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British Naval General Service Medal 1793 - 1840

Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum Online Book
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Date added: 31 Mar 2017

Naval General Service Medal 1793-1840

This was a campaign medal approved in 1847 for issue to officers and men of the Royal Navy, as well a handful of awards made to officers and men of the British Army present on board HM's ships at qualifying actions.

In 1801 one company of the ‘Experimental Corps of Riflemen’ under the command of Captain Sidney Beckwith, together with the 49th Regiment of Foot (later The Berkshire Regiment) and a detachment of artillery, accompanied Admiral Parker’s expedition. The Army contingent was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel the Honourable William Stewart of the Experimental Corps of Riflemen.
On 28 February 1801 Captain Sidney Beckwith and his company boarded Vice-Admiral Nelson’s flagship HMS St. George at Portsmouth with the men later distributed as marksmen among the ships of Nelson’s squadron. The company strength amounted to four officers, including Lieutenant Alexander Cameron and 109 other ranks.
During the battle Lieutenant and Adjutant J.A. Grant on board HMS Isis became the first officer of the Experimental Corps of Riflemen killed in action since its creation in 1800. Two other ranks were also killed and six others wounded, of whom some subsequently died of their wounds.
Private Steff (Stiff) on board HMS Isis and Private H. Pasley on board HMS St. George were the only members of the Corps to claim the Naval General Service Medal (1793-1840) with clasp ‘Copenhagen 1801’.
Of the total of 555 awarded for this action, only 25 medals with the clasp ‘Copenhagen 1801’ were awarded to military personnel.

The NGSM was retrospectively awarded for various naval actions during the period 1793–1840, a period including the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Anglo-American War of 1812. Each battle or action 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 medals were stamped along the edge with the rank, name and ship/unit of the recipient.
The ribbon was white with dark blue edges.

A point to note is that the medal was only awarded to surviving claimants; one had both to have survived until 1847 and then to actively apply for it; Sidney Beckwith, for instance, died in 1830, whilst Alexander Cameron only applied for MGSM. A combination of factors, from general illiteracy to limited publicity for the new medal, meant that very many did not. The Admiralty awarded 20,933 medals in total - most with a single clasp.

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