THE NAVAL MEDALLIONS
At the time the Naval Temple on the Kymin was built there were nine grades of admiral. After 1805 this increased to ten grades.
There were three separate ranks consisting of admiral, vice-admiral and rear-admiral. There was one of each rank to each of the three squadrons, Red, White and Blue; Red was the most senior.
This system was a hangover from the mid-seventeenth century when fleets fought as one huge fighting unit sub-divided into three divisions. They flew different coloured ensigns so that they could recognise each other.
Any officer living long enough to be on the list of admirals would eventually go through the promotions automatically, even without being employed.
Sometimes it was necessary to fast-track an officer, in which case those above him in terms of years of service had to be promoted also, to make room.
If an officer reached a rank but was unable to command through age, incapacity, or ill-health he was promoted to an unspecified squadron, popularly known as the ‘Yellow Squadron’. Once this happened there was no further employment or promotion.
Nelson’s rank at the time of his visit to the garden in 1802 was Vice-Admiral of the Blue. At the time of his death, at the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805, he was Vice-Admiral of the White: he had been promoted the year before. He was seventh on the list in September 1804, according to Steel’s Navy List.
The medallions are from the Naval Temple on the Kymin and were kindly donated by the National Trust to embellish the garden.
Boscawen - 18 August 1759, Adm of Blue, Lagos Bay
Hawke - 20 November 1759, Adm of Blue, Quiberon Bay
Rodney - 12 April 1782, Adm of White, Battle of the Saintes
Hood - 18 December 1793, V Adm of Blue, Toulon
Gell - December 1793, V Adm of Red, Capture of St Jago
Howe - 1 June 1794, Adm of White, Glorious First of June
Cornwallis - 16 June 1795, Adm of White, Action against Brest Fleet
Bridport - 23 June 1795, Adm of White, Port L’Orient
Thompson - 14 February 1797, V Adm of Blue, Cape St Vincent
St Vincent - 14 February 1797, Adm of Blue, Cape St Vincent
Duncan - 11 October 1797, Adm of Blue, Camperdown
Nelson - 1 August 1798, R Adm of Blue, Nile
Warren - 12 October 1798, R Adm of Blue, Sligo Bay
Keith - 18 June 1799, V Adm of Red, Mediterranean
Mitchell - 28 August 1799, V Adm of Blue, Texel
Parker - 2 April 1801, Adm of Blue, Copenhagen