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 £20,000

Estimate: £12,000 - £14,000

Commander George Decœurdoux, R.N., who was Midshipman of the Lion in her gallant action with four Spanish frigates in July 1798, and Acting-Lieutenant at the capture of the Guillaume Tell in March 1800; was Flag-Lieutenant of the Mars at Trafalgar, and present in the same ship at the capture of the French frigate Le Rhin, and subsequently of four others off Rochefort in 1806

Naval General Service 1793-1840, 2 clasps, Lion 15 July 1798 [23], Trafalgar [1611] (Geo. Decœurdoux, Lieut. R.N.) good very fine £12000-14000


Provenance: Sotheby, June 1977, and June 1985; London Stamp Exchange, February 1989.

Lion 15 July 1798 [23 issued] - 12 medals known, including 4 officers, with one example in the National Maritime Museum and two examples in the Patiala Collection (Sheesh Mahal Museum, India).

Trafalgar [1611 issued] - including 6 officers and 46 men aboard the Mars.

George Lacey Decœurdoux entered the Navy, 4 November 1789, as Lieutenant’s Servant, on board the Childers 10, Captain Hon. Robert Stopford; and after an additional servitude, latterly as Midshipman, in the Saturn 74, Captain Robert Linzee, Royal Sovereign 100, flag-ship of Sir Thomas Graves, and L’Espion 38, Captain Manley Dixon, accompanied the last-mentioned officer into the Lion 64, in July 1797.

Lion captures the Santa Dorotea

On 15 July 1798, being off Carthagena, he took part in a brilliant action between the Lion and four Spanish frigates of 42 guns each, one of then, the Santa Dorotea, having lost her fore-topmast. The Spanish ships formed in line of battle but the Lion, having the weather gage, bore down and succeeded in cutting off the Santa Dorotea, left astern by her consorts. This ship, though her topmast was gone, sailed nearly as well as the Lion, and the other three frigates tacked and made three attempts to support her, but each time receiving a broadside from Captain Dixon, at length hauled off and stood away to the north west. The Lion then got alongside the Santa Dorotea and engaged her yard arm to yard arm, shooting away her mizzen mast, and damaging her main mast and rudder, till seeing herself abandoned by her comrades, and having twenty of her crew killed and thirty-two wounded, she struck her colours. The Lion had a midshipman and one man wounded. The Santa Dorotea was added to the British Navy as a thirty-six gun frigate under the same name.

When in company with the Penelope and Foudroyant at the blockade of Malta, Decœurdoux further assisted, as Acting-Lieutenant, at the capture, 31 March 1800, of the French 80-gun ship Guillaume Tell, after a tremendous conflict in which the Lion sustained a loss of 8 men killed and 38 wounded. He next served for upwards of 12 months as a Supernumerary of the Ville de Paris 110, flagship in the Channel of the Hon. William Cornwallis, and was confirmed to a Lieutenancy in the San Fiorenzo frigate, on 16 April 1802. He was appointed to the Mars 74, Captain George Duff, on 23 March 1803.

Flag-Lieutenant of the Mars at Trafalgar

‘Under the command of Captain George Duff she was distinguished and lost heavily at Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. She was in the Lee column, and followed Bellisle into action. When endeavouring to find an opening at which to pass through the hostile line, she was engaged from astern by the French 74, Pluton. To avoid running into the Spanish Santa Anna, she was obliged to turn her head to wind, and so exposed her stern to the fire of the Spanish Monarca and French Algésiras, which punished her severely, until the coming of our Tonnant took off their attention. Quite unmanageable as she had become, the Mars paid off, but was further wounded by the French Fougeuex, and again by the Pluton, one of whose shots carried off the head of Captain Duff. Her losses amounted to ninety-eight killed and wounded. Her main topmast and spanker boom were shot away, and all her lower masts left in a tottering state. She had several guns disabled, her rudder head injured and all her yards more or less shot. On the surrender of the French Commander-in-Chief and his retinue, they were received on board the Mars.

In 1806, under command of Captain Robert Dudley Oliver, she was employed with Commodore Sir Samuel Hood’s squadron off Rochefort, and captured the French 40-gun frigate Rhin on the 22nd July; while on the 25th September in the same year, when cruising with the same squadron off Rochefort, she assisted at the capture of four French frigates’ (Ref: The Trafalgar Roll, by Colonel R. H. Holden).

From January 1813 to July 1817, he was very actively employed as a Transport Agent, on various stations, and was particularly active at the embarkation of the allied troops at Calais in July 1814, and again in December 1815. His last appointment was to the Ordinary at Portsmouth, where he served from May 183, until April 1834. Admitted to the out-pension of Greenwich Hospital on 12 July 1839, he was promoted Commander on 15 June 1844. Commander Decœurdoux died at Southsea in March 1800.

A small portrait miniature of this officer, together with his gold cameo ring, was sold in the Trafalgar Bicentenary sale, Christie’s, October 2005.