The John Goddard Collection of Important Naval Medals and Nelson Letters (24 November 2015)

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Date of Auction: 24th November 2015

Sold for £28,000

Estimate: £10,000 - £12,000

Yeoman of the Boatswain’s Store Room James Strachan, who earned all three of his clasps aboard the 32-gun frigate Southampton, including the boarding and capture of the French corvette L’Utile in 1796

Naval General Service 1793-1840, 3 clasps, 1 June 1794 [538], Southampton 9 June 1796 [4], St. Vincent [346] (James Strachan.) very fine £10000-12000


Provenance: Christie’s, July 1989.

1 June 1794 [538 issued] - including 4 to Southampton.

Southampton 9 June 1796 [4 issued] - James Dallimore, Pte. R.M. (National Maritime Museum); Joseph Goodall, L.M.; Samuel Spill, Pte. R.M.; James Strachan, Yeoman of the Boatswain’s Store Room. The 7-clasp medal to Gunner Thomas Haines (Royal Naval Museum) also carries this clasp - verified aboard but not on the Admiralty roll.

St. Vincent [346 issued] - including 9 to Southampton.

James Strachan served aboard the 32-gun frigate Southampton during each of the three actions for which he gained a clasp to his medal; as Landsman at the defeat of the French fleet on the 1st June 1794; as Yeoman of the Boatswain’s Store Room at the capture of the French frigate Utile on 9 June 1796; and as Ordinary Seaman at the battle of Cape St Vincent on 14 February 1797.

Southampton boards and captures Utile

Just before noon on 9 June 1796, having observed a French cruiser working up to Hieres Bay, off Toulon, Admiral Sir John Jervis, K.B., called Captain James Macnamara, of H.M.S. Southampton, on board the Victory, pointed the ship out and directed him to ‘make a dash at her’. Accordingly the Southampton, under all sail, pushed through the Grande Passé, the passage between the islands of Porquerolles and Pontenas, and hauled up on the north-east end of Porquerolle with an ‘easy sail’ in the hope of being taken for a French or Neutral vessel. In this Macnamara was largely successful for the Southampton got within pistol shot of the enemy’s ship before the ruse was discovered, whereupon Macnamara cautioned the captain through a trumpet ‘not to make a fruitless resistance. However, the French captain, Citizen François Veza, immediately snapped his pistol at Macnamara and fired his broadside. After an exchange of three broadsides, and being very close to the heavy battery of Fort Bregançon, Macnamara laid the Southampton across the Frenchman’s bow, lashed her bowsprit to her own main rigging and sent off the boarding party with Lieutenant Lydiard at its head. Despite a spirited resistance, Lydiard’s boarding party, ‘with an intrepidity no words can describe’, carried her after an action of about ten minutes. After lashing the two ships together, Macnamara had some difficulty in getting from under the battery, which kept up a heavy fire, and was unable to return through the Grande Passé before 1.30 am the following morning, with the L’Utile corvette of 24 French six-pounder guns and one hundred and thirty-six men, several of whom escaped on shore in the launch. The Southampton lost just one Marine, who was killed by a pistol shot near Captain Macnamara on the Quarter Deck, while the loss of the enemy amounted to twenty-five killed and wounded, including Captain Veza amongst those killed. The Prize was added to the Royal Navy and Lieutenant James Lydiard was promoted to her command.