Naval General Service Medal with clasp for JAVA named to JAMES FRENCH, CARPENTER
James French was a 21 yr old from Southwark when he signed up to serve in Feb 1793.
After 15 years he rose to become a Carpenter and it was in this capacity aboard HMS Scipion
that he earned the Java clasp. He served continuously for 41 years until October 1834 and
was in his late seventies when he applied for the NGS.
HMS Scipion was formerly Scipion a French ship of the line one of four captured after their
defeat at Trafalgar in 1805 by a squadron of British ships under the command of Sir Richard
Strachan, off Cape Ortegal, north-west Spain.
HMS Scipion was based in Plymouth until 1811. She then became the flagship of Rear Admiral
Hon. Robert Stopford. His fleet, consisting of four sail of the line, thirteen frigates, seven
sloops and eight cruisers of the East India Company, participated in the capture of the island
of Java in 1811. She then was based in the Mediterranean until 29 Oct 1814 when she was paid
off at Portsmouth, decommissioned in 1816 and broken up in 1819.
French served on Cleopatra for more than 9 years serving in the capacity of AB as well as
Carpenter's mate and part of the Carpenter's crew. He was promoted to Carpenter in
January 1808 and first served in this capacity aboard HMS Pearl.
From December 1808 to March, 1811, he served as the carpenter aboard HMS Africaine and
in the Spring of 1810 Captain Raggett was replaced by Captain Robert Corbet. Corbet had
the reputation of being an excessively severe officer so much so that there was a near mutiny aboard
Africaine when the crew heard the news. The crew petitioned that Captain Raggett
be restored and they would even accept a cut in pay. They were unsuccessful.
Three months later, Sailing ahead of Boadicea, Otter and Staunch, in the early hours of Sept. 13th,
1810 she attacked two French Frigates, Iphigénie (late Iphigenia) and Astrée. Her gun crew had little
practice and the French ships overwhelmed Africaine without much difficulty
and out of 295 men and boys aboard, she suffered 49 killed and 114 wounded. Captain Corbet
had his leg amputated below the knee during the action, and died about six hours after the operation
had been performed. (an extensive description of this event off the coast of
Mauritius is contained in Volume V of William James' NAVAL HISTORY OF GREAT
Following his service on Scipion, he served for 11 months as the Foreman of the Shipwrights
at the Cape of Good Hope Yard.
There were a total of 84 Carpenters on the NGS Roll and 4 medals named to JAMES FRENCH although this is the only one
to a Carpenter. Interestingly the other three are with sought after clasps: Trafalgar, Shannon with Chesapeake and
Off Rota 4 April 1808; the latter appearing in the Jubilee Collection in 1992 and fetching £1,450.
Provenance: Sotheby April 1902 with box of issue; Spink Numismatic Circular Aug, 1905 (£4); Glendining July 1953;
Spink Numismatic Circular, 1962 (£14.50)