A Victorian silver Souvenir of a Naval Visit to Russia under the command of the Duke of Edinburgh
A Victorian silver Gavel, Birmingham 1884, by George Unite, the ‘hammer’ end formed as a naval artillery shell and engraved with: ‘Flushing’;’Sheerness’; ‘Copenhagen’; ‘Kronstadt’; ‘St. Petersburg’; and, on the cone, ‘The Skaw’. The flate end of the shell, now battered from use, is engraved: ‘Memento of Escort Command.’
The memento must relate to a cruise undertaken by the Naval Reserve Squadron in the summer of 1881 under the command of the Duke of Edinburgh. The parliamentary secretary to the admiralty, George Trevelyan, announced to the House of Commons in June:
‘The Reserve Squadron will take its usual six weeks’ cruise this year in the North Sea and the Baltic. The object of the expedition is to exercise the crews in evolutions under steam and sail, in gunnery, and other exercises, and to improve the knowledge of the officers in the navigation and pilotage of those seas. No pilots will be needed or carried, beyond the captains and navigating officers of the ships. The number of Coastguards-men on board the Squadron is 66 chief officers and 964 men, who are distributed among six of the eight ships. The whole complement of the Fleet will amount together to about 4,400 officers and men.’
The flagship of the squadron was ‘The Hercules’, and, according to the ‘Daily News’, the other vessels included ‘The Warrior’, ‘The Defence’, ‘The Repulse’, ‘The Valiant’, ‘The Penelope’, ‘The Hector’, ‘The Lord Warden’. The visit to Kronstadt was regarded as ‘a sign of the renewed friendship between England and Russia secured by the policy of Mr. Gladstone and the Liberal government and promises the English sailors a warm and hearty welcome.’ [Hampshire Telegraph, April 27th 1881]. After visiting Copenhagen in late June, the squadron arrived at Kronstadt at the beginning of July where they were entertained by the Russian navy and the Duke and his Captains and staff then proceeeded to a State Banquet at St. Petersburg.
Unfortunately, Anglo-Russian relations deteriorated in the following years and the cordiality of the squadron’s visit was soon forgotten.
Overall exhibits signs of use as a gavel. The flat ‘hammer’ end is considerably dented.
Length – 15.70 cm.; Width – 5.80 cm.; Weight – 133.50 gms.