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 £22,000

Estimate: £12,000 - £14,000

Lieutenant James Sabben, who was wounded when Signal-Midshipman of the Dreadnought at the battle of Trafalgar, and afterwards had an adventurous career in the West Indies, being once taken prisoner, and a second time wounded at the capture of the French frigates Loire and Seine at Anse la Barque

Naval General Service 1793-1840, 4 clasps, Trafalgar [1611], Martinique [480], Anse La Barque 18 Decr 1809 [40], Guadaloupe [475] (J. Sabben, Lieut. R.N.) light edge bruising and handling marks, otherwise nearly extremely fine


Provenance: Glendining’s, July 1929 (Roderick Dow Collection); Glendining’s, May 1942 (Waite Sanderson Collection); Christie’s, November 1985 (ex Fergus Gowans Collection).

Trafalgar [1611 issued] - including 10 officers and 53 men of the Dreadnought.

Martinique [480 issued] - including 17 officers and 58 men of Cochrane’s flagship Neptune.

Anse La Barque 18 Decr 1809 [40 issued] - including Acting Lieutenant Sabben and 2 men of the Ringdove.

Guadaloupe [475 issued] - including Acting Lieutenant Sabben and 3 men of the Ringdove.

James Sabben was born at Portsea on 1 August 1787, and, whilst in the merchant service was a witness to the destruction of the Queen Charlotte 100, in Leghorn Roads on 17 March 1800. He joined the Royal Navy on 16 March 1803, as a First Class Volunteer on board the Dreadnought 98, and was shortly afterwards severely injured by a blow from a storm-stay-sail sheet. In August 1805 he was present off Cadiz when the Dreadnought, with two other ships of the line, was pursued by the combined squadrons of France and Spain on their return from the West Indies, whence they had been driven by Lord Nelson. On 21 October following he fought, as Signal-Midshipman under Captain John Conn, and was wounded, at the battle of Trafalgar, receiving, in consequence, a grant from the Patriotic Fund.

In July 1806 he joined the Wolverene 18, Captain Francis A. Collier, and was present in her when she was hove down at English Harbour, Antigua, and lost many of her officers and crew from yellow fever. On 17 December 1806, whilst a Supernumerary in the schooner Netley, he was taken prisoner by the French frigate Thétis and brig Sylphe, and taken into Guadaloupe. He was soon, however, restored to liberty, and on rejoining the Wolverene was awarded the rating of Master’s Mate. When subsequently in pursuit of an enemy he was a second time accidentally hurt. He continued employed with Captain Collier in the Star sloop until November 1808, when, at the strong recommendation of that officer, he was received by Sir Alexander Cochrane on promotion on board his flagship the Neptune 98, part of the force engaged, in February 1809, at the reduction of Martinique.

As soon as he had passed his examination, he was nominated, in March 1809, Acting-Lieutenant of the Julia 16, Captain William Dowers, and, in the ensuing August, followed that officer in the same capacity into the Ringdove 18. While officiating as First Lieutenant of the Julia, he succeeded in capturing a large French letter-of-marque brig in Trinity Bay, Martinique. When in the same sloop, at the blockade of Guadaloupe, Mr Sabben was almost daily in action, either in cutting-out vessels, in storming batteries, or in intercepting the coasting trade. He also participated in three attempts to capture or destroy the French frigates Furieuse and Félicité in the roadstead of Basseterre; the first being made at night by means of boats; the second by running the Cherub and Julia in broad daylight alongside the enemy’s ships, an attack which failed from want of wind; and the third by converting the Unité brig into a fire-vessel and sending her in by night under cover of the Julia. While attached to the latter vessel he was again very strongly recommended to the Commander-in-Chief.

As Acting-First-Lieutenant, afterwards, of the Ringdove, he was wounded on 18 December 1809, at the destruction, in L’Ance la Barque, of the 40-gun frigates Loire and Seine, laden with stores and protected by numerous batteries, and also took part in the reduction of the island of Guadaloupe, where, during the absence of his Captain on shore, he held command of the ship. Sabben was confirmed to the Ringdove, 10 September 1810. After various appointments, he was placed on half-pay, after being employed in the Perseus receiving ship, off the Tower. Lieutenant Sabben is reported to have died during the year 1849.