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The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 38, September 20, 2009, Article 28

THE 1900 THEFT OF ADMIRAL NELSON'S MEDALS

Yossi Dotan submitted this interesting story of a long-ago medal theft. -Editor

Reading the story of the return of the medals that had been stolen in New Zealand brought to mind a theft of medals more than a century ago.

As told on the Navy News website (http://www.navynews.co.uk/articles/2004/0407/0004071201.asp),

"On a wintry night in early December 1900, a thief stole priceless items from an exhibition in the Painted Hall at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich. Among the burglar's loot were [Vice Admiral Lord Horatio] Nelson's three precious Naval Gold Medals, a mark of honour awarded to admirals and captains present at certain Naval engagements in the Napoleonic Wars.

Some years later Scotland Yard finally fingered their man after the offer of a 200 reward proved too tempting for a grasping nature, but all that was recovered from the villain's original haul was Nelson's watch and seal."

Nelson was awarded the three medals for the battle of St. Vincent (1797), the battle of the Nile (1798) and, posthumously, the battle of Trafalgar (1805).

In 2008, to mark the 250th anniversary of Nelson's birth, the British Virgin Islands issued three collector coins, the reverse of which depicts Britannia standing on the prow of an ancient galley, being crowned with a laurel wreath by the winged goddess Victory. Britannia holds a spear in her left hand and rests her right foot on a helmet. Her oval shield with the motif of the Union Jack is standing behind her at right.

This design reproduces the obverse of the naval gold medals that were awarded in 1795-1815. The reverse of each medal contained the recipient's details and the engagement for which the award was made. Admirals received large medals, captains smaller ones. The medals were awarded for separate actions, thus some officers wore several.

The Nov. 2008 issue of the Dutch coin magazine MUNTkoerier has an image of the $25 coin in the British Virgin Islands series.

I was unaware of this theft before reading Yossi's note. I visited the Painted Hall in 2007, accompanied by E-Sylum readers Harry and Phil Mernick. The body of Admiral Lord Nelson was brought there to lie in state in 1802. What a shame that his gold medals were never recovered. -Editor


Wayne Homren, Editor

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