Jervis Bay

HMS Jervis BayOf all the 'Bays' only Jervis Bay was at a British port when war was declared. She was immediately despatched to the Tyne where she was fitted with eight six-inch guns before taking her place as an armed merchant cruiser upon the Atlantic convoy sailings.

As told by Trevor Skeggs. nephew of Len Baker (AB, RNVR), Killed in Action...

The Jervis Bay was built in 1922, only 4 years after the Great War, with conversion to a Q-ship in mind (gun mountings only). Lightly skinned and not highly compartmentalised, she had to be filled with barrels and cork before commission.

The RNVR crew was taken from Chatham by special train and HMS Jervis Bay commissioned Aug. 30, 1939, under Captain H.G.Harris RN (ret'd.) at the Royal Albert docks. Nearby, amongst the 12 P & O liners, was the Rawalpindi.

Photo by Len Baker, Killed in Action At Scapa Flow the anchor fouled a cable and the windlass was badly damaged. Returned to the Tyne for repairs and further refit. The Rawalpindi replaces the Jervis Bay on Northern Patrol. (Unofficial : the crew go home on leave. My mother somehow gets the story from her brother that an aborted attempt was made to upgrade to 8" guns, but apparently the mountings wouldn't take them.)

The Jervis Bay is credited with sinking a destroyer : unfortunately, it was one of ours. The anchor (again!) ripped open the side of HMS Sabre at Rosyth. To dry dock at Hebburn on the Tyne again. There, the crew of the Jervis Bay meet the crew of HMS Kelly (Mountbatten's destroyer), also damaged. During this repair, the crew learn the fate of the Rawalpindi, sandwiched between the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau (Nov. 23, 1939.) Did the crew of the Jervis Bay thus get a year's reprieve?

Trevor Reeve, HMS Jervis Bay Association, continues the story...

Aberdeen & Commonwealth LineIt was after this tragic event, that Jervis Bay was repainted in her 'house' (Aberdeen & Commonwealth Line) colours of green hull, white superstructure and buff coloured funnel. She had (like Rawalpindi) been painted battleship grey at Royal Albert Dock, London originally. This was done, so that Jervis Bay would not be as visible to the enemy as had the Rawalpindi, and so hopefully not targeted. The paint work, undertaken at Hebburn, Tyneside, England, took place at the same time as Jervis Bay was having repairs for the accident at Scapa Flow, Scotland, which saved her from the fate that Rawalpindi undertook. Good fortune bestowed HMS Jervis Bay, for the moment at least.

Christmas Card 1939

Christmas card sent by Norman Lattimore, casualty,. HMS Jervis Bay was anchored in The Solent (outside Portsmouth Harbour, Hampshire) Christmas 1939. She wasn't allowed in the harbour, as she was loaded with ammunition, prior to sailing to Freetown, Sierra, Leonne, via Dakar, Senegal in January, 1940.

Encounter at Freetown, South AfricaHMS Jervis Bay would proceed to Freetown, Sierra Leonne, Africa to commence the 'Africa convoys', in January, 1940. She would protect convoys between South Africa & England, though never actually reach England herself again.

On the way to Freetown, Jervis Bay picked up supplies at Dakar ( a French colony in what is now Senegal, North West Africa ), where the men went ashore for a short while. Jervis Bay escorted a few convoys (SL 017F; SL023F; SL 023; - without incident), before Captain Harris took ill, and had to leave the ship.

Photo of HMS Jervis Bay taken by casualty AW Desborough. Date and location unknown.

View the certificate
Cross the line Cross the line

"Crossing the Line" ceremony February 17 1940 Photos by JF Aylard, survivor.

At Dakar, 1940

HMS Jervis Bay at Dakar, Senegal, which has to have been taken in either January or April, 1940. You can clearly see that the ship was not painted battleship grey, as all of the painted pictures of the battle incorrectly indicate. You can also clearly see the starboard guns. S2 (on the well deck) was blown off the ship during the battle (complete with gun crew, who all perished - apart from Fred Billinge, who was on deck elsewhere at the moment the salvo hit.) Photo by JF Aylard, survivor.

