HOME OF THE LADY DENMAN - Local history isn't always about the big story - the everyday story of life in the early development of the region can be a fascinating, entertaining and educational journey.

7 July 2014

HMS Jervis Bay – Heroic sacrifice

HMS Jervis bay was launched in 1922.
During the years which immediately followed WWI the Australian Commonwealth Line announced that five identical twin-screw passenger-cargo liners had been ordered from British shipyards for the Australian emigrant service. The ships were specifically designed to operate a schedule of monthly departures between the ports of London, Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
The new steamers, all completed during 1921 and 1922, were each named after a bay situated in each of the five federal States served by the company.


he was taken over by the Royal Navy in August 1939, on the outbreak of the Second World War and hastily armed with seven 1898-vintage 6 in (150 mm) guns and two 3 in (76 mm) guns, initially assigned to the South Atlantic station as an armed merchant ship before becoming a convoy escort in May 1940.


HMS Jervis Bay at Dakar 1940.

5 November 1940.


Admiral Scheer in port at Gibraltar, circa 1936.

While on duty as sole escort of 37 merchant ships travelling between Canada and Britain she encountered the German Warship Admiral Scheer.

Knowing his ship was vastly outgunned by the German cruiser the captain of the Jervis Bay Edward Fegan ordered the convoy to scatter set a course straight at the German warship to draw it’s fire. Completely outgunned and out ranged, Captain Fegan and his crew fought on until the ship was well ablaze and sunk into the Atlantic. Captain Fegan was killed when the bridge received a direct hit and went down with his ship along with 187 of his crew, later a neutral Swedish ship amongst the convoy turned around and rescued 65 survivors.

Through Captain Fegans actions many of the ships in the convoy managed to escape saving hundreds of lives.



Unequal contest - You can clearly see the the difference between the two ships.

Another connection to Jervis Bay.

Captain Fegan.

Captain Fegan commanding officer of the armed merchant cruiser Jervis Bay served in Australia during 1928-29 as commander of the Naval College at Jervis Bay. Captain Fegen is remembered by the cadets of his time and fellow officers of his at the naval college as "Fogarty" Fegen. He was a big, strong Irishman with bushy eye brows. Captain Fegen was always keen on athletics and physical fitness.

Remarkable Survivors account.
By Lieutenant Moss.
"It was 10 minutes before 5 o'clock when the Nazis' were sighted on the port bow.  We knew what would happen, When Captain Fegan joined Jervis Bay he told us that if ever we ran into a more powerful adversary he would try and get within range,  and do what damage he could. The Jervis
Bay steamed straight for the enemy. He answered our challenge by opening fire from the forward turrets. Both salvos fell short.  We let him have abroardside from out 6-inch guns,  and his second salvo flew overhead. All this time the Jervis Bay was throwing out a thick smoke screen.
and the convoy was scattering to all point on the compass. The Nazis third slavo caught us.  It hit the bridge and the engine room,  and amidships.
The engine stopped, and the vessel ploughed slowly to a standstill, presenting a target like a floating hotel.  The shell that hit eh bridge set it afire. Captain Fegan with his left arm mangled, went aft with the survivors to take command of the emergency steering control. I could hear the screams of the
wounded in the wreckage of the smashed bridge. Between 5 and 5.30 o'clock the Nazis' 'strafed' us heavily.  By 5.15 o'clock all our forward guns except one received a direct hit, and the crews had been blown overboard. I saw Captain Fegan making his way to the forebridge.  He was never seen again.
The bridge and amidships were smashed by a heavy shell. At 5.45 o'clock came the order to abandon ship. We were in a bad way. The Jervis Bay was sinking slowly by her stern and was blazing amidships. Only one lifeboat remained. We launched that and every available raft. The Nazis' never let up.
During those last few minutes, they gave us hell with time'fuse shrapnel. With the action over, dozens of men had lost their lives. As we pulled away flaming debris and pieces of the ship came crashing down on the boat.  We could see the raider seeking our convoy with searchlights, and firing salvo after salvo.  Then just after midnight, we saw a black-out hull of a ship close by.  We signalled in Morse with an electric torch. It was the Swedish freighter Sturholm, one of the ships in the convoy.
Captain Orlander had told his crew that he would not leave before making sure that there were survivors of the Jervis Bay waiting to be picked up. Of the 38 ships in the convoy, all but four got home. Captain Fegan and many other gallant men lost their lives,  but they were not lost in vain."

Victoria Cross
Captain Fegen was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross as a result of this action. The citation for the Victoria Cross reads "Valour in challenging hopeless odds and giving his life to save the many ships it was his duty to protect.
Captain Fegan received the VC, but his crew followed and fought on despite insurmountable opposition and deserved to be recognized for their courage and sacrifice and received the respect from the nation.
The full and amazing story and pictures  of this heroic battle, follow the links below


An amazing image of the TSS Jervis Bay passing under the Harbour Bridge.



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