A Survivor's Tale
(Page 4 of 5... A story by Trevor Reeve, HMS Jervis Bay Association.)
A fact that we certainly do know (as family members have informed me), is
that in 1942, Randolph worked for the Shaw Savill Line (owners of HMS Jervis
Bay in peacetime) as an engineer. He was never a 'radio/wireless operator'.
Randolph was an 'engineer' and nothing else. Many J.B. crewmen had worked for
Shaw Savill before the war, including my own grandfather (J.F. Reeve.)
In mid 1942, Ann Carr Urquhart
(Randolph's sister-in-law) moved to Liverpool from North Shields, to join
Randolph. They would subsequently marry.
One night in August, 1942, Randolph and Ann were due to go for a night out for a meal with some fellow officers at Shaw Savill, and Randolph had complained that he felt very tired. He went upstairs to the bedroom to 'put his head down' for a quick nap, before they were due to leave for the meal. When Randolph failed to come down to go for the meal, Ann went up to check on him, only to find him dead in bed. She only later found out that he had suffered a heart attack. The heart attack was attributed to heart weakness, caused mainly through the time that Randolph had spent in the cold sea and upon the liferaft, having abandoned HMS Jervis Bay. Randolph was only 53 years of age when he died. So, as a couple, Ann and Randolph were only in Liverpool together for a mere 3 months. And Ann had now lost both George and Randolph Urquhart as husbands.
Ann Carr Urquhart had Randolph buried alongside his brother George in the
same grave in Tynemouth (Preston) Cemetery, near North Shields. Ann Carr
received a war widow's pension and returned once again to live in North
Shields, this time alone once more. Ann too, is now buried alongside her two
husbands (George and Randolph) Ann and George had had a daughter (Mary - of
which Victoria McLean is the daughter-in-law, and provider of much of the
information in this fascinating insight into a wartime life). Ann and Randolph
had no children. Daughter Mary (aka Betty) had married Albert Herbert McLean
(from the North Shields area), and they lived in West Sussex, England and in
So, as you will see, the fact that I had written to North Shields newspapers
asking for information regarding Randolph Urquhart, would never have found
anything. No family exists in that particular area now, only the family grave
remains there. Which, brings us nicely back to the Pollock paragraph from his
book 'HMS Jervis Bay', written in 1958:-
"So of the ship's company of two hundred and fifty-four who
sailed with Captain Fogarty Fegen, only sixty-five survived. One of these, a
middle-aged engineer, collapsed and died as a result of the delayed effects of
the action, the day he arrived back in Liverpool some weeks later."
Pollock had simply misheard or misinterpreted what he had listened to or
seen. Randolph William Urquhart (engineer), had died in Liverpool, middle-aged
at fifty-three years of age, but two years after returning to England, not two
weeks. The mystery had been solved, much to my sheer delight.
But, we are then left with the facts published in the 'Telegraph-Journal'
newspaper in Canada, back on 14th November, 1940. This had been captioned with
the help of survivors, only days after their ordeal. We know that Randolph
Urquhart served as an engineer now aboard HMS Jervis Bay. So, who was the other
'2nd Radio Officer' along with survivor Richard Shackleton? Surely, it had to
be the man listed as a member of the engineering staff, who could not possibly
be one. That man had to be John Hewitt Currie.