HMS Jervis Bay

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This is my writing but based mostly on RN war diary and Kriegsmarine reports (though my german is laughable)

At 1240, DKM CS ADMIRAL SCHEER sank steamer MOPAN (UK 5389 grt) in 52‑59N, 32-12W. MOPAN had departed Kingston, Jamaica, was en route to England. The Panzerschiff rescued the steamer MOPAN's 68 survivors.

The S.S. MOPAN had passed Convoy HX84 , and she had declined an invitation to join the convoy, preferring instead to sail on ahead, alone. The ADMIRAL SCHEER came across the MOPAN, and ordered her to stop, firing warning shots from her 5.9 inch guns, which exploded close to the freighters bow.


The abandoned MOPAN being shelled by the 5.9" btys of the SCHEER. On the right, a lifeboat carrying survivors from the MOPAN are hoisted onto the SCHEER. The crew were taken prisoner to minimise the chances of the SCHEER being discovered as she stalked HX 84

Sinking the JERVIS BAY and attacks on HX 84
SCHEERS commander (Krancke) was not happy about the time that had been spent bringing down the MOPAN it as it had wasted valuable time and daylight was running out, it was going to be close but he could still do it. So again he ordered full speed ahead.

HX 84 commanders still believed as twilight was setting in they could dodge the raider, but as sunset began, the HMS JERVIS BAY spotted a ship on the horizon. Capt Fegen flashed "What ship ?" but he received no reply, it was possible that it could be an escort for the convoy. When the vessel was about 10 miles away and the signals still being sent and no reply given, concern began to grow and the JERVIS BAY went to action stations, but they still could not recognise the ship as darkness was beginning to set. By 1730 hrs (5.30 pm) the ship was at about 8 miles range and closing, when the ship turned broadside on, allowing all of her six 11" guns to bear down on the convoy.

This time Kranke gave no warning and opened fire. Any confusion the convoy had about the ship ended when six flashes of light was seen coming from her and within seconds the sound of of the shells passing overhead were heard. Immediately the convoy was ordered to scatter. Capt Fegen (of the JERVIS BAY) immediately ordered full ahead and turned towards the enemy, dropping smoke floats as they went. He surely realised that his actions were a virtual death sentence for his ship, and most of the crew, but he stated to his Bridge officer the only thing to prevent the "SCHEER" from destroying the convoy entirely was to buy time by sacrificing his ship. There would be no rescue for the crew as the convoy had been ordered to run for it. He gave the order to open fire on the SCHEER even though he was still out of range, with only four old 6" guns and an out of date fire control system against six 11" modern guns with a modern radar fire control system he attacked the ship. Krancke seeing the JERVIS BAY attacking, realised he must first overpower this unlikely mismatch before he could get into the real work of sinking the convoy.

After the second or third salvo the SCHEER had the range and 11" shells started to rip the JERVIS BAY apart. First it was the foredeck that was hit and some of the gun crew, with little protection from the blast and splinters, were blinded and wounded, but still they managed to keep firing, then it was below the bridge a shell exploded and part of the bridge was ripped apart and her only gunnery control centre, it was left in a mess with men lying bleeding and dying, with broken bones, bust eardrums, in shock and gasping for air through the smoke, still the JERVIS BAY fought on doggedly setting a heading for a deliberate collision course for the SCHEER if she could just manage to ram her she could still save the convoy. The next shell was a direct hit on a forward gun and the crew was killed immediately. The bow now was a mess with flames everywhere and metal sheets twisted and bent. Again the bridge was hit but this time it was a direct hit, in which Capt Fegen's arm was blown off, even though he managed to stand up and return to what was left of the bridge and restore some resemblance of order in what was left of the bridge crew, he remained at the bridge until he died moments later when another shell ripped the bridge apart. Throughout all this time what was left of the forward guns continued to fire, though they were still out of range. As they got closer and closer more and more shells hit the JERVIS BAY . Now the ship was ablaze from stem to stern and men dead or dying everywhere, but still at full speed to destruction. At last a shell caused serious damage to the ships structure, as she stopped and started to topple on she side. The order to abandon ship was given, then she started to sink bow first with her propeller sticking out of the water she headed to her final resting place with 187 of her crew. For his actions Captain Fegen received the Victoria Cross (posthumously). It was a decoration surely deserving for such a gallant and brave crew. The battle was short but valuable time had been gained and most of thye convoy owe their survival to this supreme sacrifice.

