Lieutenant Commander Eugene Kingsmill Esmonde VC DSO, F/Lt, RAF, Lt-Cdr (A) RN (1 March 1909 – 12 February 1942) was a distinguished pilot who was a posthumous recipient of the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy awarded to members of Commonwealth forces. Lt-Cdr Esmonde earned this award while in command of a Naval torpedo bomber squadron serving in the British Fleet Air Arm in the Second World War.
Esmonde was born on 1 March 1909 in Thurgoland, Yorkshire, near Barnsley, where his father Dr John Joseph Esmonde (1862–1915) was in temporary general practice. Though by birth English, his parents were from Ireland and he returned to his family’s ancestral home of the Esmonde baronets in Drominagh, North Tipperary as a boy and was educated by the Jesuits, first at Wimbledon College in London and then at Clongowes Wood College in Co. Kildare, Ireland.
He had three elder half-brothers from his father’s first marriage, Sir John Esmonde, 14th Baronet, who served in the First World War, 2nd Lt. Geoffrey Esmonde (1897–1916) who was killed in action in the First World War serving with the 26th Tyneside Irish Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers, and Sir Anthony Esmonde, 15th Baronet.
Esmonde was commissioned into the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a pilot officer on probation on 28 December 1928. During the early 1930s, Esmonde served first in the RAF, and then transferred to the Fleet Air Arm where he served in the Mediterranean when responsibility for naval aviation was returned to the Royal Navy. Upon leaving the navy in 1934, he flew for Imperial Airways.
Early wartime career
At the start of the Second World War, he returned to the Fleet Air Arm with the rank of lieutenant commander. His first sea posting was to HMS Courageous, which was sunk in September 1939. He returned to sea duty on board HMS Victorious after a series of postings to shore-based stations.
On the night of 24 May 1941, Esmonde led No. 825 Naval Air Squadron’s nine Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers in an attack against the German battleship Bismarck. This attack took place after the Battle of the Denmark Strait, in which HMS Hood was sunk by the Bismarck. The biplanes flying from Victorious made a 120-mile flight in foul North Atlantic weather and hit the Bismarck amidships. (The attack that disabled the ship’s rudder and doomed the German battleship was caused by a Swordfish torpedo strike from HMS Ark Royal some days later.) Esmonde was decorated with the Distinguished Service Order on 11 February 1942 for his leadership and actions (the award was announced on 16 September 1941).
His squadron was serving on HMS Ark Royal when she was torpedoed in November 1941. Attempts to tow her to Gibraltar were abandoned, and on 14 November 1941 she sank. The Swordfish of the squadron ferried some of the crew off the ship before she sank; Esmonde was Mentioned in Despatches for his actions on this occasion.
Esmonde earned his Victoria Cross when he led his squadron against elements of the German fleet which made the “Channel Dash” (Operation Cerberus) from Brest in an attempt to return to their home bases at Wilhelmshaven and Kiel through the English Channel. On 12 February 1942 off the coast of England, 32-year-old Lieutenant Commander Esmonde led a detachment of six Fairey Swordfish in an attack on the two German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, which had all managed to leave Brest without hindrance. These ships, along with a strong escort of smaller craft, were entering the Straits of Dover when Esmonde received his orders. He waited as long as he felt he could for confirmation of his fighter escort, but eventually took off without it. One of the fighter squadrons (10 Supermarine Spitfires of No. 72 Squadron RAF) did rendezvous with Esmonde’s squadron; the two squadrons were later attacked by enemy fighters of JG 2 and JG 26 as part of Operation Donnerkeil, the German air superiority plan for the mission. The subsequent fighting left all of the planes in Esmonde’s squadron damaged, and caused their fighter escort to become separated from the bombers.
