Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (19 & 20 July 2017)

Image 1

Click Image to Zoom

Date of Auction: 19th & 20th July 2017

Sold for £26,000

Estimate: £18,000 - £22,000

A rare N.G.S. medal awarded to John Elander, a Landsman aboard H.M.S. Amazon at the destruction of the French 74-gun ship-of-the-line Droits de l’Homme in January 1797, after a long action, in company with H.M.S. Indefatigable, both ships being severely damaged and Amazon being driven on the rocks, her crew were taken prisoner after a fight with a body of French soldiers; after his exchange Elander fought as a Bosun’s Mate in H.M.S. Northumberland at the battle of St Domingo and was wounded in that action

Naval General Service 1793-1840, 2 clasps, Amazon 13 Jany 1797, St. Domingo (John Elander.) toned, nearly extremely fine £18000-22000


Provenance: Spink, December 1984.

6 clasps issued for ‘Amazon 13 Jany 1797’.

John Elander is confirmed on the rolls [Ellender] as a Landsman aboard the Amazon at the capture of the French 74 Droits de l’Homme, and as a Bosun’s Mate aboard the Northumberland at St Domingo, where he was wounded (London Gazette 1806).

The Amazon 32, Captain R. C. Reynolds, and the Indefatigable 44, Captain E. Pellew [later Lord Exmouth], on 13 December 1797, about fifty leagues south west of Ushant, discovered a large ship steering towards the French coast. This was the Droits de l’Homme 74, Commodore J. La Crosse, which had formed one of the French fleet in the expedition to Ireland, and after the failure at Bantry Bay, was now returning home, with about seven hundred troops on board. The weather was thick and hazy, and the wind blew hard from the westward. Soon after the French ship had been sighted and found to be an enemy, a squall carried away her fore and main top-masts, and the sea ran so high that she was unable to open her lower deck ports. Shortly before six p.m. the Indefatigable brought the Droits de l’Homme to action, and in about an hour after, the Amazon came up and took part in the engagement; the enemy making several ineffectual attempts to board, and keeping up an active fire of cannon and musketry. In a little time the British frigates shot ahead, the Amazon to reduce her sail, and the Indefatigable to repair the damage to her rigging.

About half-past eight, the frigates renewed the action, attacking their opponent first on the bow, and then on the quarter, often within pistol shot. The contest lasted until twenty minutes past four a.m. when the sudden appearance of land, and breakers close ahead, caused all the ships to end an engagement which had lasted ten hours, and make efforts to haul off. The Indefatigable at once bore to the southwards, with four feet of water in her hold, all her masts much damaged, and her crew almost worn out with fatigue. The Droits de l’Homme in attempting to tack, lost her fore mast and bowsprit, and struck on a sandbank in Audierne Bay. The main mast went by the board, and she then fell on her broadside, with a tremendous surf beating over her.

The Amazon seeing the danger, also wore, with three feet of water in her hold, but with her mizzen top-mast shot away, and her masts and rigging almost cut to pieces, was unable to haul off, and went on shore about the same time. Her crew with the exception of six, who were drowned, saved themselves on rafts, but on landing were all made prisoners by a body of French soldiers. In the action three men were killed, and fifteen wounded. On board the Indefatigable which with the greatest difficulty weathered the Penmark Rocks, the first Lieutenant and eighteen men were wounded.

Through the stormy state of the weather, the crew of the ill-fated Droits de l’Homme spent four nights on the wreck without succour, the waves constantly breaking over them, till more than half of them were drowned, or perished of cold and hunger. Her crew with the soldiers, amounted to at least one thousand three hundred and fifty men, and of these, two hundred and fifty were killed and wounded in the engagement with the British frigates. Some English prisoners who were on board when she struck, and who fortunately got to land, in consideration of their sufferings, and the assistance they rendered, were sent home without ransom or exchange by the French Government.