Naval General Service Medal 1793-1840, 2 clasps, 4 Nov 1805, 7 July Boat Service 1809, Lieutenant John Skekel Royal Navy. Choice EF


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SKU: 320738 Category:


Provenance: Glendining’s, June 1952.

Fewer than 20 officers received the clasp for ‘4 November 1805’. Approximately 34 clasps were issued for the Boat Service action of 7 July 1809, including six officers. John Skekel was born at Mortlach, Banffshire, on 29 March 1778. He joined the Royal Navy as an Able Seaman on 10 December 1795, on board the Thistle 28, Captain John Oakes Hardy, with whom he served in several ships until the end of 1802, at Halifax and on the Home station as Midshipman and Master’s Mate. On the breaking out of war in 1803, he sailed with Captain J. O. Hardy in the Courageous 74, for the West Indies, where, in June of the same year, he served as Acting Lieutenant at the reduction of the island of St Lucia.

Being confirmed Lieutenant aboard the Pandora 44, Captain John Nash, on 21 February 1804, he was present during the expedition against Surinam and took part in the operations which resulted in the surrender of the colony, serving in the flotilla located on the Commewyne River. O’Byrne’s Naval Biographical Dictionary also records that he had previously been engaged in the boats which prevented supplies from being thrown into Martinique; and had been, 13 March, present at the cutting out of the privateer Mozambique, of 10 18-pounder carronades, close to Pearl Rock. Once the Pandora was paid off in February 1805, Lieutenant Skekel was transferred to the Hero 74, Captain the Hon. Alan Hyde Gardner, in which ship he fought in Sir Robert Calder’s action against the combined French and Spanish fleets on 22 July 1805, and was wounded in action whilst assisting in Sir Richard Strachan’s action on 4 November 1805. The squadron of four French ships of the line which had escaped at Trafalgar were successfully discovered, chased down and battered into submission. Skekel’s ship Hero played the major part in the action, and took nearly half of the entire British casualties, with 10 killed and 51 wounded (from the total of 24 killed and 111 wounded). Skekel was reported as wounded in the London Gazette 1805, p. 1400, and received a financial donation from the Patriotic Fund. He was also present on 13 March 1806, at the capture of the French ship Marengo, 80-gun flagship of Rear-Admiral Linois, and at the subsequent capture of the frigate Belle Poule 40 on 23 May 1807.

After a year’s service aboard the Ville de Paris 110, he joined the Bellerophon 74, flagship of Admiral Lord Gardner in the Channel, and soon after commanded by Captain Samuel Warren as a private ship on the Baltic station. It was here that Skekel was placed in command of one of Bellerophon’s boats and ‘highly distinguished himself in a most brilliant and successful attack upon a Russian flotilla’, for which he was mentioned in the subsequent despatch (London Gazette 8 July 1809). The squadron of 17 small boats from the Bellerophon, Implacable, Melpomene and Prometheus, with 270 officers and men, attacked a fortified squadron of 8 Russian gunboats near Percola Point on the south coast of Finland on 7 July 1809, which were situated between the two large rock outcrops known as Hango Head. The British boats attacked directly, without firing, waiting until they were able to reach the enemy boats before boarding and storming the vessels ‘sword in hand’. Six of the gunboats were carried, one was sunk, and one escaped, but twelve supply craft and a number of Russian prisoners were taken.

Soon afterwards, and probably as a result of his gallant conduct at Percola Point, he was promoted to Acting Commander and placed in charge of the Fly sloop 16, 25 June 1811, from which vessel he exchanged soon afterwards into the Gluckstadt 18, as full Lieutenant on 1 September 1811. Whist aboard the Gluckstadt, a violent storm nearly sank the ship, but narrowly escaped once Skekel took the decision to send all the ship’s guns overboard. Skekel had another encounter with severe weather aboard his next command, the Bold 14, on the North American station, which was this time wrecked during a strong north-east gale off the north end of Prince Edward Island, whilst proceeding with a convoy up the St Lawrence River on 27 September 1813. He attained the Post-rank of Captain on 27 May 1825, and accepted Retirement on 1 October 1846. Captain Skekel married in July 1835, Louisa Madalina Hughes, of York Street, Portman Square, London, and was given the rank of Rear-Admiral; in his retirement. He died at his home in Kensington, London, on 20 June 1854.