The torpedo bombers continued their attack, in spite of their damaged aircraft and lack of fighter protection. There was heavy anti-aircraft fire from the German ships, and Esmonde’s plane possibly sustained a direct hit from anti-aircraft fire that destroyed most of one of the port wings of his Swordfish biplane. Esmonde led his flight through a screen of the enemy destroyers and other small vessels protecting the battleships. He was still 2,700 metres from his target when he was hit by a Focke-Wulf Fw 190, resulting in his aircraft bursting into flames and crashing into the sea. The remaining aircraft continued the attack, but all were shot down by enemy fighters; only five of the 18 crew survived the action. The four surviving officers received the Distinguished Service Order, and the enlisted survivor was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal.
The courage of the gallant Swordfish crews was particularly noted by friend and foe alike. Admiral Bertram Ramsay later wrote, “In my opinion the gallant sortie of these six Swordfish aircraft constitutes one of the finest exhibitions of self-sacrifice and devotion to duty the war had ever witnessed”, while Admiral Otto Ciliax in the Scharnhorst described “The mothball attack of a handful of ancient planes, piloted by men whose bravery surpasses any other action by either side that day”. As he watched the smoking wrecks of the Swordfish falling into the sea, Captain Hoffmann of the Scharnhorst exclaimed, “Poor fellows, they are so very slow, it is nothing but suicide for them to fly against these big ships”. Willhelm Wolf aboard the Scharnhorst wrote, “What an heroic stage for them to meet their end! Behind them their homeland, which they had just left with their hearts steeled to their purpose, still in view”.
Officers and ratings who were decorated for the part they played in the sinking of the Bismarck, pictured in front of a Fairey Swordfish aboard HMS Ark Royal during an inspection by Admiral James Somerville. Esmonde is second from left.
Captain Edward Stephen Fogarty Fegen VC, SGM (8 October 1891 – 5 November 1940) is an Irish Victoria Cross recipient. He was the third Irishman to receive the award in the Second world war. The VC is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British, Irish and Commonwealth forces.
World War I
On 24 March 1918, while the British ship S.S. War Knight was proceeding up the English Channel in convoy, she collided with the United States oil carrier O.B. Jennings. It appears that the naphtha, which was on board the latter vessel, ignited, and the two ships and surrounding water were soon enveloped in flames. The Master of the O.B. Jennings gave orders that all the ship’s available boats should be lowered, those on the starboard side were burnt, and the crew abandoned the ship in the port boats, whilst the Master, Chief Engineer, Chief Officer and three others remained on board. H.M.S. Garland, under the command of Lieutenant Fegen, with other destroyers, were proceeding to the spot to render assistance, when it was seen that one boat which had been lowered from the O.B. Jennings had been swamped. The Garland closed the O.B. Jennings, rescued the men from the swamped boat, and then proceeded alongside the ship, which was still blazing, and rescued those who were still on board. She afterwards proceeded to pick up the others who had left the ship in boats, rescuing in all four officers and twenty-two men. Lieutenant Fegen handled his ship in a very able manner under difficult conditions during the rescue of the survivors, while Quartermaster Driscoll worked the helm and saw that all orders to the engine-room were correctly carried out, and his actions during this rescue resulted in both being awarded Silver Sea Gallantry Medals.
A little later in his naval career, Fegen was seconded to the newly formed Royal Australian Navy, and during 1928-29, served as executive officer in the Royal Australian Naval College, which was located on Jervis Bay on the south coast of New South Wales. By coincidence, the vessel on which he later achieved fame (and death) was named after this bay.
World War II
He was 49 years old, and an acting captain in the Royal Navy during World War II when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
On 5 November 1940 in the Atlantic, Captain Fegen, commanding the armed merchantman HMS Jervis Bay, was escorting 37 ships of Convoy HX-84, when they were attacked by the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer. Captain Fegen immediately engaged the enemy head-on, thus giving the ships of the convoy time to scatter. Out-gunned and on fire Jervis Bay maintained the unequal fight for 22 minutes, although the captain’s right arm was shattered, and even after he died when the bridge was shot from under him. He went down with his ship but it was due to him that 31 ships of the convoy escaped including the SS San Demetrio.
