Remembering their fallen comrades -
The Story of the HMS Jervis Bay Reunion Dinners
(Survivors, Ex-Crewmen, and Friends)
Having lost HMS Jervis Bay on 5th November 1940, a few areas of remembrance had been covered,
to help to preserve the history of the brave ship and ship’s company.
Over in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, a memorial to the ship and her crew had been unveiled, and flowers laid at it from 1946 onwards.
The memorial still exists to this day, though it has been moved three times over the years in Saint John,
with its current location (since 1994), in Ross Memorial Park, in the East of the city.
Over the years, some British crew survivors (such as Robert Squires – who later emigrated to Saint John from Hull, England;
’ Crackers’ Rushall – born in New York, but who lived in England, etc), had attended memorial services there.
Services were still taking place there up to only a few years ago, (when the Legion lost its premises for a while),
organised by the ‘Jervis Bay Legion – Branch 53’, based in Saint John, on the weekend nearest to the 5th November.
The memorial had been built there to remember the ship and crew, who had spent 6 weeks during the Summer of 1940 (whilst the ship was in dry dock),
many of the crew living in and associating with the local people in Saint John. They went to church services there, took part in weekend adventures
(hunting/fishing etc) with the local people, and they were welcomed in to the hearts of the people of Saint John.
The ship and crew had been remembered with great fondness overseas in Canada, which hadn’t been reiterated back home in Great Britain, unfortunately.
In fact, it wasn’t until 2010, that any type of Jervis Bay Memorial Service had been held in the UK, when Chatham Historical Dockyard organised
one for the 70th anniversary of the ship’s sinking. It certainly would appear to the neutral person, that seeing as Canada held a memorial service
every year from 1946 in Saint John, they appeared to hold the ship in higher regard than the British
(the authorities that is, rather than the relatives of the crew of Jervis Bay), despite her being a British ship, at the end of the day.
Certainly, it is quite a sad state of affairs, when you view it in that light.
Other memorials were built in Bermuda (where the ship had assembled convoys before she went across to Canada), and over in Australia
(where the ship had sailed to/from previously before the commencement of WW2 for the Aberdeen & Commonwealth Shipping Line
(part of ‘Shaw Savill’ Line.)
So, after the end of the war in Europe (1945), former crew-members along with some of the 65 survivors from HMS Jervis Bay’s
battle with the ‘Admiral Scheer’, wanted to try and arrange a yearly memorial service, to include the 65 x survivors and ex WW2 crewmen
(on a weekend as near to November 5th as possible), and venues in London (where a great many of ex-crew resided in and around) were approached.
A sort of a ‘get-together’, to remember absent friends.
All of the venues approached throughout 1946 (the year intended to be the first ‘survivors’ reunion) by the likes of ex-crew-members
Joseph ‘Mac’ McGregor and ‘Pusser’ Hill (his number two), appeared to have forgotten the great ordeal of HMS Jervis Bay, or they wanted
to forget about the war, and move on. None were willing to accommodate a reunion remembrance for the ship, despite it having been mentioned
by both the King and Winston Churchill, during WW2 in 1940.
McGregor had helped to organise the ship’s concert parties etc aboard ship during WW2, though he had come off the ship before her battle with the Scheer,
for reasons unknown at this moment in time. Crewmen ‘chopped and changed’ during wartime. Some went on leave, changed vessels, were taken ill, etc.
Having seemingly covered all avenues within London, for a venue to hold a memorial concert/service for HMS Jervis Bay, one man stepped forward.
His name was Mr D’Arcy, and he was the manager of the Marylebone Station Restaurant (also known as a buffet, years ago). He was the only man in
London to offer McGregor and comrades a venue to house their memorial concert, much to the annoyance of ‘Mac’. He declared at the time,
how disgusted he felt with the venues of London, for forgetting so easily, the brave deed that his ship and crew-mates had taken part in
back in 1940, saving the majority of the ships in Convoy HX84. “They all have very short memories”, he was heard to declare.
With a venue finally in place, the first ‘Reunion Dinner’ took place in the November of 1947. A former ship’s bell off the S.S.
Jervis Bay would ring to start off proceedings, which would include concert acts by former crewmen and survivors such as McGregor himself,
Tom Hanlon (played drums I’m led to believe, amongst other things)’ John ‘Jack’ Barker and Harry ‘Tiddley’ Bonney.
