Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (19 & 20 September 2013)

Date of Auction: 19th & 20th September 2013

Sold for £7,500

Estimate: £8,000 - £10,000

The Trafalgar medal awarded to Commander William Vicary, Royal Navy, who served as a 12 year-old Midshipman aboard the Achilles, was later awarded the gold medal of the R.N.L.I. and the silver medal from Lloyd’s, and was one of the last surviving officers who had fought at the battle of Trafalgar

Naval General Service 1793-1840, 1 clasp, Trafalgar (William Vicary, Midshipman) nearly extremely fine £8000-10000


William Vicary was born at Crediton, Devon, on 7 December 1792, and entered the Navy on 6 February 1805, as a First-Class Volunteer on board the Achilles 74, Captain Sir Richard King, in which ship he was employed for nine and a half years in the Channel, off the coasts of France and Spain, and in the Mediterranean and South America, the greater part of the time as Midshipman and Mater’s Mate. He was present during that period at the battle of Trafalgar; at the capture of four French frigates off Rochefort by a squadron under Sir Samuel Hood, 25 September 1806; in the expedition to the Walcheren, 1809; for nine months at the defence of Cadiz, where he saw much boat-service, and assisted in bringing off the British garrison from Fort Matagorda, upon its destruction by the French in April 1810; and, in the Achilles’ pinnace, at the cutting out, in company with the boats of the Eagle 74, of two merchant vessels on the coast of Istria in 1812. On 25 August 1814, being then on the coast of Brazil, he was nominated Acting-Lieutenant of the Astrea 36, Captain Askey. His promotion by the Admiralty took place on 8 February 1815.

With the exception of about 13 months in 1837-38, when he commanded the
Elizabeth hired-transport, and visited South America, the Ascension Islands and Canada, he was employed from February 1828 in the Coast Guard. Whilst stationed with the Coast Guard at Atherfield, on the Isle of Wight, he was decorated for gallantry with the gold medal of the National Shipwreck Institution, and a silver one from the Subscribers at Lloyd’s. The following details are taken from R.N.L.I. records:

‘14 January 1843: With a tremendous gale blowing on the night of 13-14th, the 320 ton brig
George, outward bound from Shields to Grenada, West Indies, was seen to be driving ashore, her sails torn to ribbons and her anchor not holding. She fetched up on the Atherfield rocks some distance from the shore. Lieutenants Bulley and Vicary were soon on the scene with their men and the rocket firing apparatus, but all the rockets were fired in vain and a fresh supply was obtained. At daylight a line was put aboard by which a man was hauled ashore and, when he regained consciousness, he reported that, although the Master and Mate had been washed overboard, ten men remained. Two small fishing boats were then hauled down the beach and launched. With Lieutenant Bulley in charge of one and Lieutenant Vicary the other, each had mixed crews of coastguardmen and fishermen. Lieutenant Vicary got to the wreck first, taking off six men then, on his way back, a cross sea struck his boat and it almost capsized. Lieutenant Bulley rescued the other four men, and they had barely escaped when the wreck broke up completely. The operations extended over 28 hours.’

Gold medals were awarded to Lieutenants Bulley and Vicary, and silver medals to the other ten participants in the rescue. In addition, the two officers received a silver medal from Lloyd’s.

Lieutenant Vicary was appointed Commander on half-pay on 6 August 1852, and was in receipt of a Greenwich Hospital Pension. He is pictured in an engraved etching published in
The Graphic in 1880, together with the six other surviving officers, entitled Last Survivors in the year 1880 of Battle of Trafalgar, 21st October, 1805.

Commander Vicary died in 1882.