A scarce officer’s Military General Service Medal 1793-1814, 1 Clasp: Corunna, awarded to Lieutenant and Commissary John Priest, Corps of Royal Artillery Drivers, formerly a Quartermaster with the Warwick Fencible Cavalry from December 1897 to April 1800, and a Quartermaster with the King’s Dragoon Guards from July 1800 to April 1805, when he joined the Corps of Royal Artillery Drivers. Priest saw service as a 1st Lieutenant and Commissary during the Peninsular War between July 1808 and January 1809 when serving under Sir John Moore, he being present at the Battle of Corunna on 16th January 1809. Only three officers from his unit lived to claim the medal with the single clasp Corunna.
Military General Service Medal 1793-1814, 1 Clasp: Corunna; (J. PRIEST, LIEUT. COM. ROYAL ARTY. DRIVERS)
Condition: light contact wear, Nearly Extremely Fine.
Provenance: ex Glendining April 1956 and December 1980. Ex Lieutenant Colonel Vigor’s Collection.
John Priest was born on 1st June 1773 in Rowley Regis, Staffordshire, and was originally commissioned as a Quarter Master into the Warwick Fencible Cavalry on 11th December 1797, being placed on half-pay on 5th April 1800. Then appointed a Quarter Master with the King’s Dragoon Guards on 25th July 1800, he was then appointed a 2nd Lieutenant into the Corps of Royal Artillery Drivers on 13th April 1805, and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on 1st January 1806.
The Corps of Royal Artillery Drivers was originally called the Corps of Captain Commissaries and Drivers when first formed on 9th September 1794. It was organised as Divisions. On 12th October 1801 it was renamed as the Corps of Gunner Drivers and organised as Companies. On 1st April 1804 it was renamed as the Brigade of Gunners and Drivers in the Royal Regiment of Artillery and organised as Troops. It remained organised as Troops when it became the Corps of Royal Artillery Drivers on 1st January 1806.
The Corps of Royal Artillery Drivers provided men to drive the teams allocated to the Foot Artillery. The Royal Horse Artillery had their own Drivers within their establishments. These RHA Drivers were presumably trained by the Corps of Royal Arillery Drivers, they had a training establishment called the Riding House Troop, but once trained the RHA Drivers were on the posted strength of their RHA Troop and not on the held strength of a normal Corps of Royal Artillery Drivers Troop. The reason for this structure was that the RHA always needed drivers, whereas Foot Artillery would only do so if allocated to a Field Artillery role, and many RA Companies were serving in static Garrison roles.
Priest then saw service as a 1st Lieutenant and Commissary with the Corps of Royal Artillery Drivers out on active service during the Peninsular War from July 1808 to January 1809 when serving under Sir John Moore in Portugal and Spain, and was engaged at the Battle of Corunna on 16th January 1809 before being evacuated from the Iberian Peninsular.
Priest retired on full pay on 1st August 1816, but returned to service on 31st December 1830. In all he saw 31 years service on full pay, and three months on half pay. He died on 18th February 1860.
Priest is one of only three officers from the Corps of Royal Artillery Drivers out of 101 officers in total to have lived to claim the Military General Service Medal 1793-1814 with this single clasp for Corunna, out of a total of 1206 single clasp medals awarded, 69 being to the unit.