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NGS 2 Clasps to Cooper William Jerome, HMS Beagle

Item Reference: GM50106

NGS 2 Clasps to Cooper William Jerome, HMS Beagle

NAVAL GENERAL SERVICE MEDAL, 1793-1840, 2 clasps, Basque Roads 1809, St Sebastian (Wiliam Jeram.); officially impressed.

Light and attractive tone, a few tiny obverse marks and hairlines, two barely discernible edge bruises, otherwise a pleasing extremely fine.

William Jerome was born 1788, the son of William & Elizabeth Jerome, in Gosport, Hampshire, on the peninsula forming the western side of Portsmouth Harbour. Being raised so close to the hustle and bustle of one of the principal British ports of the Empire, it is quite unsurprising that William Jerome chose a career in the Royal Navy. No doubt utilising some skills learnt ashore, he came aboard HMS Beagle (18) on the 21st of January 1808 as a Cooper at the age of 20. Aboard this vessel; under Commander Francis Newcombe, William Jerome was present during blockading work off Boulogne, as well as taking part in anti-smuggling operations on the Channel Station.

On the 2nd of October 1808 HMS Beagle chased and subsequently captured the French vessel Hazard (14). On the 23rd of January 1809, Beagle chased two French Privateers, managing to board and capture the Vengeur (16), and on the 18th of February Beagle ran alongside and captured the French Privateer Fortune (16).

HMS Beagle played an important role in the attack on a fleet of 14 French vessels anchored in the Basque Roads. Arriving on the 10th of April with several fire ships, she commanded and successfully launched one of the fireships towards the enemy fleet. The following day, HMS Beagle followed Lord Cochrane’s Imperieuse and Aetna towards the enemy. Newcombe’s HMS Beagle fired repeatedly at the French vessel Ville de Varsovie, assisted in the boarding and capture of Calcutta, and closed within pistol shot of Aquilon (74) and exchanged fire with her for ten minutes until the enemy ship struck colours (making Beagle the first brig to take a line-of-battle ship). The prize crew from HMS Beagle also saw to the safe explosion of Calcutta.

On the morning of the 13th, HMS Beagle was one of just a handful of ships under Cochrane that ignored the recall ordered by Rear-Admiral Stopford, and Beagle set about protecting the bomb-vessel Aetna, whereupon Beagle anchored between her and the anchored French vessels. Whilst only suffering one man wounded by splinters, she received heavy damage to her rigging and several cannon shots to the hull, and in her defence expended all but 3 barrels of her powder. It would be fair to assume that Cooper Jerome would have made himself useful assisting the Carpenter’s Crew in making essential repairs to this damage. Following this action, for his achievements and gallantry Newcombe received a promotion to the rank of Post-Captain.

Following these events, Commander William Dolling was placed in charge of HMS Beagle, taking part in the Scheldt operations. Soon after this, it returned to harrying smuggling vessels in the Channel, recapturing the brig Resource and taking the ships Ox, Fly and numerous other smuggling vessels. Under their own rather shrewd initiative, the officers and crew of Beagle apparently purchased the cargo of two of these vessels, and later sold it at great profit. Such activities continued under Commander John Smith until mid-1813. In the autumn of 1813 HMS Beagle was to play its last major role, as part of the fleet under Captain George Collier sent to assist the Duke of Wellington’s campaign in northern Spain.

HMS Beagle assisted in the taking of the battery on the island of Santa Clara, with one man dangerously wounded. Smith himself was wounded whilst in charge a party of seaman who were firing their own 24-pounders landed ashore to silence the city’s own batteries. After returning home from this action, HMS Beagle was laid up and sold, and William Jerome’s busy 5 years of naval involvement appear to come to an end.

Following this date details of Cooper William Jerome’s life are rather scant, however we find that he returned to life ashore in Portsea, and that he raised a large family there, being present in the 1841 Census working as a Joiner, and that he later died on the 2nd of December, 1847, at the age of 59.

Sold with copy entry in the Muster Book for HMS Beagle, October- November 1808, confirming his name as ‘Jerome’, giving his age as 3 years older, at 23 at the time (genealogical research appears to confirm that he was lying about his age), and a quantity of other historical and genealogical research. Coincidentally, his mother, née Elizabeth Scarrott, is believed to be an ancestor of Joseph Scarrott (1878-1938), AB and survivor of the Titanic Disaster.