Daily Event for November 5, 2005

Jervis Bay was a passenger ship built by Vickers Armstrongs Ltd. in England for the Australian Commonwealth Line, (later Aberdeen & Commonwealth Line) she was one of five sisters (3 built by Vickers and 2 others, almost sisters, built by William Beardmore & Co., Glasgow.) and were intended for the England to Australia route. At just a little under 14,000 tons, these ships were designed to carry about 724 passengers. Jervis Bay was launched on Jan.17, 1922 and made her maiden voyage (London to Brisbane) on Sept.26, 1922. She continued to service this route until she was requisitioned by the Admiralty in Aug. of 1939 and converted into an armed merchant cruiser.

Jervis Bay was then armed with seven 6 inch guns. The guns, not the latest in naval technology, had been made around the turn of the century. In November of 1940 Jervis Bay was the only escort for convoy HX-84, a 37-ship convoy bound for England. Late in the afternoon of November 5, 1940 the Admiral Scheer spotted the convoy. Not having much daylight left Scheer's commanding officer, Kapitän zur See Theodor Krancke, attacked the convoy. The commander of the Jervis Bay, Edward Stephen Fogarty Fegen, ordered the convoy to scatter and aimed his ship straight at the Scheer. Hopelessly outclassed by the Scheer's 11 inch guns, this was nothing less than a suicide mission for the Jervis Bay. This action only delayed Krancke from reaching the convoy. Krancke went on to sink five more ships in the convoy (Beaverford, Fresno City, Kenbane Head, Maiden, and Trewellard.) A seventh ship, Mopan, had been sunk by Krancke earlier in the day.

The battle between the Jervis Bay and the Admiral Scheer lasted about 24 minuets. At one point the bridge on the Jervis Bay was hit killing several officers and removing Capt. Fegen's arm. He was later killed by another shell. There were 255 officers and men on the Jervis Bay, 65 were rescued by the Swedish freighter  Stureholm. One hundred and ninety died in the attack. For his gallant action Capt. Fegen was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

The story does not end there, the Stureholm was sunk by the U-96 on Dec.11, 1940  with the loss of all hands. This included several members of the Jervis Bay crew, who had signed up to crew the Stureholm.

The U-96 herself is a famous boat. Lothar-Günther Buchheim, a war correspondent, was on the U-96 for one patrol. His experience on board was the inspiration for his book Das Boot. The U-96 was sunk at Wilhelmshaven on  March 30,1945 by U.S. Bombers.
© 2005 Michael W. Pocock

Portrait of HMS Jervis Bay and Convoy HX-84 under fire from Admiral Scheer.