|Other Interesting Medals
William Williamson entered the Royal Navy on 3 Nov 1826 on board the 1st rate HMS Asia. It is possible he entered prior to that,
on HMS Bittern, which might have been the receiving ship for Portsmouth at the time. All of the entrants on this page of Asia’s
description book are shown as being turned over from Bittern. They could have been borne on Bittern awaiting Asia to
commission. He is shown as 20 yrs of age, thus being born circa 1806. He was born in Swansea, South Wales, & rated Ordinary
Seaman. It is unknown if he was literate, but for the day, I would think unlikely.
A note about seaman & ships complements of the day – In the day seaman & ‘idlers’(non seaman ratings) signed on & off ships as
they choose, Continuous Service did not yet exist (it came in in 1853), a rating would pick & chose his ships based on what he
thought of the ship, the Captain, the Officers, the conditions of the ship, where it was going (ie: what station it was intended to go
to), & the prior record of that ship. A rating could, & many did, have gaps ashore between ship appointments, thus making their
service hard to trace. When their ship decommissioned after a period of service the crew was “paid off”, that is, they were all sent
ashore, & then, if they desired, find a new ship just commissioning, or they could elect to remain onshore for a period of time or
leave the service completely.
Whilst serving on HMS Asia he saw action at the Battle of Navarino on 20 Oct 1827. HMS Asia, a 2nd rate Ship of the Line with 84
guns, was the flagship of Admiral Codrington and saw action as part of the combined British, French and Russian fleet at the battle
of Navarino against the Turkish fleet. Despite the bravery and determination of the Turkish navy their fleet was pretty much wiped
out by the superior British gunnery.
Asia suffered the highest allied casualties with 19 men killed and 57 wounded. The battle of Navarino was the last fleet action of the
sailing ship era. Whilst on Asia he was rated Gunner’s Crew. HMS Excellent in those days had yet to exist as a gunnery school,
ratings were trained & rated in gunnery on board their ships.
He then served on HMS Iris from Dec ’27 to Mar ’30; on Hyperion during May/Jun ’31; & returned to HMS Asia again from May ’31-
July’34, where he entered as AB & Gunners Crew.
He is then signed on HMS Bellerophon from Oct ’34 to Jan ’35, then a long commission on HMS Rattlesnake in the Pacific from Jan ’
35 to Dec ’38.
When he returned to UK he signed on HMS Ganges Dec ’38 & served to Apl ’42), where he is again AB & Gunners Crew, & sees
action at the reduction of the fortress at Acre & qualifying for the Syria clasp to the NGS medal.
HMS Ganges was also a 2nd rate Ship of the Line with 84 guns.
When entered on Ganges he is shown as being 31 yrs of age, 5’5”, hazel eyes, brown hair, fresh complexion, vaccinated, married,
& trade: “Seaman” with prior service, with a “Good” conduct record.
He then goes to HMS Satellite May ’42 to Dec ’43, again in the rate of AB & Gunners Crew.
Next ship was HMS St Vincent, which he entered on 20 Apl ’44. Whilst on St Vincent he is promoted to Captain of the Mast on 14
On both Satellite & St Vincent his conduct was assessed as “Good.”
Whilst on St Vincent Williamson was recommended for the Naval Long Service medal 20 Dec ’48, as he had 21 years 2 months
service accumulated & his conduct had been assessed as “Good.” He did not appear to receive the medal as he continued to serve
on St Vincent & was again recommended on 16 Apl ’49 whilst on same ship.
I am not certain that he rec’d the medal as a result of this later recommendation or not. In those days the award of the LS medal
was by a lottery & even if a rating was recommended by his Captain for the award of the medal that did not necessarily mean
that he received it. However, Williamson was discharged for St Vincent on 19 Apl ’49 as Captain of the Mast with a “Good” conduct
He continued to serve & signed on HMS Dragon 17 Aug ’50 to Jun ’52, again in the rate of Captain of the Mast. When he entered
Dragon he gave his age as 48, thus making him born circa 1802. This was considered old for a rating in the day.
Whilst on HMS Dragon Williamson had some conduct problems. He had rec’d two GCB’s on 1 Feb ’51 (indicating, at that time,10
years service, GCB’s being introduced in ’49), but forfeited both of them on 23 Feb ’52 & was reduced to the rank of AB. He left
Dragon on 19 Jun ’52 when most of her crew were turned over to HMS Tiger. Things got slightly better for him on her as he left
Tiger on 19 July with a conduct rating of “Indifferent.”
He may have gone to pension on 11 Aug ’52 after completing 23 yrs, 6 months, 1 day of service. He does not appear on the
medal roll for the Baltic campaign of 1854.
There is no indication of him being recommended again for the LS medal, & with his conduct reduction on Dragon & Tiger he would
have been ineligible for the award.
When the award of the Naval General Service medal was sanctioned he applied for his medal & it was awarded, with Navarino &
Syria clasps, as Gunners Crew, under roll application number 202. There were two Williamson’s, of the nine that rec’d the medal,
who rec’d this clasp combination.
On the 1871 census William is shown as married to Mary. He is 67 & Mary is 62, they are living at 7 Mount Street, Southampton.
No children are shown, however they likely had children but they had left home & on their own by 1861.
William died in 1873 at Southampton, Hamps. He is shown on the census as born in 1803. In that time, dates of birth could be
uncertain, many of the ratings in the day were illiterate & had no real idea when they were born.
Williamson came into the RN when the ‘Age of Sail’ was at its height, he participated in the last of the sailing ship battles, & he left
just as steam propulsion was being introduced. The navy Williamson joined & the navy he left were virtually unchanged since the
Napoleonic wars. The Crimean war was to change the RN forever.
As a footnote, it is quite possible that I could be related to William Williamson. My father’s grandfather was born in Swansea, Wales
& emigrated to Canada from Wales in the 1870’s.
|WILLIAM WILLIAMSON - Captain of the Mast & Gunner’s Crew|
|The Battle of Navarino |