The extremely rare and interesting Royal Navy Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, Victoria narrow suspender, impressed naming details with year on edge, awarded to Stoker Thomas Cowdrey, Royal Navy, formerly a Private in the 62nd Company, Royal Marine Light Infantry. As a Royal Marine between April 1855 and June 1867, Cowdrey had a most interesting career. He was aboard the 90 gun warship Hannibal when she took part in the Expedition of the Thousand during the War of Italian Unification in 1861, and assisted in the landing of the troops of Giuseppe Garibaldi at Marsala in Sicily, during the successful expedition to overthrow the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, at the time of the Formation of Italy. Cowdrey then partook in the suppression of the Fenian Insurrection in Ireland from 8th March to 16th June 1867 when part of the Royal Marine Battalion on service there. Having then been discharged at his own request in June 1867, he immediately joined the Royal Navy as a Stoker, and saw service aboard various ships, including the corvette Danae on the Cape and West Africa Station and then on the North America and West Indies Station during 1868 to 1871. It was however whilst he was serving with Asia at Portsmouth that Cowdrey was awarded the Royal Navy Long Service and Good Conduct Medal on 7th May 1878, this being one of the rarest variants of all, the Victoria narrow suspender version with impressed naming details with year on edge. According to the book ‘The Naval Long Service Medals’ by Kenneth Douglas-Morris, at the time of publication in 1991, only 24 known medals existed of the Victoria narrow suspender version with impressed naming details with year on edge. At that same there were only 38 known medals of the Victoria narrow suspender version with engraved naming details with year on edge. Cowdrey’s was not amongst those extant examples known to Morris, and must have subsequently surfaced. This is the rarest of all the variants of the Royal Navy Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.
Royal Navy Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, Victoria narrow suspender, impressed naming details with year on edge; (THOS. COWDREY. STOKER. H.M.S. ASIA. 22 YRS:)
Condition: Nearly Extremely Fine.
According to the book ‘The Naval Long Service Medals’ by Kenneth Douglas-Morris, at the time of publication in 1991, only 24 known medals existed of the Victoria narrow suspender version with impressed naming details with year on edge. At that same there were only 38 known medals of the Victoria narrow suspender version with engraved naming details with year on edge. Cowdrey’s was not amongst those extant examples known to Morris, and must have subsequently surfaced.
Thomas Cowdrey was born on 25th December 1836 in Chelsea, London, and then attested on 24th April 1855 as a Private (No.2077) the Royal Marine Light Infantry, seeing service with the 62nd Company. Cowdrey was present aboard the 60 gun warship Blenheim from 9th June 1856 to 31st January 1858, and then aboard the 90 gun warship Hannibal from 1st February 1858 to 24th December 1861. Cowdrey was aboard her when she saw service in the Mediterranean and was used to transport Garibaldi’s soldiers in Italy. The ship arrived in Naples in July 1860. In November a smallpox epidemic broke out, and in ten days 90 men from this ship and at least one other had caught the disease, with a number of men dying from it.
The Expedition of the Thousand was an event of the Italian Risorgimento or War of Italian Unification that took place in 1860. A corps of volunteers led by Giuseppe Garibaldi sailed from Quarto, near Genoa, (now Quarto dei Mille) and landed in Marsala, Sicily, in order to conquer the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, ruled by the House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies.
The project was an ambitious and risky venture aiming to conquer, with a thousand men, a kingdom with a larger regular army and a more powerful navy. The expedition was a success and concluded with a plebiscite that brought Naples and Sicily into the Kingdom of Sardinia, the last territorial conquest before the creation of the Kingdom of Italy on 17th March 1861.
The sea venture was the only desired action that was jointly decided by the "four fathers of the nation" Giuseppe Mazzini, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Victor Emmanuel II, and Camillo Cavour, pursuing divergent goals. However, the Expedition was instigated by Francesco Crispi, who utilized his political influence to bolster the Italian unification project.
The various groups participated in the expedition for a variety of reasons: for Garibaldi, it was to achieve a united Italy; to the Sicilian bourgeoisie, an independent Sicily as part of the kingdom of Italy, and for common people, land distribution and the end of oppression.
The expedition and the whole enterprise was heavily supported by the British, who wanted to establish a friendly government in Southern Italy, which was becoming of great strategic value because of the imminent opening of the Suez Canal. The Bourbons were considered unreliable due to their increasing openings towards the Russian Empire. The Royal Navy defended the landing party from the Bourbons and donors from the United Kingdom supported the expedition financially with large part of the money being used to bribe disloyal Bourbon military officers.
Hannibal played a key role in the landing on Siciliy. The Italian ships were accompanied by Hannibal followed by the gunboats Argus and Intrepid under the command of Admiral Rodney Mundy. They landed at Marrsala, on the westernmost point of Sicily, on 11th May. With British ships present in the harbour, the Bourbon ships were deterred from interfering. The Lombardo was attacked and sunk only after the disembarkation had been completed, while the Piemonte was captured. The landing had been preceded by the arrival of Francesco Crispi and others, who had the task of gaining the support of the locals for the volunteers. On 14th May, at Salemi, Garibaldi announced that he was assuming dictatorship over Sicily in the name of King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia.
For his part Cowdrey was present aboard Hannibal throughout the operations. Cowdrey saw further service aboard Hannibal during another commission from 20th February 1863 to 19th February 1864, when borne on the books of Duke of Wellington, the receiving ship at Portsmouth. He then saw service in a similar capacity aboard the troopship Orontes from 21st February 1865 through to 4th January 1867, and was therefore aboard her when she was driven ashore at Cork on 14th December 1866. Having been then landed from the Lord Clyde, he saw service during the suppression of the Fenian Insurrection in Ireland from 8th March to 16th June 1867, before being transported home aboard Black Prince.