Hartismere under tow Commander Blackburn took temporary command of the ship in February, 1940. It was under his command, that Jervis Bay undertook the longest tow in WW2. Sent to rescue a stricken freighter (Hartismere) in the South Atlantic, under the navigating skills of navigating officer George L. Roe, it located the Hartismere (under temporary tow by the liner 'Queen Of Bermuda'), and took over the tow on approximately 19 February, 1940. It took ten days to tow the stricken freighter at sitting-duck speed back to Freetown (mentioned in 'Conclusions of a Meeting of the War Cabinet held at 10 Downing Street, S.W. 1, on Tuesday, February 20, 1940, at 11-30 A.M. , Page 71'), earning the congratulations of the C-in-C for retrieving the disabled freighter. The Hartismere would later be attacked by U-100 in August 1940, and sunk in July 1942, by the Japanese submarine I-10.

Jervis Bay remained on escort duties under the command of Blackburn until April, 1940. On the 1st April, Captain Fogarty Fegen took command of the Jervis Bay, and the ship sailed via Dakar (to pick up supplies once again), and across the Atlantic to commence convoy escort duties based in Hamilton, Bermuda (a British colony.). Jervis Bay was the first 'warship' to tie up in the historic Hamilton Harbour.

HMS Jervis Bay escorted convoys from Bermuda to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. She escorted the convoys (BHX 041; BHX 044; BHX 048; HX 051 - from Halifax itself; BHX 058;) from Bermuda, up until the middle of July 1940.

Fegen meets Earl Of Athlone June 1940 Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone

Captain Fegen meeting the Earl Of Athlone and Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone during a visit to the Jervis Bay June 1940. Photos by JF Aylard, survivor.

Brochure In July 1940 she sailed to Saint John, Bay Of Fundy, New Brunswick, Canada, where she was put in to dry dock for 'degaussing', so that the ship was not as easy to detect by 'U' boats.

This took about six weeks to complete, and the crew were based in Saint John. They befriended locals, and some men returned to Britain to see loved ones on 'leave'. Their time in Saint John, like those in Bermuda, were the happiest times, the crew were to comment. Some like Robert Squires (from Hull), would meet Canadian sweethearts. HMS Jervis Bay left Saint John in early September, 1940 to commence convoy escort duties based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Bob Squires & Wife

More war service and the subsequent fate of the Jervis Bay is the focus of this site.

Drydock, Summer 1940 HMS Jervis Bay in the dry dock at Saint John, NB, Canada. This is a unique photograph, taken in either July or August, 1940. Photo by JF Aylard, survivor.

Morton Bay

Morton BayMoreton Bay, named for the large inlet near Brisbane , was the first completed of all the 'Bays'. She entered service for the Commonwealth Line when she departed London's Tilbury docks for Brisbane on 7 December 1921. She was followed into service within a month by the Clyde-built Largs Bay.

Moreton Bay was a most conventional ship in all respects. She possessed the recent innovations of Vickers-built double-reduction-geared steam turbines, which propelled her twin screws at a respectable speed of 15 knots. Ports of call en route for Australia were similar to those of P&O - Port Said, Aden and Colombo.

Upon the outbreak of WWII, Moreton Bay was discharging cargo at Australia where she was hurriedly converted in a similar fashion as outlined earlier with Jervis Bay. Moreton Bay experienced a relatively uneventful war despite her thousands of miles patrolling the Atlantic and later service as a troop transport. Her one great claim to fame occurred on 31 October 1940 when she captured the French liner Cuba which had attempted to run the blockade outside harbour in order to get to a Vichy French port. After conversion into a 'trooper' Moreton Bay gave sterling service on the North Atlantic route and the North African and Normandy landings. During the African invasion she was damaged during an air raid while docking at Algiers. However the damage was not of German origin. Moreton Bay had been abandoned in haste by her tugs as the siren sounded, leaving her to crash heavily into the pier.

Moreton Bay returned to her owners following the war. After a refit she journeyed in company with Largs Bay and Esperance Bay (2), until April 1957 when she was sold to breakers at Barrow-in-Furness from where she had first set out over 36 years earlier. Her name was awarded also to a container ship of the Overseas Container Ltd consortium, the 26,876 tonner Moreton Bay owned by the P&O Group. Although other vessels of the O.C.L. fleet possess 'Bay' suffixed names none of these are derived from vessels of the old Aberdeen & Commonwealth fleet.

