NAVAL GENERAL SERVICE MEDAL 1793, CLASP SPARTAN 3 MAY 1810; ‘JAMES DUNN, PURSER.’
James Dunn was commissioned as a Purser in the Royal Navy on 30th January 1806. He was appointed to the newly launched 38 gun frigate H.M.S Spartan on 12th August 1806, under Captain George Astle at Spithead. The famed Captain Jahleel Brenton, took over Spartan’s Command in February 1807. Initially serving in the Mediterranean, for a time Spartan cruised with Lord Cochrane’s Imperieuse, the two ships with their like minded Captain’s, causing a great deal of mischief upon the enemy. Dunn remaining on Spartan right up until July 1814, therefore taking part in a great many actions. However it was for the action in which Spartan alone, took on a Franco-Neapolitan squadron in the Bay of Naples, capturing one prize and severely damaging two others.
Dunn was mentioned in Despatches (LG 1810) for his gallant and distinguished service during this action; the following from Captain Brenton’s original dispatch:
‘..Nor most I forget Mr. Dunn, the purser, who took charge of a division of guns on the main deck in the place of the officer, absent in a prize with eighteen men, (which reduced our number to two hundred and fifty eight at the commencement of the action) he displayed the greatest gallantry.’
Dunn is not that unusual, in period accounts and despatches, pursers, Surgeon’s, Carpenters etc are often to be found playing their part in any ship or boat action, frequently being found on casualty lists or mentioned for their gallant service. On board ships of the time every man of every rank or rating would take their turn. During 1812 – 13, Spartan, now under Command of Captain Edward Pelham Brenton, the former Captain’s brother was very active on the North American station, capturing a great many American privateers.
Dunn’s Navy List entry gives the following:
‘J. Dunn was the Purser of the Spartan, at the taking of the Islands of Ischia and Procida of four ships under the batteries of Terracino, and several gallant affairs in the Adriatic; in command of a boat (with a Greek crew), captured a French privateer of four guns, when he was slightly wounded, and his gallantry was officially mentioned in the Spartan’s hard fought action with the enemy’s squadron in the Bay of Naples’. His obituary added; ‘and after being secretary to Commodore Spranger at the taking of the Ionian Islands, he served in the same capacity to Sir Benjamin H. Carew and Sir Robert Moorson.’
James Dunn, was one of 30 officers and men to subsequently live to claim the Naval General Service Medal 1793-1840 with clasp for Spartan 3 May 1810. James Dunn is the only Purser to receive this medal, and with his rank it is uniquely named.
Condition GVF: Suspension re-fitted, clasp a very good and old tailor’s copy, light contact wear.
Provenance: Glendinning’s Auction June 1904, and again July 1962, and in both sales the description of his clasp states at as ‘unofficial clasp’, hence the medal fitted with this old tailor’s copy clasp has been publicly known since at least June 1904. Presumably the medal had been worn as a fob or such and prior to 1904 had been reconstituted, a copy clasp being obtained from a jeweller. On close examination, the clasp is a casting from an original. Disc itself shows no signs of mounting.
Sold with copy medal rolls gazette, letter, Memoir of the life and services of Vice-admiral Sir Jahleel Brenton and, some copy despatches 1807-10 and other research on CD.