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Naval General Service Medal, with bars for Camperdown, Nile & Egypt, awarded to QM Gunner David Davies, 1848

Naval General Service Medal, 1848

Obverse, a bust of Queen Victoria

Naval General Service Medal, 1848

Reverse, Britannia with a trident seated sideways on a seahorse

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Naval General Service Medal, 1848 (French Revolutionary War, Napoleonic Wars)

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.
Although endeavours of British forces by land in the late 1790s were less than successful, the Royal Navy rose from strength to strength towards 1800, despite being opposed by the French, Dutch and Spanish navies. British strategy was directed primarily at preventing these forces from being combined, and in 1797 therefore the Spanish fleet was blockaded in Cadiz thanks to the Battle of Cape St Vincent, and the Dutch fleet was blockaded in Den Helder and Texel. At this time the south of Ireland was in rebellion and it was decided that the Dutch fleet should take French forces to assist the rebels.
The Dutch fleet were caught in the North Sea off Camperduin, and Admiral Adam Duncan brought his ships through it in three columns, capturing eleven Dutch vessels for the loss of none of his own in a bloody encounter. As a result French forces did not arrive in Ireland until 1798, by which time the revolt was nearly over, and efforts to revive it were thwarted at the Battle of Tory Island.
One of the seamen involved in this battle was Able Bodied Seaman David Davies, who fought aboard HMS Bedford. By 1798 he was serving in HMS Vanguard, which was part of the newly-detached Mediterranean Squadron under Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson. At this time a French expedition under General Napoleon Bonaparte was engaged in Egypt, with the aim of cutting Britain off from India, and Nelson's squadron was therefore sent after the French ships.
The fleets met in Aboukir Bay on the night of 1 August 1798, and Nelson was able to approach from windward so that French ships to the lee could not sail up to support their fellows. As a result Nelson was able to demolish the French line ship by ship, and the French fleet was almost entirely sunk or captured with only 218 casualties on the British side. The Battle of the Nile secured Nelson's reputation, but also led to Bonaparte's return to France to stage the coup that made him First Consul.
By 1801, Davies had been promoted Quartermaster Gunner and was serving in HMS Foudroyant, still in the Mediterranean. By this time both Bonaparte and Nelson were far away, but British and Indian forces had slowly reduced the French presence in Egypt and their final surrender was achieved in 1801. A bar to the NGSM was accordingly awarded for the continual naval support to this campaign, which Davies was therefore able to apply for in 1848.
The Medals Roll confirms the issue of all these bars to him. Lester Watson purchased his medal from the London dealers Spink at some point before 1928; it had previously been sold at auction by the London dealers Glendining in October 1908.