|China 1842 Medal to George Baker HMS Calliope
George Baker was born in London in 1808.
He had a wide and diverse experience on
many ships during his 26-year career, which began in May
1829 and ended as a Quarter Master in September 1856
He joined HMS Warspite on 8th May 1829 and for much
of his time at sea ,he was in South American waters.
While serving on this ship, Captain Talbot was credited
with rescuing the Brazilian Royal family from insurrection
on 6th April 1831.
On 3rd May 1832, a young 23 year old Charles Darwin
went on board and included the following:
From “The Beagle Diary”
Rio de Janeiro
“Went on board the Warspite, a 74 line of battle ship,
to see her inspected by the Admiral. It was one of the
grandest sights I ever witnessed. When the Admiral
arrived the yards were manned by about 400 seamen;
from the regularity of their movements & from their
white dresses, the men really looked more like a flock of
wild-fowl than anything else......”
Baker served on HMS Warspite until March 1833.
His next Vessel was HMS Vestal a 6th rate ship with 26 guns, which was launched in April 1833. Baker joined the ship a
month later and served more than 4 years until September 1837. During this time she sailed primarily in North American
waters and was actively involved in apprehending slave traders. There were several interesting events while he served on
Jamaica 28 Apr 1835 has sailed for Bermuda for the health of her crew, suffering severely from yellow fever : the
surgeon is reported to have died along with Messrs. Doswell, Wilson and Macfarlen, mates and midshipmen ; together with
Smith, a quarter-master ; Honey and Smith, both boys ; Bridges, Cooper, joy, Butt, Burns, Winch, Peters, and Cousins, all
seamen ; and Carpenter, Morrison, Jacques, Sleverley, Gray, and Bratts, Royal Marines. 80 supernumeraries were put on
board to take her to sea.
7 Oct 1835 seized the Spanish slave-schooner Amalia ; accounts of the proceeds deposited in the Registry of the High
Court of Admiralty 4 Jan 1836.
20 Sep 1836 detained in lat. 11° 47' 20" N. long. 61° 13' 30" W., near Grenada, en route from Gallinas the Portuguese
slave schooner Negrinha, Miguel Soares de Lisboa, master, with 336 slaves on board which was sent for adjudication to
the British and Portuguese Court of Mixed Commission, Sierra Leone, and on 19 Dec 1836 sentenced to be condemned.
Grenada 24 Sep 1836 arrived with the Portuguese slave ship Negrinha, late Norma, under Spanish colours, 139 tons,
her prize, with 367 slaves on board. The Vestal has since sailed in search of her consort.
28 Sep 1836 captured the Spanish slave brigantine Empresa, with 418 slaves on board.
The Vestal is also reported to have taken the Imprega, sailing under Spanish colours, which she sent to Havannah, and
with the large number of men away in the prizes has had to recruit local seamen from Granada.
4 May 1837 whilst on passage between Port-au-Prince to Santiago de Cuba sent the ship's boats to examine a suspicious
schooner sighted at anchor at the entrance to Cumberland Harbour, also well known as Guantanamo Harbour. The boat
attempted to escape by sailing further up the harbour, but the ship's boats soon boarded her and discovered that she
was fitted out to carry slaves. A Spanish Lieutenant by the name of Cruz arrived on the scene and stated that the vessel,
the Matilda, was his prize and that he would be taking her to the appropriate authority in the next day or so. However,
by the 25 May it was discovered that she had not been handed over to the Mixed Court, the only body competent to
decide what should be done with the vessel, and a report was made by the Commanding Officer to the British
Commissioners and members of the Mixed Court to pursue the matter with the Foreign Office. However, subsequent
investigations would appear to suggest that nothing further could be done due to the stance taken by the local Spanish
19 May 1837 arrived at Havana. Is reported to have been in harbour when the infamous slave ship Socorro, re-named
the Donna Maria Segunda, recently sailed for the coast of West Africa, but the Treaty between Great Britain and
Portugal did not permit pursuit under these circumstances, apart from the fact that the Spanish members of the Mixed
Court at Havana wouldn't have been permitted, by the Captain-General, to condemn the vessel.
Following this, he joined HMS Calliope in December 1837 and served with her until March 1843. It was during this time
that he earned the China 1842 medal. The Calliope was involved in numerous actions during this “Opium War” namely”
a) 07/01/1841 Bombardment, landing and capture of Chuenpee Hill Forts and fortifications at Tycocktow, both
situated guarding the seaward approaches to Canton on the Bogue - also known as Bocca Tigris.
b) 26/02/1841 Bombardments, landings, capture and destruction of nearly all the forts and embrasures on both sides of
the Bocca Tigris up to Canton.
c) 12/03/1841 Ship's Boats attack up a narrow and intricate channel on the only remaining fort protecting approaches
to Canton at its northern entrance via the Macao passage. The capture of this fort cut the city's last remaining line of
communication for daily subsistance supplies.
d) 18/03/1841 Naval capture of forts, defences and junk flotilla off Canton, & hoisting of Union Flag on the walls of
the British Factory there.
e) 23-30/05/1841 Joint operations leading to the capture of Canton, & subsequent payment by the Chinese of a six
million dollar ransom imposed on them.
f) 21/07/1842 Attack on Chinese entrenched camp. Storming and capture of City of Chin Keang Foo at the entrance
of South Grand Canal in the Yang-Tse-Keang.
China Medals 1842 awarded to HMS Calliope
Officers - 22 + 2 RM. Crew - 176. Royal Marines - 31. Total - 231
Discharged Dead: Crew - 20. Royal Marines - 4. Total – 24
**Details of the engagements and medal data courtesy Stuart Elliott http://anglochinesewar42.com/
His served on several other ships and in time I hope to see if any interesting nuggets surface from his time aboard:
HMS Dee (April 1843- Aug. 1845)
HMS Terrible (Feb. 1846- Sept. 1849)
HMS Indefatigable (Sept. 1849- Nov. 1852)
HMS Duke of Wellington (Feb. 1853- April 1853)
His final Ship was HMS Simoom (June 1853 – Sept. 1856)
HMS Simoom was an iron hulled (350 horse power steam engine) screw Frigate built by Robert Napier of Govan and
launched in 1949. She was named after a hot, dry desert sandstorm and launched on the 24th of May 1849. Simoom was
converted to a troopship steam frigate to carry 1,000 men. She served as a troop ship at the Crimea from 1854 to
1855. Baker earned a Crimea medal while serving on the ship in the capacity of Quarter Master.
|Left: HMS Terrible|
Below: HMS Indefatigable