Hanlon performed under the pseudonym of ‘John Thomas’. Former crewman John Aylard (coder), recited poetry readings at some too, I am led to believe.
Here is a quite remarkable photograph only recently received from Douglas Sainsbury in Yarm, Teesside. It features a great many J.B. survivors
and ex. Crewmen who we can clearly identify. Most have brought wives or other family members/friend as guests.
The photograph came in to Douglas’ possession, as his aunt Evelyn Swailes (nee King) and her friend Thursa (surname unknown) accompanied John C. Eggleston (known as Chris) to the 1947 reunion dinner. Douglas’ mother was Muriel Sainsbury (nee King.) Evelyn and Thursa came from Bridlington, on the East Yorkshire coast, and although Chris Eggleston lived in Kingston-Upon-Hull, he grew up in Bridlington. I can only presume the Bridlington families knew each other, and they must have been close friends.
I will try my hardest to name some of the people in this large photograph for you if I can, looking from left to right as we look at the photograph.
Stood up at the rear – L/H/ side – front to back – If I am unsure, I will put it down as unknown for now. -Unknown; Unknown; Unknown female; Officer John Sargeant; Unknown; Unknown female; Unknown; Unknown female; Mr D’Arcy (in corner – Marylebone Station Restaurant Manager.)
Stood up at the rear of the photograph (l to R, from Mr D’Arcy) – Unknown female; Actor John Mills (special guest); Unknown; Mary Hayley Mills (special guest); Joseph ‘Mac’ McGregor (organiser – ex. Crewman); Unknown; Unknown female.
Left hand table – far side – front to rear – Unknown female; Unknown; Unknown; James ‘Slinger’ Wood; Hugh ‘Tom’ Whiting; Tom Hanlon; Unknown female.
Left hand table – nearside – front to rear – Unknown, ; Unknown female; R. ‘Pusser’ Hill; Unknown; Unknown female; Sam Patience; Unknown female; Fred Gibb; Unknown female.
Right hand table – far side – front to rear – Unknown, (Possibly Alfred Handley); Bernard Draper; Unknown female; Victor Grubb; Unknown female; Arthur ‘Titch’ Appleyard; Thursa ?; Chris Eggleston; Evelyn Swailes; Charlie Dove; Unknown female; Charles Spiller.
Right hand table (mostly obscured) nearside – front to rear – Unknown female; Walter Wallis, Dan Drury. (no more are visible unfortunately)
Apologies if I have any wrong, but if I have any doubts, I have tended to leave it as ‘unknown’.
Walter Wallis survived the battle with the Admiral Scheer, aboard HMS Jervis Bay in November, 1940.
His scrapbook contains many interesting artifacts, and Walter named a lot of people on photographs etc within his collection.
Unfortunately, we perhaps relied on him too much for a long time, as some of his identifications proved to be incorrect, as more information about
the crew-members of HMS Jervis Bay came to light.
One item incorrectly identified, is the group of survivors and ex crew-members on the 1947 photograph taken at the Marylebone Station restaurant unveiling,
when the group posed with the picture of HMS Jervis Bay in front of them.
We know that Wallis identified the front and middle rows correctly, all survivors unless stated otherwise (left to right as you look at the photograph.)
Front Row – F.Gibb; R. ‘Pusser’ Hill (ex.crew); F.’Crackers’ Rushall
2nd Row Back – D.Drury; T.’Davo’ Davison; J.C.’Eggy’ Eggleston; W.Wallis; J. ‘Slinger’ Wood; J.T. ‘Tom’ Hanlon.
3rd Row Back – Wallis identified this row as Mr D’Arcy (Marylebone Station Restaurant Manager), which is correct. Next he had C. Dove, which is incorrect. This man is in fact A. Moonie. Next, Wallis identifies C. Spiller, F. Billinge and Massey (ex.crew.) The one identified as Spiller might actually be A. ‘Titch’ Appleyard, but I cannot be sure, as I cannot with the one identified as Billinge. Massey might be correct though. Next, Wallis identifies the man as A. Morrill, which we know is wrong. We always thought that it was F. Billinge, but if Wallis has identified Billinge correctly (we cannot find living relatives to fully confirm this), then the one in uniform with stripes, that we always thought was F. Billinge, might in fact be A. Handley, who we have yet to identify at all. The guy at the end is Joseph ‘Mac’ McGregor (ex. Crew), which has been correctly identified by Walter Wallis.
