Orders, Decorations and Medals (4 December 2001)

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Date of Auction: 4th December 2001

Sold for £2,800

Estimate: £3,000 - £3,500

Naval General Service 1793-1840, 1 clasp, Hebrus with L’Etoile (Gerard Highton) edge bruise, nearly very fine £3000-3500


Gerrard Highton is confirmed on the roll as a Croporal, Royal Marines, aboard H.M.S. Hebrus. A total of 40 clasps were issued for this action, of which only 23 recipients have unique names.

In January 1814, the French frigates L’Etoile and La Sultane being on a cruise near the Cape Verde Islands, met with the British frigates Astraea and Creole, with which they fought a severe but drawn action. The French made sail away, and their opponents were too much disabled in their rigging to follow. On March 26th as they were nearing their own shores, they fell in with the British ships Hannibal, seventy-four, Captain Sir M. Seymour; Hebrus, thirty-eight, Captain E. Palmer; and the Sparrow, sixteen-gun brig, Captain Lock. The British immediately chased, and the Hannibal coming up with La Sultane she surrendered.

After a chase of one hundred and twenty miles on the morning of the 27th, the Hebrus brought L’Etoile to action near Cape La Hogue, and to prevent her escape passed between her and the shore, within musket shot of the land. The engagement lasted two hours and a quarter, when L’Etoile, her mizen mast shot away, her hull much shattered, and four feet of water in her hold, struck her colours. Of her crew of three hundred and twenty men, forty were killed and over seventy wounded, many of whom died the next day. The Hebrus lost her fore topmast and fore yard, and all her masts were shot through, but her killed and wounded together were less than forty. The action was fought within range of a battery on shore, which, on the surrender of L’Etoile opened a heavy fire on her and her conqueror.

Captain Palmer brought his prize into Plymouth Sound on March 29th, and declined the honour of knighthood which was offered him as a reward for his services. He did, however, receive a Captain’s Naval Gold Medal, the penultimate such award of the war, and was made a Companion of the Bath in 1815.

Gerrard Highton was born in Laigh, Lancaster, and attested for the Royal Marines at Hull on 18 April 1808, aged 21. He was discharged from the Royal Marines on 13 June 1815, on reduction of the Corps. Sold with full research including copies of despatches and letters concerning this brilliant action.