He was remembered in Winston Churchill’s famous broadcast speech on 13 May 1945 “Five years of War”, as having defended Ireland’s honour:
“When I think of these days I think also of other episodes and personalities. I do not forget Lieutenant-Commander Esmonde, V.C., D.S.O., Lance-Corporal Kenneally, V.C., Captain Fegen, V.C., and other Irish heroes that I could easily recite, and all bitterness by Britain for the Irish race dies in my heart. I can only pray that in years which I shall not see, the shame will be forgotten and the glories will endure, and that the peoples of the British Isles and of the British Commonwealth of Nations will walk together in mutual comprehension and forgiveness.”
Captain James Joseph Bernard Jackman VC (19 March 1916 – 26 November 1941), was an Irish posthumous 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.
Jackman was 24 years old, and a captain commanding Z Company of 1st Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, part of the 70th Division, during the Second World War when the following deed took place during Operation Crusader for which he was awarded the VC. His citation in the London Gazette reads:
On 25th November, 1941, at Ed Duda, South East of Tobruk, Captain Jackman showed outstanding gallantry and devotion to duty above all praise when he was in command of a Machine Gun Company of The Royal Northumberland Fusiliers in the Tank attack on the Ed Duda ridge. His magnificent bearing was contributory in a large measure to the success of a most difficult and hard fought action. As the tanks reached the crest of the rise they were met by extremely intense fire from a large number of guns of all descriptions: the fire was so heavy that it was doubtful for a moment whether the Brigade could maintain its hold on the position.
The tanks having slowed to “hull-down” positions, settled to beat down the enemy fire, during which time Captain Jackman rapidly pushed up the ridge leading his Machine Gun trucks and saw at once that Anti-Tank Guns were firing at the flank of the tanks, as well as the rows of batteries which the tanks were engaging on their front.
He immediately started to get his guns into action as calmly as though he were on manoeuvres and so secured the right flank. Then, standing up in the front of his truck, with calm determination he led his trucks across the front between the tanks and the uns—there was no other road to get them into action on the left flank.
Most of the tank commanders saw him, and his exemplary devotion to duty regardless of danger not only inspired his own men but clinched the determination of the tank crews never to relinquish the position which they had gained.
Throughout he coolly directed the guns to their positions and indicated targets to them and at that time seemed to bear a charmed life but later he was killed while still inspiring everyone with the greatest confidence by his bearing.
Jackman’s Cross found its final home at his alma mater, Stonyhurst College, on permanent loan from his late sister’s family.
F/L Donald Edward Garland VC (28 June 1918 – 12 May 1940) was an Irish 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, Irish and Commonwealth forces.
Born in Ballincor, County Wicklow, Garland was a pupil at Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, Holland Park, London from 1929 to 1935, and left with a good all-round School Certificate.
After spending some time at an insurance office, he joined the RAF on a short-term commission. Mgr. Canon J. Vance, who became headmaster of Cardinal Vaughan School in 1928: “In those days I questioned young men closely before recommending their applications for short-term commissions because of a lurking fear that they might be forced to start life again at an awkward age, for Donald I had no misgivings whatever. He could start his life again at any time and was bound to succeed because of his independence and of his resourcefulness. I salute Garland’s great heroism”
Garland was 21 years old, and a Flying Officer in No. 12 Squadron, Royal Air Force during World War II, when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
On 12 May 1940, over the Albert Canal, Belgium, two bridges, Veldwezelt and Vroenhoven, were being used by the invading army, with protection from fighter aircraft, anti-aircraft and machine-guns. The RAF was ordered to demolish one of these vital bridges, and five Fairey Battle bombers were despatched with Flying Officer Garland leading the attack. They met an inferno of anti-aircraft fire, and the bridge was hit but not put out of commission. Garland and his navigator, Sergeant Thomas Gray, attacked the bridge at Veldwezelt. They died either crashing in the village of Lanaken, or in the hospital in Maastricht, Netherlands. Only one bomber managed to return to base. Sergeant Gray was also awarded the VC for this action in a joint citation with Garland.