4th Row Back – Wallis identified the ones at the very back (some peeping through) as H. Bonney; A. Moonie; W. Macqueen; A. Appleyard; J. Barker; W. Barnett. The six are I believe actually as follows:- W. Macqueen (next to Mr D’Arcy); Roy Gunn; D. Christie; Hidden - (possibly W. Barnett or C. Spiller); J. Barker (part hidden); A. Morrill. ***These back two rows have been particularly difficult to identify, as Wallis never mentioned men such as Christie or Gunn.
A ‘Roll of Honour’ would be unveiled, which featured the names of the 190 men who perished aboard the ship on the 5th/6th November, 1940.
In this photo, we see the Marylebone Station Restaurant manager unveiling the ‘Roll Of Honour’.
There are four men on each side of Mr D’Arcy, left to right as we look at the picture.
On the left hand side (from the front) we have – A. Appleyard (front); J.T. Hanlon (rear and part hidden); W.Wallis; D.Drury.
On the right hand side (from the front) we have – Bonney (out of shot); J.C. Eggleston (at rear); V. Grubb; F.Gibb.
Sadly, we do not know what ever happened to this original ‘Roll Of Honour’.
As many ex-crew and survivors would sign menus and a memorial sheet dedicated to the ship and her crew.
A painting too of the ship would be unveiled. Again, we are not aware at this moment in time what happened to this picture, which is a great shame.
Here is an interesting item that dates from the first reunion dinner in 1947, I am led to believe.
It shows signatures of crew survivors present at the dinner, with signatures around a drawing of HMS Jervis Bay in battle with the Admiral Scheer.
A large item, it appears to have signatures from a great many of survivors who attended, although Walter Wallis appears to have also written some names in, not all of them correctly as usual though.
It does not appear to have Sam Patience or Charles Spiller on it, though that doesn’t necessarily mean that they did not attend. Wallis has written the Canadians/Newfoundlanders at the top, yet he has Art Taylor written in at the bottom after the survivors signatures along with H.J. Nicholls; D. Bain (severely burnt in the action, so I certainly don’t think he will have attended); D. Christie; G. Crowson; J.H. Wood (Slinger); ‘Pusser’ Hill (ex. Crew.) Some of these will most certainly have attended, notably Wood and Christie.
At the bottom, Wallis has written the names of the surviving officers. Byam & Urquhart are missing, as they had both passed away before November 1947. Wallis has A.W. Stott written down though he was killed in the action. N.E. Wood, H.G.B. Moss, R.A.G. Butler, J.G. Sargeant and Lt. Shackleton are correct. Only Sargeant attended I believe. Wallis has D. Curry written down (though it should be J.H. Currie), and ‘Donaldson’ written down, though that should be ‘Robertson’.
Of the ratings, R. Squires (at the very top on the left hand side as you look at it) has his address in Kingston-Upon-Hull written down. Bob Squires emigrated to Saint John, Canada after 1949/1950 I think, so it is certainly from earlier than that.
Some have signed with their ranks like Petty Officers Wallis & Castle. All in all, a really interesting item, with most of the signatures appearing to be from crew survivors who attended the 1st reunion dinner/concert at the Marylebone Station Restaurant in 1947.
There would even be a guest of honour each year if possible, not necessarily all from the acting profession,
though many were stars who had been in wartime movies etc. Actor John Mills (later Sir John Mills), along with his actress wife Mary Hayley Bell,
would be a ‘special guest’ both in 1947 and in 1948.
Other well known names would follow him too. Canadian actor Robert Beatty (who had played ‘Yank’ in the San Demetrio film) would guest on a
few occasions along with his wife Dorothy, most notably in 1950, to celebrate ten years of the ship’s loss. Other dignitaries would attend,
such as the local Lord Mayor in London, shipping company owners (Shaw Savill for example) and naval Captains, etc.
