Leading Seaman James Joseph Magennis VC

The fourth in my collection of autographs to Irish born holders of the Victoria Cross (VC). James Magennis from Belfast in WW2.

James was a Belfast-born recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was the only native of Northern Ireland to receive the Victoria Cross for Second World War service. Magennis was part of several operations involving X-Craft midget submarines in attacks on Axis ships. In July 1945 Magennis was serving on HMS XE3 during Operation Struggle. During an attack on the Japanese cruiser Takao in Singapore, Magennis showed extraordinary valour and bravery by leaving the submarine for a second time in order to free some explosive charges that had got caught. His commanding officer Lieutenant Ian Fraser was also awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 31 July 1945 during the Operation.

 

In July 1945 Acting Leading Seaman Magennis was serving as the diver on the midget submarine HMS XE3 under the command of Lieutenant Ian Fraser. They were tasked with sinking the 10,000 ton Japanese cruiser Takao, the first of the Takao Class. She was berthed in the Straits of Johor, Singapore acting as an Anti-aircraft battery. The codename for the operation was Operation Struggle.

 

On 30 July 1945 the XE3 was towed to the area by the submarine Stygian. She slipped her tow at 23:00 for the forty-mile journey through hazardous wrecks, minefields and listening posts to reach the Takao. After arriving at the Takao at 13:00 on 31 July 1945. Magennis slipped out of the wet-and-dry chamber and he attached limpet mines to the Japanese cruiser Takao under particularly difficult circumstances. He had to chip away at barnacles on the bottom of the cruiser for 30 minutes before being able to attach the limpets. During this time his breathing apparatus was leaking and he returned to the submarine after completion of his task very exhausted. On withdrawing, Lieutenant Ian Fraser found that one of the limpet carriers which was being jettisoned would not release itself. Magennis immediately volunteered to free it commenting: “I’ll be all right as soon as I’ve got my wind, Sir”. This he did, after seven minutes of nerve-racking work with a heavy spanner. On completion Magennis returned to XE3 for the second time, allowing the four man midget submarine to make its escape out to open sea to meet the waiting Stygian.

Photo: https://janmeecham.wordpress.com/2016/10/24/tin-fish-heroes/

Magennis was the only Victoria Cross winner of the Second World War to hail from Northern Ireland. As a result, Magennis obtained something of a “celebrity status” in his home city. The citizens of Belfast raised more than £3,000 as part of a “Shilling Fund.” The City Fathers of Belfast refused to give Magennis the freedom of the City though. Sources differ as to the reasoning behind this; some claim it was due to religious divisions, others claim it was due to the City Fathers not “…believing that such an honour could not be bestowed on a working-class Catholic from the inner-city slums.” In 1946 Magennis married Edna Skidmore, with whom he had four sons. The money from the Shilling Fund was spent quickly by Magennis and his wife; she remarked: “We are simple people… forced into the limelight. We lived beyond our means because it seemed the right thing to do.” In 1949 he left the Navy and returned to Belfast, where, at some point, he sold his Victoria Cross . In 1955 he moved to Yorkshire, where he worked as an electrician. For the last years of his life, he suffered from chronic ill health, before dying on 11 February 1986 of lung cancer hours before his heroism was honoured by the Royal Navy Philatelic Office with a first-day cover.

James Magennis VC mural, Tullycarnet, Belfast
Photo: http://www.geograph.ie/photo/3012276

Magennis has had several memorials erected in his honour. When Magennis first won the VC, he was treated rather shabbily by the Unionist-dominated Belfast City Council because he was from a working class Roman Catholic family. Although the public collected £3,600 in appreciation of his heroism, the council refused to give him the freedom of the city. The only official recognition was a small photograph tucked away in the robing room of the council chamber. The first memorial was only erected in 1999 after a long campaign by his biographer George Fleming and Major S.H. Pollock CD (Canada). The memorial, a bronze and stone statue, was officially unveiled in Belfast on 8 October 1999. The ceremony was conducted in the grounds of Belfast City Hall in the presence of Magennis’s son Paul, by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Bob Stoker. Magennis’s former commanding officer, Ian Fraser, was reported as saying: “Jim gave me bother from time to time. He liked his tot of rum, but he was a lovely man and a fine diver. I have never met a braver man. It was a privilege to know him and it’s wonderful to see Belfast honour him at last.”[citation needed] A wall mural commemorating James Magennis on the 60th anniversary of VJ day was unveiled on 16 September 2005 by Peter Robinson, the Democratic Unionist Party Member of Parliament representing East Belfast, including Tullycarnet.

Memorial to Leading Seaman Magennis VC
Photo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Joseph_Magennis

In 1986, there was some publicity in the newspapers that his VC would be up at auction. This attracted the interest of Michael Ashcroft, Baron Ashcroft who bought the VC for £29,000 (plus fees) amidst strong competition from dealers and private collectors. This was the first Victoria Cross bought by Lord Ashcroft, who, as of 2006, owned 142 medals.

James McGennis VC medals
Photo: https://www.spink.com/research-articles/the-victoria-cross-at-auction-part-2-1983-1999.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

Captain (later Lieutenant Colonel) Harold Marcus Ervine-Andrews VC

The third of my collection of autographs to Irish born holders of the Victoria Cross (VC). Slightly off theme a bit as this is to a soldier of World War Two.

