Battle of Cape St Vincent token

Photo: The Portable Antiquities Scheme CC By 2.0
Object type: Token
Period: Post Medieval
Primary material: Copper alloy
Date found: 09/08/2021
Location: Isle of Wight


Halfpenny token, produced in Portsmouth to commemorate the battle of Cape St Vincent. This is one of several designs created to celebrate this victory.

On the obverse is Sir John Jervis being crowned by Neptune. The inscription on the reverse reads: Sr JOHN JERVIS WITH 15 SAIL PURSUED & DEFEATED THE SPANISH FLEET OF 27 SAIL OF THE LINE FEBRUARY 14th 1797.

Battle of Cape St Vincent

The Battle of Cape St Vincent on 14 February 1797 was one of the opening battles of the Anglo-Spanish War (1796 – 1808). A British fleet under Admiral Sir John Jervis defeated a Spanish fleet almost twice its size. The Spanish fleet under Don José de Córdoba had been trying to reach Cadiz but strong winds had blown them out further into the Atlantic. Three days before the battle, HMS Minerve under the command of Commodore Horatio Nelson passed through the Spanish fleet in fog. Nelson joined the British fleet and was able to give them the position of the Spanish fleet but not its size.

It was only when the British fleet began to engage the Spanish that Jervis became aware of their numerical advantage.

In the British favour was that it was foggy, the Spanish were in two groups and they were unprepared for battle. At 11.12am Jervis gave the signal “Engage the enemy” shortly followed by “Admiral intends to pass through enemy lines“.

By passing between the two groups, the British could fire in both directions while the Spanish had to avoid firing on their own ships.

It was a great and welcome victory for the Royal Navy – fifteen British ships had defeated a Spanish fleet of 27, and the Spanish ships had a greater number of guns and men.

Admiral Sir John Jervis

Following this victory, Jervis was made Baron Jervis of Meaford and Earl St Vincent and was granted a pension of £3,000 per year for life.