SCHEER took just over 22 minutes to deal with AMC HMS JERVIS BAY (RN 14164 grt) , which ceased fire and sank at almost the same time at 2003 hrs.

SCHEER, as expected did not attempt to rescue or assist the stricken ship, and engaged what elements of the rapidly scattering convoy. she sank steamer MAIDAN (UK 7908 grt) in 52‑28N, 32‑08W,

Steamer TREWELLARD (UK 5201 grt) in 52‑27N, 32‑09W,

Steamer KENBANE HEAD (UK 5225 grt) in 52‑26N, 32‑34W,

MV BEAVERFORD (UK 10,042 grt) in 52‑26N, 32‑34W. As the SCHEER overhauled the BEAVERFORD, it was just getting dark, but not enough to escape. BEAVERFORD's skipper, Captain E. Pettigrew knew that his ship was doomed. In what has been described as an amazing act of bravery, Pettigrew turned his ship toward the looming raider, its single forward four-inch gun firing until the SCHEER destroyed the BEAVERFORD about 15 mins later . The ship exploded and sank, taking its entire crew of 77 to the bottom with it. More time lost however for the by now furious Krancke.

MV FRESNO CITY (UK 4955 grt) in 51‑47N, 33‑29W

Steamer ANDALUSIA (UK 3082 grt) was damaged, but survived.

SCHEER also damaged damaged tker SAN DEMETRIO in 52‑48N, 32‑15W, The tkr was hit with several shells that destroyed the bridge and poop deck and left the upper deck in flames. Despite both the exploding shells and the resultant fire, the ship's highly flammable cargo did not explode. Nevertheless her Master, Captain Waite, believed that the fire could set off the aviation fuel at any moment so he gave the order to abandon ship. With the ship remaining under fire from the Scheer, the crew escaped in two lifeboats. Admiral Scheer then turned her attention to other ships of the rapidly scattering convoy.

The two lifeboats separated in the night and the lifeboat with the captain and 25 crew was picked up and taken to Newfoundland. The 16 men in the other lifeboat, including Second Officer Arthur G. Hawkins and Chief Engineer Charles Pollard, drifted for 24 hrs when they sighted a burning ship. To their surprise, they discovered that it was their own ship, SAN DEMETRIO. With few alternatives, the crew had to decide whether to risk death by exposure or to re-board and risk the fire. In the end they chose to remain in the lifeboat because the fire was too great and the weather too hazardous to attempt boarding, but after a second night in the boat and enduring a freezing Nth Atlantic winter gale, they regretted not re-boarding the tkr.

At dawn the following day, 7 November, the SAN DEMETRIO was about 5 nautical miles downwind so the crew set sail toward her and re-boarded. They fought the fire, repaired the port auxiliary boiler sufficiently to restart the ship's pumps and dynamos and repaired the auxiliary steering gear. No charts or navigational instruments had survived so the crew estimated a course from occasional glimpses of the sun. Her radio had not survived either. They managed to sail the tanker across the rest of the Atlantic, braving bad weather and U-boats. After seven days the SAN DEMETRIO reached waters off Ireland from where they were escorted on to the mouth of the River Clyde, docking on 16 November. They declined the offer of a tow from a tug because of the high cost.

Despite the damage and fire only 200 tons of SAN DEMETRIO 's highly volatile cargo had been lost. There was only one fatality, John Boyle, who had been injured jumping into the lifeboat after the original battle and gradually began to feel unwell. He was propped up in the engine room to watch the gauges but died of a haemorrhage after two days. He was posthumously awarded the King's Commendation for Brave Conduct.

Since the crew had received no assistance from another vessel, in the ensuing case in the Probate, and Admiralty Division of the High Court they were able to claim the salvage money from the insurers for the ship and cargo. The oil and freight cargo were valued at £60,000. The ship herself, almost new, was worth £250,000. The High Court awarded the claimants £14,700 salvage money: £2,000 of it going to Second Officer Hawkins; £1,000 to the estate of Joe Boyle. Another £1,000 went to 26-year-old Oswald Ross Preston, an American seaman, because he played a "magnificent" part when the battle started. Hawkins was also given the tattered Red Ensign of the ship.