ErvineMarcus Ervine-Andrews was born in Keadue, County Cavan, Ireland, on 29 July 1911, the son of bank manager. He was educated at Stonyhurst, the famous Roman Catholic public school in Lancashire. He was commissioned in the East Lancashire Regiment in the early 1930’s and served on the Indian North West Frontier in 1936-37, where he was Mentioned in Dispatches.

He was 28 years old, and a captain in the 1st Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment, British Army during the Second World War in the latter stages of the Battle of Dunkirk when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC. During the night of 31 May/1 June 1940, near Dunkirk, France, the company commanded by Captain Ervine-Andrews was heavily outnumbered and under intense German fire. When the enemy attacked at dawn and crossed the Canal de Bergues, Ervine-Andrews, with volunteers from his company, rushed to a barn and from the roof shot 17 of the enemy with a rifle and many more with a Bren gun. When the barn was shattered and alight, he sent the wounded to the rear and led the remaining eight men back.

Harold Marcus Ervine-Andrews VC Courtesy of http://www.lancashireinfantrymuseum.org.uk
Harold Marcus Ervine-Andrews VC
Courtesy of http://www.lancashireinfantrymuseum.org.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ervine-Andrews attempted to return home to his native County Cavan after the war, but was driven out by local members of the IRA and later settled in Cornwall.[3]

He later achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was the last Irishman who was awarded the VC during the Second World War to die, on 30 March 1995, at the age of 83. His memorial is at Stonyhurst College, Clitheroe, Lancashire. His VC is held at Blackburn Museum.

Captain Marcus Ervine Andrews (top deck) wins the VC defending the Perimeter Courtesy of www.lancashireinfantrymuseum.org.uk
Captain Marcus Ervine Andrews (top deck) wins the VC defending the Perimeter
Courtesy of http://www.lancashireinfantrymuseum.org.uk

 

 

Brigadier General Charles FitzClarence VC

Here is another from my collection of autographs to Irish born holders of the Victoria Cross (VC). This is to Brigadier General Charles FitzClarence VC of the Royal Fusiliers.

Charles was born in May 1865 at Bishopcourt, Co. Kildare the son of Captain George FitzClarence (15 April 1836 – 24 March 1894) and Maria Henrietta Scott (1841 – 27 July 1912). He had a twin brother named Edward. His paternal grandfather was George FitzClarence, 1st Earl of Munster, whose title Charles took on his death in 1903.

FitzclarenceThis was written by Charles for receipt of a tailor made suit in the early 1900s at the Seville Fine Clothiers. London. The following is the incredible personal history of this great Irish Hero.

fitz
Photo from http://www.illustratedfirstworldwar.com

Brigadier General Charles FitzClarence, VC, was one of the few senior British officers to be killed in action during the First World War. The son of a naval officer, he had been educated at Eton College and Wellington College, before joining the Royal Fusiliers as a lieutenant in 1885.

During the Boer War he was besieged in Mafeking, winning the Victoria Cross for his actions during the siege, where he was badly wounded. After the war he attended the staff college at Camberley. In 1900 he joined the Irish Guards, commanding a battalion from 1909-1913 and the regiment from 1913.

At the outbreak of the First World War, FitzClarence was sent out to France to command the 1st (Guards) Brigade, replacing General Ivor Maxse, who was returning to Britain to train a division of the new army. He took command of the Brigade during the first battle of Ypres (October-November 1914).

He would play a major role in two incidents of that battle. The battle of Gheluvelt (29-31 October) saw the Germans come close to breaking the British line. FitzClarence organised and led the counter-attack that restored the line.

The final major German attack of the battle came on 11 November (battle of Nonne Boschen). By this time the 1st Brigade consisted of three battalions (one each from the Scots Guards, the Cameron’s and the Black Watch) and was down to 800 men. They were attacked by a regiment of the Prussian Guard, and forced out of their front line. FitzClarence played an important role in stopping the German advance. He was then determined to win back the front line trenches lost earlier in the day. Having lost most of his own brigade in the fighting, he returned to the rear to find new troops. He was at the head of 500 men from the 2nd battalion of the Grenadier Guards, the Irish Guards and an contingent of the Royal Munster Fusiliers, when he was shot and killed by a German rifleman. After his death the planned counterattack was abandoned.

The medals of Charles Fitzclarence VC Courtesy of www.lordashcroftmedals.com
The medals of Charles Fitzclarence VC
Courtesy of http://www.lordashcroftmedals.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Even against the greatest of odds, there is something in the human spirit – a magic blend of skill, faith, and valor – that can lift men from certain defeat to incredible victory.”

Walter Lord (1917 – 2002)

 

 

 

 

Sergeant John ‘Jack’ Moyney VC…… Part 2

Just found an interesting link about John Moyney VC. Here he is interviewed by Christy Maher as part of RTE’s local radio week in Roscrea town in 1977. A fascinating interview with one of Ireland’s bravest sons.

In addition this is a copy of the Victor comic from 1984 which features Sergeant Jack Moyney and the battle in which he won his Victoria Cross

Courtesy of www.roscreathroughtheages.org
Courtesy of http://www.roscreathroughtheages.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Courtesy of www.roscreathroughtheages.org
Courtesy of http://www.roscreathroughtheages.org