Naval General Service Medal (NGSM) (1847)

Era: 1793 – 1840

The Naval General Service Medal (NGSM) was a campaign medal that was approved in 1847.  This medal, was originally intended to cover the period from 1793 – 1815, then later extended to cover that from 1793 – 1840.  It was not issued until 1849.  A list was published in 1848 stating for which actions and boat services medals would be given.  Those who were entitled to the medal had to give their name to the Staff Officer of Pensions in the district where they lived.  With people being generally illiterate to read papers or notices probably account for not many medals being issued, also by the time it was issued many would have died before claiming.   Substantially fewer medals issued when compared with the number of men who served during this period; frequently the number of claimants for individual clasps was reckoned in single figures—for ten clasps, there were no claimants. 20,933 medals were awarded in total—most with a single clasp.

The NGSM was issued to officers and men of the Royal Navy, with a handful of awards were made to officers and men of the British Army, present on board HM Ships at qualifying actions.

The NGSM was retrospectively awarded for various naval actions during the period 1793–1840, a period including the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Anglo-American War of 1812. Each battle or action covered by the medal was represented by a clasp on the ribbon. The medal was never issued without a clasp, 231 of which were sanctioned.  The clasps covered a variety of actions, from boat service to ship to ship skirmishes all the way to major fleet actions such as the Battle of Trafalgar.

This medal and its army counterpart, the Military General Service Medal, were amongst the first real British campaign medals, the first to be issued to all ranks just for "being there".


Materials:      The majority of the British medals and clasps are made of solid silver, though some were issue in bronze versions, mainly to Indian non-combatants.  The majority of the British campaign awards are circular, usually 36mm in diameter.

Ribbons:         Medals are worn suspended from their own specific ribbons. These were first made of silk but cotton was increasingly used as the nineteenth century developed.  Their own colours often have a symbolic significance: the equal stripes of the ‘1939 to 1945 Star,’ for example, are dark blue to represent the service of the Royal and Merchant Navies, red, to represent that of the Armies and light blue to represent that of Air Forces.

Ribbon width can vary slightly though it is generally 32mm wide.

Ribbon – 32mm wide, white with Dark Blue edges.

Naval General Service Medal ribbon
Naval General Service Medal ribbon

Suspender - Straight

Type – Campaign medal.

Eligibility – Royal Navy. (Officers and men of the British Army, present on board HM Ships at qualifying actions)

Awarded for – Campaign service

Campaign – Naval Actions 1793–1840.

Established – 1847

Designer – W. Wyon, R.A.

Naming – Indent in Roman capitals.  The recipient’s rank is only given on medals to officers and warrant officers.  The name of the ship is never given.

Total Awarded – 20,901 medals issued with a single bar.  A total of about 24,000 bars were issued altogether. The medal was not issued without a bar.

Clasps – 231 bars have been sanctioned.  One hundred and seventy-six of these were for actions fought by His or Her Majesty’s warships, and fifty-five for what is termed Boat Actions.

Description - A circular, silver medal, 1.52 inches (39 mm) in diameter. The obverse:  The diademed head of Queen Victoria and legend “VICTORIA REGINA” with the date “1848”.  Reverse: The figure of Britannia, holding a trident, seated sideways on a seahorse.


Clasps are commonly, though not strictly correctly, also referred to as ‘bars’.  They are single-faced metal bars carried on a ribbon attached to the medal, indicating service in a particular campaign or battle.  The clasps carry side flanges to enable them to be attached to the medal and riveted to each other, so that new ones can be attached as earned.  Usually the first earned Clasp is borne nearest to the medal, so that the latest earned should be at the top, though they can be found in the wrong order. 

NYMPHE:                                                                            18th June, 1793           

Capture of French frigate Cleopatra.

CRESENT:                                                                           20th Oct, 1793

Capture of French frigate Reunion

ZEBRA:                                                                                17th Mar, 1794

Capture of Fort Saint Louis (Martinique)

BOAT SERVICE 1794:                                                        17th Mar, 1974

Capture of the French frigate Bienvenue and other vessels in Fort Royal Bay (Martinique)

CARYFORT:                                                                       29th May, 1794

Recapture of HMS Castor

1 JUNE 1794:                                                                        1st June, 1794

            Glorious First of June

ROMNEY:                                                                            17th June, 1794

            Capture of French frigate Sibylle

BLANCHE:                                                                           4th Jan, 1975

            Capture of French frigate Pique

LIVELY:                                                                               13th Mar, 1795

Capture of French frigate Tourterelle

14th MARCH 1976:                                                              14th Mar, 1795

            Naval Battle of Genoa (1795)

MOSQUITO:                                                                         9th June, 1795

            Capture of privateer   

23rd JUNE 1795:                                                                  23rd Jun, 1975

            Capture of privateer

23rd JUNE 1795:                                                                  23rd Jun, 1795

            Battle of Groix

DRYAN:                                                                                13th June, 1796

            Capture of Prosperine.

St. VINCENT:                                                                      14th Feb, 1797

            Battle of Cape St. Vincent

SAN FIOENZO:                                                                    9th Mar, 1797

            Capture of Resistance.

29th MAY BOAT SERVICE:                                             29th May, 1797

            Boats of Minerve and Lively capture French corvette Mutine.

CAMPERDOWN:                                                                11th Oct, 1797

            Battle of Camperdown.

NILE:                                                                                     1-3rd Aug, 1798

            Battle of the Nile.

12th OCTOBER 1798:                                                         12th Oct, 1798

            Battle of Tory Island.

TELEGRAPH:                                                                     18th Mar, 1799

            Capture of French privateer Hirondelle.

