In Great Britain 21 October is celebrated as Trafalgar Day. During the Napoleonic Wars, as part of Napoleon’s plan to invade England, the French and Spanish Naval fleets combined forces to take control of the English Channel. On this day in 1805, the Royal Navy under the command of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson intercepted the would-be invasion off Cape Trafalgar, on the south-west coast of Spain. Nelson’s battle tactics claimed 22 of the 33 allied ships, while the smaller British fleet lost none. Nelson was fatally wounded in the battle.
The Naval General Service Medal (NGSM) was a campaign medal approved in 1847, and issued to officers and men of the Royal Navy in 1849. It was awarded retrospectively for various naval actions during the period 1793–1840. Each battle or campaign covered by the medal was represented by a clasp on the ribbon. The medal was never issued without a clasp, 231 of which were sanctioned. The clasps covered a variety of actions, from boat service, ship to ship skirmishes, and major fleet actions such as the Battle of
Trafalgar. The medal was awarded only to surviving claimants. A combination of factors, from illiteracy to limited publicity, meant that many of those eligible did not apply for the new medal. The Admiralty awarded 20,933 medals in total.
I have several relatives who served in Trafalgar. They are remembered in the 1913 book compiled by Colonel Robert Holden Mackenzie: “The Trafalgar Roll : Containing the Names and Services of All Officers of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines Who Participated in the Glorious Victory of the 21st October 1805, Together with a History of the Ships Engaged in Battle.” Mackenzie’s Trafalgar Roll, compiled 107 years after the battle, was the first attempt to list “the names of all the officers of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines who by their valour contributed to the day’s success”.
Mackenzie wrote: “… with the exception of the admirals, and the captains of ships, who were rewarded with gold medals, comparatively few of those who contributed to the victory of Trafalgar received any official recognition of their services: the majority had gone to their last berths by the time Queen Victoria, on the 1st June 1847, nearly forty-two years after the fight, graciously repaired the omission of her predecessors by bestowing a silver medal with clasps on the survivors of the various actions, including Trafalgar, fought between 1793 and 1840.”
James Bayly was a midshipman on the Euryalus, a 36 gun frigate
Captain J. Bayly, one of five brothers in the navy and army, was the son of the Rev. Henry Bayly, Rector of Nenagh and Nigh, Co. Tipperary. Born at Nenagh, and entered the service in 1799 as a Volunteer. Served in Penelope at blockade of Malta, and at the capture of the Guillaume Tell, 1800 ; and in the expedition to Egypt in 1801. Served as Mid. of Euryalus at Trafalgar, 1805—promoted to Lieutenant. Lieutenant of the Ganges at capture of the French frigate Le President, 1806; and in the expedition to Copenhagen, 1807. Did good service in rescuing the Euryalus and Shearwater, brig, from six of the enemy’s ships in a gale off Toulon, 1810. Commander, 1828. Retired Captain, 1856. War medal and three clasps. Died in 1857.
August James De Crespigny was a midshipman on the Spartiate, 74 guns
Commander A. J. De Crespigny, was 3rd son of Sir William Champion De Crespigny, 2nd Bart., M.P., and Sarah, daughter of the 4th Earl of Plymouth. Born in Italy. Entered service as Volunteer 1st Class, 1805. Mid., 1805. Mid. in the Spartiate at Trafalgar, 1805. Lieut., 1811. Received Royal Humane Society’s medal, 1815, for gallantry in saving life from drowning. Commander, 1825. In command of Scylla, and died off Port Royal, Jamaica, of yellow fever, 1825.
Benjamin Mainwaring was a volunteer 1st class (rated as A.B. able seaman) on the Temeraire, 98 guns
Lieut. B. Mainwaring was son of Edward Mainwaring, and second cousin of Vice-Admiral T. F. C. Mainwaring, who served in the Naiad at Trafalgar, and died in 1858. Born in 1794. Borne on ship’s books of Temeraire as A.B. at Trafalgar, 1805. Served in boats of Revenge at cutting out of two privateers from under the enemy’s battery on the coast of Catalonia, 1814. Lieut., 1814. Served in Coastguard, 1831-36. Medal and clasp. Died in 1852.
Thomas Francis Charles Mainwaring was a lieutenant on the Naiad, a 36 gun frigate
Vice-Admiral T. F. C. Mainwaring was the eldest son of Charles Henry Mainwaring, of Whitmore Hall, Co. Stafford, and Julia, daughter of Rev. Philip Wroughton. He was second cousin of Lieut. Benjamin Mainwaring, R.N., who served in the Temeraire at Trafalgar. Born in 1780, he entered the service from the Royal Naval Academy in 1796, as a Volunteer 1st Class. Lieut., 1800. Lieut, of Naiad, 1802-6, including the battle of Trafalgar, 1805. Commander, 1806. Commanded the Tartarus, fireship, in the expedition to Copenhagen, 1807; at the sinking of two French privateers off Pillau, 1810; and conveying the ex-King of Sweden from Riga to England, 1810. Captain, 1810. Retired Rear-Admiral, 1846. Medal and clasp. Died in Marlborough Buildings, Bath, 1858.
Further reading and related posts
- Mackenzie, Robert Holden. “The Trafalgar Roll : Containing the Names and Services of All Officers of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines Who Participated in the Glorious Victory of the 21st October 1805, Together with a History of the Ships Engaged in Battle.” G. Allen, [London : Cornmarket Press], 1913, retrieved through archive.org
- Naval General Service Medalpictued above was awarded to Corporal Henry Castle, Royal Marines, with clasps ‘Trafalgar’ (HMS Britannia) and ‘Java’ (HMS Hussar). From the Auckland Museum, CC BY 4.0, image retrieved through Wikimedia Commons
- Jemmett Mainwaring and the start of a Mainwaring naval tradition – part 1
- J is for jaundiced in Jamaica