Crew Insight

There has for been, for quite a while, some confusion over the personnel aboard HMS Jervis Bay during the epic encounter with the 'Admiral Scheer'. This has certainly not been helped due to the crew casualties names being on various memorials instead of just one memorial, and mix-ups in the survivors ranks/forces (especially amongst ex. servicemen returning to the forces during wartime).

Here is the best information we have to date of the breakdown of the various services that comprised the crew of the HMS Jervis Bay on the fateful day.


There were actually not that many of the 255 crewmen who sailed on Convoy HX84 who were Royal Navy men. Because of wartime, there simply were not enough RN men to go around. RN men were needed to fully crew ships such as HMS Hood, HMS Prince Of Wales etc.

Armed Merchant Cruisers such as HMS Jervis Bay, were made up of various naval forces, and although she was a British ship, her crew were not all British, with some from the Commonwealth countries around the world. In overall charge of HMS Jervis Bay was the Royal Navy, but only parts of the crew were RN men themselves, and many tended to have the highest rankings in the general running of the ship and her crew.

We count 40 HMS Jervis Bay crewmen as members of the RN, although that number could be 20 depending on different interpretations of RN or RFR service. Also included in that number is 7 Newfoundlanders. Since Newfoundland did not join Canada until 1949, serving members at the time were considered RN.

P.O. W.J. Margetts, RN casualty

P.O. W.J. Margetts, RN casualty, right


A.B. S.A. Spencer, RFR casualty, right

A.B. Stanley A. Spencer, RFR casualty, right

RFR men were ex-RN men, brought back for hostilities only, and used to make up a shortfall in RN numbers. These were older experienced sailors, some pensioned out of the RN. Their experience was invaluable, especially to the overall younger RNVR members of the ship's company.

The RFR men had moved into civilian life before WW2 (Survivors Bonney, Billinge & Gibbs worked for London Transport buses for example) and were re-called. Like RNR men, they had undertaken continuous training over the years (at least once a year) since being RN men, similar to the British Territorial Army.

RFR/RNR men weren't simply 'thrown in at the deep end' though, and undertook about 6 weeks of intensive training at Chatham (HMS Pembroke) in 1939, we are led to believe.

There were 23 RFR men in total on HMS Jervis Bay November 5, 1940, although that number could be 43 depending on different interpretations of RN or RFR service.


Royal Naval Reservists were men on reserve who had experience of the sea, but were not RN or ex-RN (RFR) men. Many worked for shipping lines in civilian life (Shaw Savill Line, Orient Line etc), or had experience on boats of one sort or another. Casualty Hubert Heard (a keen amateur yachtsman) & survivor Tom Davison (worked on a pilot boat) are two examples.

Others were ex-fishermen, like the large contingent from Wick in Scotland, who included people like survivors Jimmy Reid & Willie Oag etc.

We count 35 crewmembers with the RNR, but that could be increased by 17 if you include NAP(MN) Officers. Merchant Navy (MN) men on board HMS Jervis Bay signed up to the T-124 (Naval Auxiliary Personnel - NAP) agreement, where MN men came under the control of the RN, but usually for MN rates of pay etc. They were 'temporary' RNR men .

Seaman Willie Oag, RNR survivor, right

Seaman Willie Oag, RNR survivor, right


A.B. C.W. Parker, RNVR casualty, left

A.B. C.W. Parker, RNVR casualty, left

RNVR men were volunteers without any naval experiences whatsoever usually. They tended to be the younger and/or inexperienced (of sea life at least) men of the ship's company.

We count 30 crewmembers with the RNVR, but that could be increased by 3 if you include NAP(MN) Officers.




The Canadian RCN, RCNR & RCNVR work in a similar fashion to the British RN, RNR & RNVR forces.

There were 1 RCN, 7 RCNR, and 14 RCNVR crew aboard HMS Jervis Bay during her final battle.

Stoker Alex McDonald, RCNVR casualty

Stoker Alex McDonald, RCNVR casualty.


<Ship's Writer J.F Reeve, NAP(MN) casualty

Ship's Writer J.F Reeve, NAP(MN) casualty, right

The NAP (MN) were the most diverse of the forces serving aboard HMS Jervis Bay. Most of these men had the 'everyday' type of jobs - Cooks, Stewards, Carpenters, etc. The 'lowest' jobs in naval brass eyes at least, yet the force that contributed the most men (105 out of 255 men), and the largest contingent of casualties (86 men).

During the war, the RN lost the most men (approximately 50,000), far greater than any other of the naval forces. The everyday MN men were amazingly important (losing approximately 30,000 men), serving on the convoy freighters/tankers bring vital supplies to Britain from across the world.

Interested in more details? We have prepared (in PDF format) a complete breakdown of crew names by service.

<< Previous | Top | Next >>