Garland is buried at the Heverlee War Cemetery near Leuven, Belgium.
Both Garland and Gray were awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously. Leading Aircraftman Reynolds, the third member of the crew, did not receive a medal because he was not in a “decision making” position. Garland’s Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon, England.
He had three brothers, F/L Patrick James Garland, F/L John Cuthbert Garland, and P/O Desmond William Garland, who also served in the RAF. None survived the war.
Flight Lieutenant David Samuel Anthony Lord VC, DFC (18 October 1913 – 19 September 1944) was an Irish 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, Irish and Commonwealth forces.
David Lord was born on 18 October 1913 in Cork, Ireland, the son of Samuel (a Warrant Officer in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers) and Mary Lord.
After the First World War the family were posted to British India and Lord attended Lucknow Convent School. On his father’s retirement from the Army the family moved to Wrexham and then David was a pupil at St Mary’s College, Aberystwyth before attending the English Ecclesiastical College, Valladolid, Spain to study for the priesthood. Deciding the priesthood was not the career for him he returned to Wrexham before moving to London in the mid-1930s as a freelance writer. He enlisted in the RAF in 1936.
Second World War
He underwent pilot training, becoming a Sergeant Pilot in 1939 with No. 31 Squadron RAF on the North West Frontier, flying the Vickers Valentia biplane. In 1941 No. 31 squadron was the first unit to receive the Douglas DC-2 which was followed by both the Douglas DC-3 and Dakota transports. He flew in the Middle East, (being injured in a crash) before being posted back to India. Commissioned in 1942, he flew on supply missions over Burma.
Lord was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross during 1943 and by January 1944 had returned to the UK for service with No. 271 Squadron (based at RAF Down Ampney, Gloucestershire training to drop paratroops, supplies and to tow military gliders. He then took part in the D-Day operations in June 1944.
Battle of Arnhem
The Battle of Arnhem was part of Operation Market Garden, an attempt to secure a string of bridges through the Netherlands. At Arnhem the British 1st Airborne Division and Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade were tasked with securing bridges across the Lower Rhine, the final objectives of the operation. However, the airborne forces that dropped on 17 September were not aware that the 9th SS and 10th SS Panzer divisions were also near Arnhem for rest and refit. Their presence added a substantial number of Panzergrenadiers, tanks and Self-propelled guns to the German defenses and the Allies suffered heavily in the ensuing battle. Only a small force managed to hold one end of the Arnhem road bridge before being overrun on the 21st. The rest of the division became trapped in a small pocket west of the bridge and had to be evacuated on the 25th. The Allies failed to cross the Rhine, which remained under German control until Allied offensives in March 1945.
He was 30 years old, and a Flight Lieutenant in 271 Squadron, Royal Air Force during the Second World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
On 19 September 1944 during the Battle of Arnhem in the Netherlands, the British 1st Airborne Division was in desperate need of supplies. Flight Lieutenant Lord, flying Dakota III KG374 through intense enemy anti-aircraft fire was twice hit and had one engine burning. He managed to drop his supplies, but at the end of the run found that there were two containers remaining. Although he knew that one of his wings might collapse at any moment he nevertheless made a second run to drop the last supplies, then ordered his crew to bail out. A few seconds later the Dakota crashed in flames with its pilot and six crew.
Only the navigator, F/Lt Harold King survived, becoming a prisoner of war. It was only on his release in mid 1945 that the story of Lord’s action was known, and David Lord was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. David Lord is buried alongside his crew in Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery, near Arnhem.
Leading Seaman James Joseph Magennis VC (spelling originally McGinnes) (27 October 1919 – 12 February 1986) 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.