Once other venues realised that these guest speakers would be taking part in the proceedings, McGregor was approached and overwhelmed with offers
to house his yearly Jervis Bay reunion concerts, offers that he was only too pleased to decline. He decided to stick with Mr D’Arcy and his
restaurant at Marylebone Station, and good for him is what I would say. Nobody had wanted to ‘know’ originally, so why should they reap the
benefits of it now. The reunions continued to be held here until the early 1960’s, when the station restaurant was forced to close.
It is unknown at this time what was to become of the restaurant manager, Mr D’Arcy.
The top photograph shows survivors and their wives etc talking in the Marylebone Station restaurant. Two are clearly visible facing the camera.
They are Fred Gibb, nearest the front, and Walter Wallis further back.
The second row (left to right as we look at it), we see two photographs from the 1948 memorial service at Westminster Abbey, London.
Picture one shows the Jervis Bay wreath laid by the survivors and ex. crewmen.
Picture two (middle one) shows cadets outside of the abbey, with J.B. survivors looking towards the camera. Not the clearest of pictures, though James ‘Slinger’ Wood, Victor Grubb and possibly Bernard Draper can be identified.
The third picture shows a group of survivors outside of Marylebone Station, before going inside to the restaurant. Again, not very clear, but I can identify James Wood, Tom Hanlon, John Eggleston and possibly Victor Grubb and Harry Bonney.
The fifth larger photograph (at the very bottom of the page, shows more survivors and ex. Crewmen with their wives and/or guests. Not easy to spot people again, though I can see Joseph McGregor, Tom Hanlon, James Wood and John ‘Chris’ Eggleston.
Here is a wonderful photograph of eight of the 65 survivors from HMS Jervis Bay. Left to right as we look at the photograph are Arthur ‘Titch’ Appleyard; James ‘Slinger’ Wood; Tom ‘Davo’ Davison; William Barnett; Fred Billinge (though Wallis originally had this man identified as Arthur Morrill or ex. crewman Massey, which are both incorrect – so until proved otherwise, we have to presume that it is Fred Billinge); John ’Tom’ Hanlon; Fred Gibb; John ’Chris’ Eggleston. I now believe that the photograph dates from the 10th Anniversary of the ship’s sinking in 1950.
Here is the 1948 rare survivors reunion menu from George W. Dunsford. It has been signed on the rear by some survivors and other people.
Actor John Mills has signed it along with his wife Mary Mills (nee Mary Hayley Bell). A most rare item and in fantastic condition for its age.
Here we have the reunion dinner menu from 1950, which was held on Saturday 4th November.
It had been ten years since HMS Jervis Bay had been lost at war.
The guests of honour were actor Robert Beatty and his wife Dorothy Beatty. A few of the survivors and ex. Crewmen took part in concert ‘turns’.
They include Harry ‘Tiddley’ Bonney, Joseph ‘Mac’ McGregor and John ‘Jack’ Barker.
This Douglas Sainsbury copy contains the signatures of the Beatty’s plus many J.B. survivors and ex. Crewmen, which are clearly readable. They include Gibb, Appleyard, R.D. Hill (ex crew), Massey (ex. Crew), Eggleston (and relative), Drury, Ellmes, Grubb (and relative), Barker, Castle, Whiting, Bonney (and wife), Blackburn (ex Commander – and relative), Rushall, Barnett and Blyth (relative killed aboard ship.)
The Jervis Bay reunions then moved for a short while to the Merchant Navy Hotel in Bedford Square, London, I am led to believe,
until that too was forced to close (year of closure unknown at this time).
We have in our collection a reunion dinner menu from the Marylebone Restaurant from 1960 (the 20th anniversary of the ship’s sinking), and one from the Westbourne Hotel from 1964. We can therefore assume that the reunion dinners must have been held at the Merchant Navy hotel in London between 1961 and 1963. Both items came courtesy of the collection of survivor Arthur ‘Titch’ Appleyard.
This could well be the last memorial service held at the Marylebone Station Restaurant, or certainly one of the last ones. It is for the 20th Anniversary of the ship’s sinking. It shows the signatures of survivors such as C.Castle; B. Draper; H. Bonney; A.R. Appleyard and Tom Hanlon amongst others. Also present was former Jervis Bay Commander and acting Captain. J. Blackburn, and former crewman, Able Seaman R. ‘Pusser’ Hill. I’m not sure who the guest of honour at this one was though.
