Orders, Decorations and Medals (28 & 29 March 2012)

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Date of Auction: 28th & 29th March 2012

Sold for £17,000

Estimate: £8,000 - £10,000

A fine 3-clasp N.G.S. awarded to William Lodwick, a Carpenter in the Royal Navy who was specially mentioned by Lord Cochrane for his services at the defence of Fort Trinidad, Spain, who went on to serve with that great naval hero at Basque Roads, and was later present at the sanguinary action which resulted in the capture of the French frigate Rivoli

Naval General Service 1793-1840, 3 clasps, 23 June 1795, Basque Roads 1809, Victorious with Rivoli (William Lodwick, Carpenter) extremely fine £8000-10000

Footnote

Ex Glendining's, May 1942 and July 1985.

The published Naval General Service Medal rolls confirm William Lodwick as a Carpenter aboard the
Imperieuse for the action in Basque Roads on 11-12 April 1809, and in the same rate aboard the Victorious for her action against the Rivoli on 22 February 1812, the latter being one of just 67 clasps on the Admiralty roll.

While Message's roll further confirms Lodwick's presence in the action of 23 June 1795 ('Present and Entitled'), his name is omitted from the appropriate section in the Douglas-Morris roll, but as noted below, he was most certainly present at that action aboard the Standard, and must have received the clasp after suitable, but protracted investigation by the relevant Committee.

William Lodwick, a native of Carmarthenshire, entered the Royal Navy as a Landsman aboard the Standard in April 1795, giving his age as 21 years. Subsequently present at Admiral Bridport's action off the Isle de Groix on 23 June 1795, he was advanced to Ordinary Seaman in the following year and next joined the Inflexible. Shortly afterwards he was promoted to Carpenter's Mate, although in a later appointment aboard the Guillaume Tell he was re-rated as a Caulker's Mate. Lodwick regained his former status and more, with an acting appointment as Carpenter aboard the Stromboli in September 1800, in which rate he was confirmed by 'Warrant from Lord Keith, dated 22 January 1802'.

In the Imperieuse Lodwick served under the great naval hero Lord Thomas Cochrane and distinguished himself at the defence of Fort Trinidad, Spain, in November 1808. The Imperieuse arrived in the bay of Rosas on the 24th or 25th, and joined the Lucifer and Meteor bomb-vessels. Lord Cochrane went himself to examine the state of Fort Trinidad; and, finding that the garrison, composed of 80 Spaniards, was on the point of surrendering, threw himself into the fort, with 50 seamen and 30 marines belonging to the Imperieuse. The resources of Lord Cochrane's active mind must, indeed, have astonished the Spaniards. Among other substitutes which he made use of about 1000 bags, together with barrels and palisadoes, supplied the place of walls and ditches. So that the French, when on the 30th they assaulted the castle with 1000 picked men, were repulsed with the loss of their commanding officer, their storming equipage, and all who had attempted to mount the breach.

In his autobiography Cochrane used an interesting analogy to describe the scene:

“A pretty correct idea of our relative positions may be formed if the unnautical reader will imagine our small force to be placed in the nave of Westminster Abbey, with the enemy attacking the great western tower from the summit of a cliff 100 feet higher than the tower, so that the breach in course of formation nearly corresponded to the great west window of the abbey. It will hence be clear that, in the face of a determined opposition, it would be no easy matter to scale the external wall of the tower up to the great west window, and more difficult still to overcome the impediments presently to be mentioned, so as to get down into the body of the church.”

‘The impediments which Cochrane devised were ingenious. The logbook of the Imperieuse records that on 24 November the boats were sent to Fort Trinidad and “two thirds of the ships company employed at the Fort filling up the breach made and on sundry other duties necessary for the defence of the same”. The ship’s carpenter, Mr Lodowick (sic), supervised the construction of a wooden ramp or slide which was positioned on the inside of the breach in the walls and was covered with grease from the ship’s galley. The enemy would have to use scaling ladders to climb up to the breach and when they got there they would be faced by a man trap: the pressure of men climbing up behind would cause those at the front to slide down the ramp and fall fifty feet to the floor below. Marryat described some of the other hazards: “We happened to have on board the frigate a large quantity of fish hooks: these we planted not only on the greasy boards, but in every part where the intruders were likely to place their hands or feet. The breach itself was mined, and loaded with shells and hand grenades, charged up to the muzzle with musket balls enfiladed the spot in every direction.”