The ship's part in Convoy HX-84 was made into a film, San Demetrio London in 1943, starring Walter Fitzgerald, Mervyn Johns, Ralph Michael, and Robert Beatty. It was one of the few films to recognise the heroism of British Merchant Navy crews during the war.

SAN DEMETRIO....Lucky survivor

Troopship RANGITIKI was damnaged but managed to escape. Swedish steamer STUREHOLM rescued 65 and three bodies from JERVIS BAY. The steamer arrived at Halifax on the 12th. Most of the survivors were transferred to AMC COMORIN for return to England. British steamer GLOUCESTER CITY, from a dispersed OB.convoy rescued 92 survivors from the steamers - 25 survivors from TREWELLARD, 23 from SAN DEMETRIO, 27 from KENBANE HEAD, and 24 from FRESNO CITY. On 9 November, Greek steamer MOUNT TAYGETUS rescued a further twelve crew from the FRESNO CITY. On steamer BEAVERFORD, all 77 crew were lost. On steamer MAIDAN, all 91 were lost. One crewman was killed on steamer FRESNO CITY. 23 crew were lost on steamer KENBANE HEAD. Two crew were killed and fourteen crew were missing on steamer TREWELLARD. Steamer GLOUCESTER CITY arrived at St Johns on the 13th. On the 10th, CLA BONAVENTURE and DD MASHONA searched the area of the HX.84 attack.

Convoy SC.10, fourteen ships escorted by Sloop FOLKESTONE, was one hundred miles southeast of HX.84. The convoy was ordered away from the area of the attack. HX.86 departing Halifax was immediately recalled. BHX.66 departed Bermuda on the 3rd escorted by AMC MONTCLARE, but returned to Bermuda on the 5th. BCs HOOD and REPULSE, CLAs PHOEBE, NAIAD, BONAVENTURE, DDs ESKIMO, MASHONA, MATABELE, ELECTRA, SOMALI, PUNJABI departed Scapa Flow late on the 5th to SCHEER's last position. Later, BC HOOD, cruisers PHOEBE and NAIAD, DDs SOMALI, ESKIMO, PUNJABI proceeded to cover the approaches to Brest and Lorient. BC REPULSE, CLA BONAVENTURE, DDs MASHONA, MATABELE, ELECTRA continued towards SCHEER's last position. BBs RODNEY and NELSON departed Scapa Flow on the 6th with CL SOUTHAMPTON and DDs COSSACK, MAORI, BRILLIANT, DOUGLAS, KEPPEL, VIMY to cover the Iceland-Faroes Channel. BB RODNEY was sent to escort HX.83 and once she was safe, HX.85 from Halifax.
from wiki
The office of the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen calculated that 144,000 merchant seamen were serving aboard British registered merchant ships at the outbreak of World War II and that up to 185,000 men and women served in the Merchant Navy during the wartime.[2][3] 36,749 seamen and women were lost by enemy action, 5,720 were taken prisoner and 4,707 were wounded, totaling 47,176 casualties, a minimum casualty rate of over 25 percent. Mr Gabe Thomas, the former Registrar General of Shipping and Seaman (Great Britain) stated that "27 percent of merchant seamen died through enemy action".[4]

The dedication of the men in the Merchant Navy is sometimes not given the credit they deserve. My Gradnfather was sunk twice in WW2 and was 61 years old in 1939. He had also also been sunk in WW1 so certainly knew what he was in for.

This age wasn't unusual at the start of WW2 in the Merchant Navy, as during the recession relatively few men were trained, and those with jobs hung onto them as long as they could. As new ships were built, retirement obviously wasn't an option as experienced crew of all types were needed to support the newly trained seamen.
Heartbreaking to think of those brave souls lost in the Atlantic.
So many convoys so many dead.
And this is one convoy.
Loss of life in the merchant navy was significantly highly as a percentage than most other branches of British military.
And they were treated badly. As soon as a ship was sunk, the pay for the survivors stopped!
We owe them far more than we can ever repay

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