Military General Service Medal, with bar for Java, awarded to Pvt. A. Henderson, 1848
Obverse, a bust of Queen Victoria facing left
Reverse, Queen Victoria on dais placing a wreath on the head of the kneeling Duke of Wellington
Military General Service Medal, 1848 (Anglo-Dutch Java War)
It had been unusual, before the reign of Queen Victoria, for medals to be issued recognising service in campaigns (except perhaps those organised by the East India Company). This left, for example, veterans of the Napoleonic Wars with nothing to display for their service, and therefore three medals were instituted in 1847-1848 for campaigns of the previous fifty years, in the East India Company's forces, in the Royal Navy or in the Army, the last of which was the Military General Service Medal, instituted in 1847 and first struck in 1848.
The intentions of the medal committee are hard to divine, as the medal was struck carrying the dates `1793-1814' in the reverse, but the earliest campaign considered was that in Egypt from 1798 to 1801. Earlier battles may have been deleted from consideration due to the shortage of surviving veterans of engagements of the previous century. This was one of the paradoxes shared by all three of the General Service Medals, another being that the monarch whose portrait they bore, Queen Victoria, was not him for whom the recipients had fought.
Although most of the campaigns for which the MGSM was awarded were fought in the Peninsular War, leading to the piece being frequently known as the Peninsular Medal, it was also awarded for conflicts far further afield. One such was what is now known as the Anglo-Dutch Java War.
French successes in the Napoleonic Wars had left the French Empire at its greatest extent ever in 1810, and due to repeated military failures on the European mainland Britain was forced to look for other fronts on which to engage France and its allies. One such campaign was waged by the British East India Company against French and Dutch possessions in the East Indies. The cornerstone of this campaign was the war in which the Indonesian island of Java was taken, a campaign which began with the landing at and capture of Fort Cornelis. The conquest of the whole island rapidly followed, but it was returned to the Netherlands in the 1816 treaty negotiations that ended the Napoleonic Wars.
Indian soldiers of the East India Company were awarded a medal for this campaign almost immediately; European combatants had to wait until 1848 for their efforts to be recognised with the MGSM (or, in the case of the Navy's contributions, the NGSM). One such was Private A. Henderson of the 78th Foot, to whom this medal was awarded. Lester Watson acquired the piece at some point before 1928.