‘The whole of this daring and important service was effected without any loss to the British. On the 5th of December the citadel of Rosas capitulated; and, considering further resistance in Fort Trinidad impracticable against the whole French army Lord Cochrane fired the trains for exploding the magazines, and re-embarked his men. As usual, he spoke in the highest terms of his officers; among whom he named Lieutenant Urry Johnson, Lieutenant of marines James Hore, William Burney gunner, William Lodwick carpenter, and midshipmen Houston Stewart, George Charles Stovin, and Frederick Marryat.’

Thereafter, he enjoyed an active and lengthy career, all the more notable for his presence at Basque Roads in April 1809 in the Imperieuse, and his subsequent participation in one of the finest actions commemorated by the Naval General Service Medal, namely the capture of the French 74-gun Frigate Rivoli, and the destruction of the Corvette Mercure, in the Gulf of Trieste, off Venice on 22 February 1812:

'Having by my last report of the state of the enemy's ships, apprised their Lordships that the
Rivoli of 74 guns, recently launched at Venice, was in readiness to put to sea; I have now great satisfaction in announcing her capture by His Majesty's Ship Victorious, after a severe contest of five hours, on the 21st ultimo ... The great disparity of force sufficiently bespeaks the merits of the captors, the Rivoli having 862 men at the commencement of the action, while the crew of the Victorious was reduced to 506, of whom 60 were in the sick list. The loss has been very severe on both sides, upwards of 400 having been killed and wounded on the part of the enemy, and 42 men killed, and 99 wounded, on the part of the Victorious ...' (Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Pellew's Despatch of 29 March 1812 refers).

Victorious was the last ship aboard which Lodwick served at sea, for he returned to shore duties in September 1814, his skills as a Carpenter being used in the construction of new ships, and in repairing those damaged in action. He was first employed on the repair of his old ship, Victorious, which was later to become a Receiving ship. He later worked on the new Belleisle, which was launched from Pembroke Dock on 26 May 1819, and her subsequent fitting out at Portsmouth. It was during his time that Lodwick found himself in a debtor’s prison, which caused him to publish the following petition in the London Gazette:

‘By order of the Court for the Relief of Solvent Debtors - the petition of William Lodwick, late of Pembroke Dock-Yard, Carpenter of His Majesty’s Ship Belleisle, but now a prisoner for debt confined in His Majesty’s Gaol of Haverfordwest, in the County of Pembroke, will be heard before His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace of the said County, at an adjournment of the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace, which will be holden at the Guildhall, Haverfordwest, in and for the said County, on Wednesday the 14th day of April next, at the hour of Ten of the Clock in the Morning; and that a schedule annexed to the said petition, containing a list of the Creditors of the said prisoner, is filed in the Office of the said Court, No. 9, Essex-Street, Strand, in the County of Middlesex, to which the creditors of the said prisoner may refer; and he doth hereby declare, that he is ready and willing to submit to be fully examined touching the justice of his conduct towards his creditors. William Lodwick.’

It seems that Lodwick successfully extricated himself from his financial quagmire for he was subsequently employed on the completion of the Vengeance 84, which left the stocks at Pembroke in July 1824, and lastly, the San Josef, an old Spanish First Rate 114-gun ship captured at Cape St Vincent in 1797, now to be re-fitted as a Gunnery Training ship. It was at the end of this re-fit in 1837 that William Lodwick was finally retired from the service after a career that had lasted more than 42 years.

Sold with comprehensive research including copied service record and ship’s muster and pay lists.