ARROW:                                                                               13th Sept, 1799

            Capture of Draak and Gier.

WOLVERINE:                                                                     13th Sept, 1799

            Capture of Draak and Gier.

COUIER:                                                                               23rd Nov, 1799

            Capture of French privateer Guerrier.

EGYPT:                                                                                 Mar – Sep, 1801

Battle of Abukir 1801, Battle of Alexandria 1801, Seige of Alexandria 1801

COPENHAGEN:                                                                  2nd Apr, 1801

            Battle of Copenhagen.


Napoleonic Wars:

BEAVER:                                                                              31st Mar, 1804

            Boats of Scorpion and Beaver captured the Dutch brig Atalante.

SCORPION:                                                                          31st Mar, 1804

            Boats of Scorpion and Beaver captured the Dutch brig Atalante.

SAN FIORENZO:                                                                 14th Feb, 1805

            Capture of Psyche.

TRAFALGAR:                                                                     21st Oct, 1805

            Battle of Trafalgar.

4 NOV. 1805:                                                                         4th Nov, 1805

            Battle of Cape Ortegal.

St DOMINGO:                                                                      6th Feb, 1805

            Battle of San Domingo.

BLANCHE:                                                                           18th July, 1807

            Capture of French frigate Guerriere

BOAT SERVICE 1807:                                                        21st Jan, 1807

            Boats of Galatea.

BOAT SERICE 1807:                                                           19th April, 1807

            Boats of Richmond capture a privateer.

ANN:                                                                                      24th Nov, 1807

Capture of Spanish lugger privateer and action with ten gunboats and surrender of two.

SAPPHO:                                                                               2nd Mar, 1808

            Capture of brig Admiral Yawl.

San FIORENZO:                                                                  8th Mar, 1808

            Capture of Piemontaise.

28 NOV BOAT SERVICE:                                                 28th Nov, 1808

            Boats of Heureux attack a battery and capture a brig and a schooner.

ONYX:                                                                                   1st Jan, 1809

            Recapture of Manly.

MARTINIQUE:                                                                    30th Jan – 24 Feb, 1809

            Invasion of Martinique 1809

BASQUE ROADS:                                                               11-25th April, 1809

            Battle of the Basque Roads

25 JULY BOAT SERVICE:                                                 25th July, 1809

Boats of Fawn in action with a cutter and the schooner Guadaloupe which they captured.

25 JULY BOAT SERVICE:                                                 25th July, 1809

Boats of Cerberus, Minotaur, Princess Caroline, and Prometheus capture Russian gunboats near Fredrikshamn, Gulf of Finland

GUADALOUPE:                                                                  28th Jan – 6th Feb, 1810

            Capture of Guadeloupe.

THISTLE:                                                                             10th Feb, 1810

            Capture of Havik

ARROW:                                                                               6th Apr, 1810

            Action with chasse-marees and batteries off the French coast.

JAVA:                                                                                     Aug – Sept, 1811

            Invasion of Java

LISSA:                                                                                   13th Mar, 1811

            Battle of Lissa.

ANHOLT:                                                                             27th Mar, 1811

            Battle of Anholt.

OFF MARDOE:                                                                   6th July, 1812

            Battle of Lyngor.

21 MARCH BOAT SERVICE 1813:                                  21st Mar, 1813

Boats of Brev, Drageren, and Blazer capture gunboats Jonge Troutman and Liebe

St. SEBASTIAN:                                                                  Aug – Sept, 1813

            Siege of San Sebastian.

CYANE:                                                                                16th Jan, 1814

            Capture of Alcmene & Iphigenie.


War of 1812.

APRIL & MAY BOAT SERVICE 1813:                           28 Apr & 5th May

Boats of Marlborough, Maidstone, Dragon, Statira, olphin, Fantome, Mohawk, Highflyer, and Racer destroyed cannon foundry at French Town and batteries at Havre-de-Grace

8 APRIL BOAT SERVICE 1813:                                       8th April, 1814

Boats of Hogue, Endymion, Maidstone, and Boxer destroyed 27 American vessels and a quantity of stores up the Connecticut River.

SHANNON WH:                                                                   1st Jun, 1813

            Shannon vs Chesapeake

PELICAN:                                                                            14th Aug, 1814

            Capture of USS Argus.

PHOEBE:                                                                              28th Mar, 1814

            Capture of USS Essex & Esses Junior (Ex-Atlantic)

CHERUB:                                                                             28th Mar, 1814

            Capture of USS Essex & Esses Junior (Ex-Atlantic)

THE POTOMAC:                                                                17th Aug 1814

Seahorse, Euryalus, Devastation, Aetna, Meteor, Erebus, Fairy, and Anna Maria at Alexandria (Virginia) and destruction of shipping in the Potomac River.

3 & 6 SEPT BOAT SERVICE 1814:                                       3-6th Sept 1814

            Boats on Lake Huron captured American schooners Tigress and Scorpion

14 DEC. BOAT SERVICE 1814:                                          14th Dec 1814

Battle of Lake Borgne; boats of 16 British warships captured five American gunboats and a sloop.

ENDYMION Wh:                                                                 15th Jan, 1815

            Endymion vs President

Later Battles or Actions.

ALGIERS:                                                                            27th Aug, 1816

            Britain & The Netherlands vs Dey of Algiers

NAVARINO:                                                                        20th Oct, 1827

            Britain, France & Russia vs Ottoman Empire

SYRIA:                                                                                  Nov, 1840

Britain, with Austria, the Ottoman Empire, and Russia vs Egypt.

This is the most common clasp.


This guide will help you through all the parts and descriptions of military medals


Major L L Gordon ‘British Battles and Medals’

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