The 'Jervis Bay' action, 5 November 1940
The painting shows the action between the German pocket battleship 'Admiral Scheer' and Convoy HX-84 on the 5th of November 1940. This action was notable for the heroic defence put up by the armed merchant cruiser HMS 'Jervis Bay'. Despite the fact that his ship was outclassed in speed, protection and offensive capability Captain Fegen engaged the German warship in an attempt to buy time for the convoy to scatter and escape. The decision cost him his ship and his life, but nonetheless prevented what should have been the massacre of Convoy HX-84. Seven ships (including 'Jervis Bay') were lost, but the remaining thirty one escaped intact.
The burning tanker in the centre of the painting is the 'San Demetrio', the first ship in the convoy to be hit. To the right, obscured by shell splashes is 'Jervis Bay'. Beyond her, the outline of the 'Admiral Scheer' and the flashes of her guns can be seen. Charles Pears' painting is very impressive and emotive, but there are are some issues with accuracy. The civilian ships appear to be in their peacetime colours, when in fact they would have been painted in wartime grey. The weather conditions, particularly the level of visibility, also seem somewhat better than they were on the day. The distribution of the shell splashes is unusual, given that the centralised fire control on the German ship would have been concentrating on 'Jervis Bay'.
- Image reference: BHC2412
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
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