Esperance Bay (1) (became Arawa (3))

ArawaWhen, in 1933, the Kylsant shipping group was the subject of a scandalous financial collapse, the operation of the 'Bays' was postponed until some semblance of management could be established.

Throughout their careers to date the 'Bays' had scarcely had an opportunity to prove their real worth owing to the unfortunate circumstances that seemingly dogged them. It was with high hopes for the future that the newly reestablished Aberdeen & Commonwealth Line Limited resumed business, albeit under the control of the famous Shaw, Savill & Albion shipping line.

Shaw, Savill were also busy reorganising themselves, their services and their fleet at this time. Their ageing although still most impressive Ionic (2), a hand-down from White Star, was due for replacement after her seventy-ninth round voyage to New Zealand. When she was sold to Japanese ship-breakers in 1936 Shaw Savill transferred Esperance Bay to their own fleet to replace her and she was accordingly renamed Arawa (3). She subsequently served her new owners' trans-Panama route for another 19 years, interrupted by war service as an armed merchant cruiser. The transferred ship's name was awarded to Hobsons Bay... becoming Esperance Bay (2).

Hobsons Bay (became Esperance Bay (2) )

Esperance Bay (2) was also in Australian waters, bound for Brisbane on that fateful day of the outbreak of WWII. Only the Clyde-built Largs Bay remained in line voyage service after the declaration of war. Esperance Bay (2) voyaged home via Cape Town, where additional armament was fitted, before commencing her new role as an armed merchant cruiser.

Esperance Bay (2) served in this capacity until 1941, when she was re-designated for employment as a troop transport. Her military career was not uneventful. On one occasion she was attacked while at sea by German bombers. A direct hit disabled her steering gear. However, she made port by clever use of her twin screws.

Her early trooping duties took her mainly to and from the Middle East and South Africa. On one voyage she was called upon to transport an entire garrison to the South Atlantic Falkland Islands . Towards the end of the war she transported large numbers of United States troops across the Atlantic. Ironially the Nazi-controlled German radio claimed that she had been sunk at least three times.

Hunt Class DestroyerAt one stage of her war career Esperance Bay (2) was clad in a most novel form of camouflage. Upon her dark grey flanks a white profile of a 'Hunt' class destroyer was applied, a clever ploy devised to discourage enemy submarine attacks.

Esperance Bay (2) was sold for scrap in 1955, and demolished at the Fasiane yards of Shipbreaking Industries Ltd, a subsidiary of British Steel Corporation.

Largs Bay

Largs BayLargs Bay was actually on the last stages of her homeward-bound voyage from Australia when war was declared on 3 September 1939. Laden with passengers, general cargo and valuable foodstuffs, she cautiously exited the Suez Canal and took a course which skirted the southern Mediterranean coastline to Malta (because of England's concern regarding Italy's loyalties to Germany and the possibility of attacks). After discharging her cargo at Malta Largs Bay voyaged on to Britain and landed her passengers.

However she was not called up for war duties; instead she resumed commercial sailings - in consort with other Shaw, Savill vessels, including the majestic Dominion Monarch. During August 1941, nearly two years later, Largs Bay was requisitioned for Government use as a troop transport. In this capacity she set out upon her first voyage to Singaporein convoy with many other liners so converted. She was escorted by the Royal Navy's battleship HMS Repulse, later tragically lost with HMS Prince of Wales in Asian waters.

Largs Bay got away from Singapore before its invasion by Japanese forces and returned to Britain. In January 1944, while entering Naples harbour, Largs Bay struck a mine. The damage was repaired in time for her to take part in the massive transatlantic trooping programme which preceded the Allied invasion of Europe later that year.

Her trooping days came to an end in 1948 when she underwent a major refit before returning to line voyages to Australia. Her superstructure, at main deck level, was extended forward and aft - causing her to be greatly improved in appearance and comfort for the newly reconfigurated, all Tourist class of 290 passengers.

Largs Bay continued in service upon the Southampton/ Brisbane route until April 1957, when she was sent to the breakers at Barrow and joined her Barrow-built sister Moreton Bay in demolition row.

Excerpt from Ships That Passed
by Scott Baty, Reed Books Pty Ltd.