HMS Jervis Bay

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JervisBayatDakar1940.jpg
Career Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Jervis Bay
Builder: Vickers Limited, Barrow-in-Furness
Launched: 1922, as SS Jervis Bay
Acquired: August 1939
Commissioned: October 1940
Fate: Sunk, 5 November 1940
General characteristics
Displacement: 14,164 long tons (14,391 t)
Length: 549 ft (167 m)
Beam: 68 ft (21 m)
Draft: 33 ft (10 m)
Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Complement: 254
Armament: • 7 × 6 in (152 mm) Mk. VII guns
• 2 × 3 in (76 mm) anti-aircraft guns

HMS Jervis Bay was a British liner later converted into an Armed Merchant Cruiser, pennant F40. She was launched in 1922, and sunk on 5 November 1940 by the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer.

The ship was launched as the Aberdeen & Commonwealth Line steamer Jervis Bay, named after the Australian bay of that name (the line named all its ships after bays). She was requisitioned by the Royal Navy in August 1939 at the outbreak of the Second World War, and armed with seven 1898-vintage 6 in (150 mm) guns and two 3 in (76 mm) guns of 1894 design. She was initially assigned to the South Atlantic station before becoming a convoy escort in May 1940.

She was the sole escort for 37 merchant ships in Convoy HX-84 from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Britain, when the convoy encountered the Admiral Scheer. The Captain of the Jervis Bay, Edward Fegen, ordered the convoy to scatter; and set a course towards the German warship to draw its fire, with guns firing more as a distraction than in the hope of doing damage.[1] The Jervis Bay was hopelessly outgunned and outranged by the 28 cm guns of the German ship. Fegen and his crew fought on until their ship was set ablaze and sunk 755 nautical miles (1,398 kilometres) south-southwest of Reykjavík. Captain Fegen went down with his ship.[2] Nevertheless, although the Admiral Scheer went on to sink five merchant ships out of the convoy, the Jervis Bay's sacrifice bought enough time for the convoy to scatter, and the remaining ships escaped. Sixty-eight survivors of the Jervis Bay's crew of 254 were picked up by the neutral Swedish ship Stureholm (three later died of their injuries).[3]

Captain Fegen was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross as a result of this action. The citation for his award reads:

"for valour in challenging hopeless odds and giving his life to save the many ships it was his duty to protect. On the 5th of November, 1940, in heavy seas, Captain Fegen, in His Majesty's Armed Merchant Cruiser Jervis Bay, was escorting thirty-eight Merchantmen. Sighting a powerful German warship he at once drew clear of the Convoy, made straight for the Enemy, and brought his ship between the Raider and her prey, so that they might scatter and escape. Crippled, in flames, unable to reply, for nearly an hour the Jervis Bay held the German's fire. So she went down: but of the Merchantmen all but four or five were saved."[4]
Plaque to the Caithness crew of HMS Jervis Bay, Wick

There is a monument to the Jervis Bay at Albouy's Point, in Hamilton, Bermuda. Bermuda was a formation point for trans-Atlantic convoys in both World Wars. There is a monument to Captain Fegen and the crew of the Jervis Bay at Ross Memorial Park in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. This is the port where she was refitted for war service in the summer of 1940. In 2006 the Scottish town of Wick erected a plaque to the Caithness members who died in the sinking of the ship. The ship was crewed extensively from Caithness, and Wick in particular.

There was also a monument in London. The main room of the Merchant Navy Hotel (closed, 2002) was known as the "Jervis Bay Room", and included a display detailing the action. It was the custom for everyone entering the room to salute the display.

The Australian poet Michael Thwaites wrote a ballad about the Jervis Bay in 1941, while he was serving as a naval officer in the Atlantic. It can be read in 'The Faber Book of War Poetry'.

The final action of the Jervis Bay was portrayed in the movie San Demetrio London, released in 1943, regarding the tale of heavy damage and subsequent survival of one of the vessels of Convoy HX-84. The Jervis Bay is also commemorated by the Jervis Bay Memorial Pipe Band, located in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.

The ship is featured as a model in Scarborough's "Naval Warfare" holiday show which takes place in the summer at Peasholm Park, in the show the ship fights off an enemy battleship and submarine.

The encounter between the Jervis Bay and the Admiral Scheer is also narrated in a short story in Alistair MacLean's book "The Lonely Sea".

It is also the subject of issue 47 of Garth Ennis's comic Hitman (also in vol 6 of the collection) which the protagonists take as an example of how to live.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Ralph Segman and Gerald Duskin, If the Gods are Good: The Epic Sacrifice of HMS Jervis Bay (Naval Institute Press, 2004)

References[edit]

Coordinates: 53°41′N 32°17′W / 53.683°N 32.283°W / 53.683; -32.283