, yet he was still a young man. Norris is awarded the Baltic medal which according to the rolls was sent to him 1 Aug 1857. It would have been issued unnamed and is missing from his pair of medals. This is not unusual, many Victorian medal groups have been split up among family members or sold for scrap silver.
On the left is a typical Baltic medal which Norris was entitled to. Many collectors will add unnamed Baltic medals to LS&GC medals if they find they were entitled to. It is a personal preference whether to add or not. If the man was also entitled to a named medal, generally unnamed medals would not be added but one would hope that the named medal would eventually come up for sale.
Commanded by Captain John Foote in the Baltic Campaign until his drowning death off Memel, then by Captain Arthur Cumming. On 17 May 1854 at Libau (modern Liepaja) on the coast of Latvia, together with HMS Amphion (screw, 34 guns, Captain Astley Cooper Key) Capt. Key demanded the surrender of several merchant ships within three hours. If they did not surrender he threatened to bombard the town. Although it was rumoured that there were 500 soldiers within the town, the town was undefended and had no alternative but to surrender. However, they refused to send the ships out and told Key to come and get them. The two ships sent officers and men and made prizes of eight fully laden merchant ships. Key, with great bravado, gave credit to Cumming that 130 seamen had captured a town of 10,000! HMS Conflict also captured other prizes during the campaign, and Norris did quite well for himself concerning prize money – about 30 pounds in total – pretty good for a retired pensioner, who picked the right ship!
From the London Gazette:
15th April 1854 the Russian brig Patrioten was captured – fleet receives prize money.
25th May, 1854 the Danish schooner Steen Bille was captured – only HMS Conflict receives money.
17th April, 1854, the Russian prize Catherine Charlotte was captured – only HMS Conflict receives money.
Picture on left is of the boats of HMS Conflict 24 September 1855 during the Baltic Campaign, burning 9 vessels laden with timber in the river flowing into the Gulf of Riga in Estonia.
Of final note, census data was checked. It would appear that Henry Norris married Sarah King 13 Sep 1830 in Chichester Sussex. They were to have a one daughter Elizabeth born July 1831. The daughter marries a sailor but is a widower with a 12 year old son in 1871 William H. Mitchell. Henry Norris dies in St. Germans Cornwall in 1887.