Whilst we have no photographs of the original Merchant Navy Hotel in London,
or any HMS Jervis Bay memorabilia (menus, invitations etc), associated with any reunions ever having been held there as yet,
we do have memorabilia associated with the final London venue for the J.B. reunions.
These would be held at a small hotel called the ‘Westbourne Hotel’, situated at 1 Craven Road, Paddington, W1.
This venue still stands, though it is a public house known as the ‘Pride of Paddington’ nowadays.
We know that a reunion concert was held here in 1967, as we have a copy of a menu/invitation (not a great copy unfortunately though) from that year, in our collection.
It was one of the later reunion dinners, and attended by far fewer survivors and former crew-mates.
The menu/invitation from 1967 shows the Lord Mayor of Westminster in attendance, along with survivors such as Fred Billinge, Walter Wallis (who brought his son
Walter Junior and granddaughters Pamela and Yvonne Wallis), Tiddley Bonney, John (Jack) Barker and ‘Titch’ Appleyard.
It would appear that through the photographs etc. that we have in our collection, not all of the 65 survivors attended these reunion dinners.
Very few of the nine surviving officers appear to have attended, especially in later years (1940’s to 1950’s). There could be many reasons why
individuals chose not to attend. Officer John Sargeant was certainly a regular in the early days. Radio operator Shackleton also attended an odd one,
so I am told.
A couple of officers had no opportunity to attend of course. Officer Guy Byam had been killed at the end of the war (whilst working for BBC radio),
shot down over Berlin in 1945. Officer Randolph Urquhart had died in his 50’s, from injuries indirectly associated with his escape from the sinking
of HMS Jervis Bay, dying in 1947.
The Scottish sailors would have had to endure a long and arduous journey (probably via a long train journey), to travel down from Wick to London.
It would take hours and hours back in those days, and numerous train changes along the route too. Some managed to travel down from Scotland,
certainly in those early years. William Macqueen travelled down from Lossiemouth, Alexander Moonie and Roy Gunn from Wick, etc.
They might have had to stay over in London too of course, and it still wasn’t inexpensive back in the 40’s and 50’s to stay over.
London has never been a cheap place to visit.
Others travelled from outside of London (from the North and West of England etc.) Slinger Wood commuted from Southport in Lancashire
(where he worked for the council in the offices). Walter Wallis (still on merchant ships) and John ‘Eggy’ Eggleston (a former postman
in ‘civvy’ life) commuted from Kingston Upon Hull in East Yorkshire, along with Bob Squires (whose parents ran the RN & MN club in Hull -
before he emigrated to Saint John in Canada.) Eggleston would later travel down from Manchester in Lancashire, after he moved from East to West.
‘Titch’ Appleyard travelled down and across from his farm in Boston, Lincolnshire. Tom Davison and Charles Castle from
Dover in Kent. Tom Whiting from Southend in Essex, etc.
Some former crew-members travelled to London too. Morrill from York in North Yorkshire, and
‘Ginger’ Mann (originally London based), travelled from Kingston-Upon-Hull.
Some regularly attended like Dennis Drury, though we aren’t even sure where he commuted to and from. A similar thing applies to Alfred Handley.
A great many lived in and around London though. Tom Hanlon lived in Shepherds Bush & ex-crewman Joseph ‘Mac’ McGregor in Paddington for example.
There were many others such as William Cooper; Victor Grubb; John ‘Jack’ Barker; Fred Billinge; ‘Tiddley’ Bonney; William Barnett; Fred Gibbs;
John Aylard (ex crewman); Chares Spiller; Charlie Dove (later based in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in Northumberland); etc.
Many of the survivors had been together since joining the various RFR/RN/RNR/RNVR at Chatham, Kent. Firm bonds had been cast. In addition,
some like Bonney, Billinge & Gibbs worked together in civilian life. They were all employed for London Transport buses, in various roles.
Eventually, the reunions involving the ex-crew and survivors ended, due to lack of people, in the late 1960’s , I am led to believe.
People were getting older, more frail or had health problems, or indeed in some cases, they had ‘passed away’.
Slinger Wood had ‘passed away’ in the early 1960’s for example, still in his 50’s.
It was difficult for many to travel to London, especially for those residing up in the North of England, or indeed in Scotland.