Naval General Service Medal, with bar for Hebrus with L'Etoile, awarded to Stephen Elliott 1848
Obverse, a bust of Queen Victoria
Reverse, Britannia with a trident seated sideways on a seahorse
Naval General Service Medal, 1848 (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.
One of the smaller conflicts for which the NGSM was awarded, and one of the last in the long series in the Napoleonic Wars, was the single-ship action between HMS Hebrus and the French frigate L'Étoile on 26 March 1814. L'Étoile was returning damaged from the Cape Verde Islands and was sighted by Hebrus off Alderney. She was allowed to get no closer to home, suffering more than a hundred casualties in the ensuing encounter before surrendering. It then fell to a prize crew to get the shattered warship out from under the heavy fire of a nearby battery and across the Channel to England, where the French ship became HMS Topaze. Captain Palmer of the Hebrus however declined the knighthood which he was offered for the victory.
This medal was awarded to Stephen Elliott, of Hebrus. His service aboard her is verified and the Medals Roll confirms the award of the piece to him. Lester Watson bought it from the London dealer Baldwin at some point before 1928. It had previously been part of the Murray Collection, since 1925.