Medal News

Volume 43, Number 1, December 2004

Naval Gazing

Volume 43, Number 1, December 2004

Every year it seems, brings an anniversary of some kind, another military milestone to be noted – no sooner had the anniversaries of the start and ending of the Boer war come and gone than it was 2004 and the 150th anniversary of the start of the Crimea and some of its most famous battles, the 60th anniversary of D-Day and the 90th anniversary of the start of World War I to name but a few. Now that year is almost behind us and as we come into 2005 we are faced with one of the biggest anniversaries of them all – the 60th since the end of World War II and, because so many of the old soldiers are now fading away, quite possibly the last “important” milestone that will be commemorated by the parades, pomp and ceremony that we are certain to see come next summer (although rumour has it that the war’s end will be brought forward to allow MPs to jump on the bandwagon without it interfering with their summer recess – how inconvenient of the Japanese not to surrender earlier!). However, important though this anniversary is, it isn’t the only notable date we should be commemorating in 2005 as this year also sees the 200th anniversary of arguably the greatest sea battle of all time – the Battle of Trafalgar, which took place on October 21 1805 and secured the dominance of the British Navy over Napoleon’s fleet and paved the way for the ultimate victory for Britain and her allies on land (although the armies were somewhat slower than their sea going counterparts and it took them another 10 years to defeat the Little Emperor!). Admiral Lord Nelson, who lost his life in that battle, has long been acknowledged as one of the Greatest Britons, his monument, standing tall over the square that bears the name of his most famous action, is still one of London’s most famous landmarks and his old flagship, HMS Victory is still one of the most visited attractions in the UK. It is said then when Nelson’s body was brought back to England (it had been preserved in a barrel of Brandy) thousands lined the streets to pay their respects before he was interned in St Paul’s Cathedral – he was big news and even 200 years on it seems he, and the battles he fought, still are. For 2005 the Royal Mint has produced a commemorative “Nelson” £5 crown to honour the anniversary and there are numerous television extravaganzas scheduled throughout the year – not since the Task Force set out for the Falklands back in 1982 has there promised to be such emphasis on British sea power. I am certain that this interest will be reflected in our own hobby too – after all we are talking about the anniversary of a major battle here and battles are what much of our hobby is about. I am loathe to predict market trends but I will be surprised if over the next 12 months we don’t see a surge of interest in Naval medals in general, with those pertaining to Nelson and the Napoleonic era Naval encounters in particular being especially sought after. What’s the betting that by the time October 21 comes around there will be one or two more collectors out there who have convinced themselves that they just must acquire an NGSM with Trafalgar clasp or, failing that, one of the two “tribute” medals produced by Mr Davison or Mr Boulton?! We at Medal News will happily jump on this particular ship and over the next year we hope to include regular “Naval” features – starting this month with a fascinating look at the Naval Gold Medal – something Nelson himself knew about, he had three! As always we are happy to take any contributions from readers so please, if any of you have any Nelson or Trafalgar related stories/pictures/anecdotes/articles please do let us know.

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