The John Goddard Collection of Important Naval Medals and Nelson Letters

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Date of Auction: 24th November 2015

Sold for £22,000

Estimate: £8,000 - £10,000

Master-at-Arms William Madge, who was Quarter Gunner of the Crescent at the capture of La Réunion in 1793, and afterwards followed his Captain, Sir James Saumarez, into the Orion to share in the victories at St Vincent and the Nile

Naval General Service 1793-1840, 3 clasps, Crescent 20 Octr 1793 [12], St. Vincent [346], Nile [326] (William Madge.) minor edge bruise, otherwise nearly extremely fine £8000-10000


Provenance: Bonhams, September 1994.

Crescent 20 Octr 1793 [12 issued] - only the fourth medal to appear on the market with this clasp, which is also not held by the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, nor the Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth.

St. Vincent [348 issued] - including 23 to Orion.

Nile [326 issued] - including 19 to Orion.

William Madge served as Quarter Gunner aboard the Crescent, and as Quarter Gunner and Master-at-Arms aboard the Orion at St. Vincent and the Nile respectively.

Crescent captures Le Réunion

The 36-gun frigate Crescent (Captain James Saumarez) had a crew of 257 men who were principally volunteers from the island of Guernsey, home to its distinguished captain. On the morning of 20 October 1793, lookouts on board Crescent reported sails off Cape Barfleur, on the Cotentin Peninsula, heading towards Cherbourg. Saumarez set a course to intercept, and with the wind in his favour, soon came up on the port side of the two vessels which proved to be the 38-gun French frigate La Réunion and a 14-gun cutter named Espérance, returning from a raiding cruise in the Channel under the command of Captain François A. Dénian.

A second British frigate, the 28-gun Circe, was becalmed some 9 nautical miles away and Espérance fled towards Cherbourg, leaving Réunion and Crescent to engage alone. Although the French ship was bigger, 951 long tons compared to 888 long tons, and carried a larger crew, the British ship had a slight advantage in weight of shot, 315 pounds to 310 pounds and was marginally faster.

After the opening exchanges, Réunion lost her fore yard and mizzen topmast while Crescent lost the top off her foremast. Both ships had rigging cut and a number of sails damaged but Crescent was still able to manoeuvre across Réunion's stern and rake her. This raking caused huge damage to the French ship and her crew, and although Réunion continued to resist for some time, she was no longer able to move effectively. With Saumarez about to cross his bow and Circe now rapidly approaching due to a strengthening wind, Dénian realised he had no choice but to surrender his vessel. The engagement had lasted two hours and ten minutes during which time the cutter, Espérance, managed to escape to Cherbourg. The French frigate Sémillante, which had been anchored in the harbour, was unable to come to Réunion's rescue because of contrary wind and tides.

During this action Le Réunion had 120 men either killed or wounded, while the Crescent had not a single man hurt. This service procured for Saumarez the honour of knighthood, and the presentation, by the grateful merchants of London, of a ‘fine piece of plate’.

William Madge followed his Captain, Sir James Saumarez, into the Orion 74 and in that ship saw distinguished action at the battles of St Vincent and the Nile.