Orders, Decorations and Medals (27 July 1995)

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Date of Auction: 27th July 1995

Sold for £2,400

Estimate: £2,000 - £2,500

Naval General Service 1793-1840, 2 clasps, 1 June 1794, Mars 21 April 1798 (Thomas Morgan, Chaplain) top clasp very slightly buckled, otherwise very fine and rare


Thomas Morgan, who was a Doctor of Divinity, joined his first ship, the Alfred, in 1793, and was five times in action within four years, beginning with the “Glorious First of June” in 1794. He was chaplain of the 74-gun frigate Mars, which, under Captain Alexander Hood in the Bay of Brest on 21 April 1798, outsailed the two ships in company with her to intercept the French 74-gun Hercule which was attempting to join the Brest fleet. When the ships finally came together the Mars’ port anchor hooked with the Hercule’s starboard anchor, and the Mars let go another anchor. Thus entangled, their sides rubbing together so that the lower deck guns could not be run out, but were fired within board, the two ships fought for nearly an hour and a half. Two attempts of the Frenchmen to board the Mars were defeated and, having suffered terrible damage to her starboard side, the Hercule surrendered, having lost 290 killed and wounded. The Mars had thirty killed or missing, including among the killed the gallant Captain Hood, who died just after the surrender. As he died he was attended by Thomas Morgan, who accepted the sword of the captain of the Hercule and placed it in the hands of Hood, who, before he expired, was able to whisper to his chaplain his last messages to be conveyed to Mrs. Hood. Later the Hood family presented Morgan with a ring in recognition of his action.
In addition to his duties as chaplain, Thomas Morgan acted as secretary to Rear-Admiral Sir C. Cotton in the
Prince George in 1801 and in the San Joseph in 1804. He left this latter ship in 1806 and, for some years afterwards, appears to have had no naval connection, but from 1815 he did hospital work in Portsmouth. In 1817 he became chaplain of Portsmouth Dockyard, a post which he held for the next thirty-four years, until 1851. Perhaps such a span of fifty-eight years in the naval service, afloat and ashore, even with the apparent break, has never been exceeded by any chaplain.
Morgan’s medal is noteworthy in that the “Glorious First of June” is the first naval action for which a medal was awarded to a chaplain and is, in itself, unique. Approximately 26 clasps were issued for the
Mars’ heroic action and, again, this must be the only instance where an enemy man-of-war has surrendered to a chaplain.