James McGinnes was born on 27 October 1919 at Majorca Street, West Belfast, Ireland. He was from a working class Roman Catholic family and attended St Finian’s Primary School on the Falls Road, Belfast until 3 June 1935 when enlisted in the Royal Navy as a boy seaman (spelling his surname Magennis). He served on several different warships between 1935 and 1942, when he joined the submarine branch. Before joining the submarine branch, Magennis served on the destroyer Kandahar which was mined off Tripoli, Libya, in December 1941 whilst Magennis was on board. The ship was irreparably damaged and was scuttled the following day. In December 1942, Magennis was drafted into the Submarine service and in March 1943 he volunteered for “special and Hazardous duties” — which meant Midget submarines, or X-craft. He trained as a diver, and in September 1943 took part in the first major use of the X-craft during Operation Source. Two submarines, HMS X7 and HMS X6, penetrated Kåfjord, Norway, and disabled the German battleship Tirpitz. For his part in the attack Magennis was mentioned in dispatches “for bravery and devotion to duty” in 1943.
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.
Award of the Victoria Cross
The citation was published in a supplement to the London Gazette of 9 November 1945 (dated 13 November 1945) and read:
Whitehall, 13th November, 1945.
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the VICTORIA CROSS for valour to:
Temporary Acting Leading Seaman James Joseph MAGENNIS, D/JX. 144907.
Leading Seaman Magennis served as Diver in His Majesty’s Midget Submarine XE-3 for her attack on 31 July 1945, on a Japanese cruiser of the Atago class. The diver’s hatch could not be fully opened because XE-3 was tightly jammed under the target, and Magennis had to squeeze himself through the narrow space available.
He experienced great difficulty in placing his limpets on the bottom of the cruiser owing both to the foul state of the bottom and to the pronounced slope upon which the limpets would not hold. Before a limpet could be placed therefore Magennis had thoroughly to scrape the area clear of barnacles, and in order to secure the limpets he had to tie them in pairs by a line passing under the cruiser keel. This was very tiring work for a diver, and he was moreover handicapped by a steady leakage of oxygen which was ascending in bubbles to the surface. A lesser man would have been content to place a few limpets and then to return to the craft. Magennis, however, persisted until he had placed his full outfit before returning to the craft in an exhausted condition. Shortly after withdrawing Lieutenant Fraser endeavoured to jettison his limpet carriers, but one of these would not release itself and fall clear of the craft. Despite his exhaustion, his oxygen leak and the fact that there was every probability of -his being sighted, Magennis at once volunteered to leave the craft and free the carrier rather than allow a less experienced diver to undertake the job. After seven minutes of nerve-racking work he succeeded in releasing the carrier. Magennis displayed very great courage and devotion to duty and complete disregard for his own safety.
Lieutenant Fraser was also awarded the VC for his part in the attack; whilst Sub-Lieutenant William James Lanyon Smith, RNZNVR, who was at the controls of XE3 during the attack, received the Distinguished Service Order (DSO); Engine Room Artificer Third Class Charles Alfred Reed, who was at the wheel, received the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal (CGM). HMS XE1 was supposed to be attacking another Japanese vessel as part of the same operation, but actually ended up also placing its explosives under the same target. XE1’s C/O, Lieutenant John Elliott Smart RNVR, and Sub-Lieutenant Harold Edwin Harper, RNVR received the DSC; and ERA Fourth Class Henry James Fishleigh and Leading Seaman Walter Henry Arthur Pomeroy received the Distinguished Service Medal. ERA Fourth Class Albert Nairn, Acting Leading Stoker Jack Gordan Robinson, and Able Seaman Ernest Raymond Dee were Mentioned in Despatches for their part in bringing the two midget submarines from harbour to the point where the crews that took part in the attack took over.
Memorial to Leading Seaman Magennis VC
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.
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.” 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.
Royal Naval Association, Great Victoria Street, Belfast
In 1986 at a memorial service in Bradford Cathedral, the Submarine Old Comrade Association (West Riding Branch) erected a memorial plaque on an inner wall within the Cathedral. The plaque made of Welsh slate was supplied by ex-submariner Tommy Topham MBE. Rear Admiral Place VC, CB, CVO, DSC unveiled the plaque. In attendance was Petty Officer Tommy “Nat” Gould, another submariner Victoria Cross recipient of the Second World War.
