NAVAL GENERAL SERVICE 1793, 3 CLASPS, MARTINIQUE, POMPEE 17 JUNE 1809, GUADALOUPE ‘JAMES LAY’
James Lay, an Ordinary Seaman, received a rare Naval General Service Medal with three clasps for his service aboard HMS Pompee on the West Indies Station between 1809 and 1810. He initially played a part in the invasion of Martinique on 24th January 1809, before taking part in the 3 day running battle resulting in HMS Pompee taking the French 74 gun ship D’Hautpoult on 17th April 1809; James Lay himself was wounded during this action and is believed to have been wounded again during a later action in September 1809. He further took part in the invasion of Guadeloupe on 5th February 1810, adding the final clasp to his medal. However given his 10 year service, its likely he served in many other actions that clasps were not awarded for.
A superb article on the NGS medals for the West Indies Campaign 1808-10 can be found on the OMSA website: http://www.omsa.org/ngs-1793-1840-the-west-indian-campaign-1808-10/
The published medal rolls confirm James Lay as an Ordinary Seaman aboard the Pompee for all three actions, one of only 21 recipients recorded on the Admiralty roll for the clasp ‘Pompee 17 June 1809’. London Gazette 23 May 1809 also notes James Lay was wounded during Pompee’s action with the French 74 D’Hautpoult. One of Pompee’s 30 Wounded during the action (a further 10 were killed).
Greenwich Hospital rolls notes that James Lay, a labourer aged 73 from Berkshire, was admitted as a Pensioner on December 15th 1853. He was married in 1802 and had two children; one boy and one girl. He served in the Royal Navy for 10 years with his last ship being HMS President. Under wounded both ‘Martinique & Guadaloupe’, another roll noting wounded in ‘left leg’ whilst aboard ‘Pompey’ and was in receipt of a medal. Yet another roll under ‘If any General Action, what ship’, notes ‘Martinique Hautpoult Pompee’.
4209 James Lay DD (Discharded Dead) on the 3rd December 1856, at which age he would have been 76 or 77.
Landsman - HMS Agincourt (64) 19 Aug 1805 to 5th March 1808
Landsman - HMS Pompee (80) 6 March 1808 to 23rd April 1808
Ordinary Seaman - HMS Pompee (80) 24th April 1808 to 4th October 1810
Ordinary Seaman - HMS Armada (74) 5th October 1810 to 28th September 1814
Ordinary Seaman - HMS President (38) 29th September 1814 to 4th September 1815
The NGS Medal database gives the following and notes it is believed James Lay was wounded in a separate incident on 16th September 1809, which is after the action with D’Hautpoult. This is quite possible, especially as one of Lay’s Greenwich Hospital entries notes both ‘Martinique & Guadaloupe’ under wounded; Pompee was operating on the West Indies Station at this time. However non Gazetted Admiralty despatches held in the National Archives, would have to be searched for this period to confirm as it was probably either a minor boat action or a disastrous action (or both), either of which were rarely Gazetted.
NGS Medal database:
‘The published Naval General Service rolls confirm James Lay as an Ordinary Seaman aboard the 'Pompee' for all three actions, one of just 21 recipients of the 'Pompee 17 June 1809' clasp recorded on the Admiralty roll. 'Some small islets, called Saintes, near Guadaloupe being taken possession of on 14 April  by Captain Beaver and a British Squadron, three French Line-of-Battle Ships, lying at anchor in the roads beneath, were compelled to put to sea. They were chased by the Admiral's Flagship 'Neptune', 98, and 'Pompee', 74, which, however, were outsailed by three 18-gun Brigs. One of these, the 'Recruit', commanded by Captain Charles Napier (who had already earned distinction at Martinique), coming up with the 'D'Hautpoult', kept up a fire upon her with so much skill and gallantry as to delay her, so that by night the 'Pompee' arrived up. The French Captain fought his ship with obstinate courage, but was compelled to surrender to 'Pompee', which lost nine killed, and Captain Fahie, the First Lieutenant, and 28 Officers and men wounded.' ('Great Battles of the British Navy', by Lieutenant C.R. Low, R.N. refers). Ordinary Seaman James Lay is believed to have been wounded in a separate incident on 16.9.1809. M.I.D. Several edge bruises and very worn through polishing. 2004 Provenance: Ordinary Seaman James Lay was wounded in the action with the French National Ship D'Hautpoult on the morning of the 17th April 1809 (London Gazette 23 May 1809].'
Condition; edge bruising and heavily polished, fair to fine. The carriage and clasps better, original section of ribbon and medal is 100% as issued. Ex DNW 2004 Sold with copy original medal and Greenwich Hospital Rolls, discharge papers, casualty confirmation and other research on CD. A rare medal indeed, priced at least a third of the price than had it been GVF.