The Fenians were a transatlantic association consisting of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, founded in Dublin by James Stephens in 1858, and the Fenian Brotherhood, founded in the United States by John O'Mahony and Michael Doheny, also in 1858. Their aim was the establishment of an independent Irish Republic by force of arms. In 1865, the Fenians began preparing for a rebellion. With the ending of the American Civil War, they hoped to recruit willing Irish veterans of that war for an insurrection in Ireland. They collected about 6,000 firearms and had as many as 50,000 men willing to fight. In September 1865, the British moved to close down the Fenians' newspaper The Irish People and arrested much of the leadership. Stephens, the leader of the movement, later escaped. In 1866, habeas corpus was suspended in Ireland and there were hundreds more arrests of Fenian activists.
Stephens' successor as leader, Thomas J. Kelly tried to launch the insurrection in early 1867, but it proved uncoordinated and fizzled in a series of skirmishes. The plan was for a country-wide campaign of guerrilla warfare, accompanied by an uprising in Dublin in which Fenian fighters would link up with Irish troops who had mutinied and take the military barracks in the city.
The Fenian Brotherhood, especially a faction of it under William R. Roberts, mobilised up to 1,000 Irish veterans of the American Civil War to launch raids on British Army forts, customs posts and other targets in Canada in order to bring pressure on Britain to withdraw from Ireland, between 1866 and 1871. While the U.S. authorities arrested the men and confiscated their arms afterwards, there is speculation that many in the US government had turned a blind eye to the preparations for the invasion, angered at actions that could be construed as British assistance to the Confederacy during the American Civil War. There were five Fenian raids of note. While they had some minor successes against Canadian forces, they were militarily and politically unsuccessful.
In February 1867 Fenians, one of whom was Michael Davitt, attacked Chester Castle in order to obtain arms for the rising. The revolt's organisers had hoped to benefit from considerable support among Irish nationals, or their descendants, living in England. The arms stored in the castle were to be seized, the telegraph wires cut, the rolling stock on the railway to be appropriated for transport to Holyhead, where shipping was to be seized and a descent made on Dublin before the authorities should have time to interfere. This scheme was frustrated by information given to the government by the informer John Joseph Corydon, one of Stephens' most trusted agents.
On 14th February 1867 there was an attempted rising in County Kerry. The Fenians attacked a coastguard station, robbed a man's house and stole his horses, and killed one policeman before heading towards Killarney. When the Fenians were near the town it was discovered that the RIC and British army were occupying it. They then retreated by passing between the Toomey Mountains and MacGillycuddy Reeks. On 5th March 1867, risings took place in Dublin, Cork City and Limerick. The largest of these engagements took place at Tallaght, County Dublin, when several hundred Fenians, on their way to the meeting point at Tallaght Hill, were attacked by the Irish Constabulary near the police barracks, and were driven off after a firefight.
The rebels burnt down police barracks at Ballingarry, Emly, Gortavoher and Roskeen, in County Tipperary. A number of rebels armed with pikes gathered at Ballyhurst outside Tipperary town led by Colonel Thomas F Bourke of Fethard. A short battle took place with soldiers of the 31st Regiment which resulted in one man being killed and several wounded. Some escaped, though many were interned in Clonmel gaol to await trial. Before the end of the week the rising in Tipperary was crushed. Around 40 men attacked a police barracks in Ardagh, County Limerick with guns, muskets and pikes.
A total of twelve people were killed across the country on the day. When it became apparent that the co-ordinated rising that had been planned was not transpiring, most rebels simply went home. The rising failed as a result of lack of arms and planning, but also because of the British authorities' effective use of informers. Most of the Fenian leadership had been arrested before the rebellion took place.
However, the rising was not without symbolic significance. The Fenians proclaimed a Provisional Republican government. The proclamation preceded the Easter 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic by almost 50 years. The proclamation claims that their war was "against the aristocratic locusts, whether English or Irish" which denotes that their ideology at this time was in some way embedded in class differences against the landed aristocracy rather than merely against British rule.
Having seen service during the suppression of the Fenian Uprising of 1867, Cowdrey was then discharged at his own request after having completed 12 years service on 25th June 1867, his character being described as ‘exemplary’.
Cowdrey however was not done with the service, and he then joined the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class (No.8543B later No.48977) with Asia at Portsmouth from 27th June 1867, and then saw service aboard the corvette Danae from 12th February 1868 to 21st June 1871. Rated as a Stoker 1st Class on 1st May 1868, he saw service aboard her on the Cape and West Africa Station and then on the North America and West Indies Station from 1869. Posted to Duke of Wellington from 22nd June 1871, he rejoined Asia from 6th October 1872, and then saw service aboard the battleship Hercules from 15th May 1873 when in the Mediterranean and based at Malta. Posted back to Asia from 6th June 1874, he then joined the troopship Euphrates from 10th September 1874, rejoining Asia from 22nd April 1876, and having served with Excellent from 10th August 1876, finally rejoined Asia from 12th August 1877, remaining with her for the rest of her career.
Cowdrey was with Asia when he was awarded the Royal Navy Long Service and Good Conduct Medal on 7th May 1878, this being one of the rarest variants of all, the Victoria narrow suspender version with impressed naming details with year on edge. He was finally pensioned on 21st May 1885. Confirmed as his only medal entitlement.