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Captain Edward Stephen Fogarty Fegen and HMS Jervis Bay
THE SAGA OF THE JERVIS BAY 1940
In memory of HMS Jervis Bay
R. David Burns
On the fifth of November and convoy near forty
slow moving and scattered, no escorts to call,
a liner, a steamer, Jervis Bay, you recall
not armoured, light gun, no challenge at all,
sea was quite rough and light cloudy sky
masthead shouts "Smoke, port beam, there a nigh"
Captain Fegen now sensing a serious plight
of forty slow children, their chances are slight
For the Hun's fast cruiser the Admiral Scheer
is reported in region and dangerously near
will make short meal, with its twenty mile gun
this surely must be a win for the Hun!
"Tis not well today, just listen, my crew
There's one thing only and that we must do.
We'll challenge that monster in spite of her power,
that convoy is his if we fail at this hour.
Give me steam, speed and smoke, immediate I say
we'll make him take notice of our ship here today"
'Put a light at the masthead and he will say, ''Well.
This ship means business there's more it must tell
she may be a kind of small surface raider
But I'll soon put an end to this impudent stranger ".
"You Convoy scatter, as fast as you can,
stay clear of my bow, I'm full speed to a man
Thus spoke Captain Fegen of Jervis the Bay
as he turned the old ship to the path of the Scheer
the crew understood first blast must be near
but not a man flinched, their duty was clear
men down below and men up on deck
will fight to the death with that fast growing speck
The engines of Jervis just roared and shook
but eighteen knots was not in the book
then all at once the punishment came
a shattering crash that shook her old frame,
Her uppers and bridge though torn might still stay
but that won't finish Old Jervis that day
Her engines roared still, onward she pressed
no shot nor shell had stopped to arrest
her hull held intact just thirty shots more,
and flames up on deck then started to roar.
Slowly, more slowly old Jervis came to
Ship, Captain, Seamen done all they could do.
At last and too late the Hun cruiser turned
to seek the convoy it'd earlier spurned
but the darkening night had closed right in
and the convoy dispersed so Fegen's great win
saved thirty five ships, three thousand men.
Mere couple of ships was all Scheer's gain
Brave Captain Fegen's, Warrior Crew
achieved a win, so rare with so few
'cause of his shorter range guns, so cruel,
was unable to fire in defense in this duel
But Lo, there's more on this saga that night
A Swedish brave Captain returned to the site
While Jervis still burning, and burning bright
Plucked sixty five men of Jervis's crew
from a seaman’s death, lonely, and few.
As for their Captain like Nelson we're told
died at this moment of triumph, so bold
had committed himself to country and God
Now all of you mothers, fathers and sons
of a crew in that smaller ship that night
be proud, so proud, how bravely to fight
in a battle so hopeless, seemed at first sight
that all would be lost under cold oceans spray
But instead it was won by that proud Jervis Bay
What did the Hun High Command just say
in talk of th' escape of this convoy prey?
Was it caused by a big armed ship? But nay
T’was captain and crew of our Jervis Bay.
No matter, what history it reports today,
their glory will stay on my walls for aye .
Written in memory of Captain Edward Stephen Fogarty Fegen, R.N. and his crew of the converted 14,400 ton small passenger/ freight ship Jervis Bay on the 5th of November 1940.
On this date Captain Fegen, in the best traditions of the Royal Navy, turned from his convoy HX-84 of 37 ships and faced, alone, under certain destruction, the approaching German battlecruiser Admiral Scheer. For over an hour, under constant fire, he maintained his approach at full speed until his ship was finally brought to a burning standstill .Meanwhile the convoy escaped into the night. For his sacrifice Captain Fegen was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, "For valour in challenging hopeless odds in the giving of his life to successfully save the ships of his convoy".
My Father, Lieutenant Wallace Burns, had met Captain Fegen at some time before the sinking of his ship, and his loss hit my Father very hard. If this note and poem serves as any compensation for those in the family lines of Captain and Crew, I will be very pleased.
R. David Burns
413 Palmetto Drive, Greer
South Carolina 29651
E-mail: rdburns'at'mindspring.com (where 'at' is replaced by @)