In 1998 a memorial plaque was installed by Castlereagh Borough Council on the wall of Magennis’s former home at 32 Carncaver Road, Castlereagh, East Belfast. A memorial blue plaque sponsored by Belfast City Council was installed on the outer wall of the Royal Naval Association building at Great Victoria Street, Belfast by the Ulster History Circle.
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. In July 2008 Lord Ashcroft announced a donation of £5 million for a permanent gallery at the Imperial War Museum, where Victoria Crosses already held by the museum will be put on display alongside his own. The Lord Ashcroft Gallery opened in 2010.
In the media
Magennis was profiled in the 2006 television docudrama Victoria Cross Heroes, which included archive footage, dramatisations of his actions and an interview with Lord Ashcroft about his VC.
Lieutenant Claude Raymond VC (2 October 1923 – 22 March 1945) was a British 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. As a member of an old County Kerry family with strong links to the Indian Army, Raymond is also regarded as an Irish VC.
Claud Raymond was the son of Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Claud Raymond CIE, MC, and Margaret Lilias Nancy Raymond (née Brown), of Fulham. He was 21 years old, and a Lieutenant in the Corps of Royal Engineers, British Army during the Second World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
On 21 March 1945 at Talaku, Burma (now Myanmar), Lieutenant Raymond was second-in-command of a reconnaissance patrol when they were fired on by a strongly entrenched enemy detachment and the lieutenant at once led his men towards the position. He was first wounded in the shoulder and then in the head, but continued leading his men forward, when he was hit a third time, his wrist being shattered. He still carried on into the enemy defences where he was largely responsible for capturing the position. In spite of the gravity of his wounds, he refused medical aid until all the other wounded had received attention. He died the next day, aged 21.
Raymond grew up in Seaford, Sussex, and is remembered on the town’s war memorial. A road in the town is also named after him.
Lieutenant Colonel Harold Marcus Ervine-Andrews VC (29 July 1911 – 30 March 1995) was an Irish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was educated by the Jesuits at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire and is one of seven recipients of the VC who were educated at Stonyhurst.
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.
Victoria Cross citation
The announcement and accompanying citation for the decoration was published in supplement to the London Gazette on 30 July 1940, reading:
War Office, 30th July, 1940.
His Majesty The KING has been pleased to approve of the award of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned: —
Lieutenant (acting Captain) (now Captain) Harald Marcus ERVINE-ANDREWS, The East Lancashire Regiment.
For most conspicuous gallantry on active service on the night of the 31st May/1st June, 1940. Captain Ervine-Andrews took over about a thousand yards of the defences in front of Dunkirk, his line extending along the Canal de Bergues, and the enemy attacked at dawn. For over ten hours, notwithstanding intense artillery, mortar, and machine-gun fire, and in the face of vastly superior enemy forces, Captain Ervine-Andrews and his company held their position.
The enemy, however, succeeded in crossing the canal on both flanks; and, owing to superior enemy forces, a company of Captain Ervine-Andrews’ own battalion, which was dispatched to protect his flanks, was unable to gain contact with him. There being danger of one of his platoons being driven in, he called for volunteers to fill the gap, and then, going forward, climbed onto the top of a straw-roofed barn, from which he engaged the enemy with rifle and light automatic fire, though, at the time, the enemy were sending mortar-bombs and armour-piercing bullets through the roof.
Captain Ervine-Andrews personally accounted for seventeen of the enemy with his rifle, and for many more with a Bren gun. Later, when the house which he held had been shattered by enemy fire and set alight, and all his ammunition had been expended, he sent back his wounded in the remaining carrier. Captain Ervine-Andrews then collected the remaining eight men of his company from this forward position, and, when almost completely surrounded, led them back to the cover afforded by the company in the rear, swimming or wading up to the chin in water for over a mile; having brought all that remained of his company safely back, he once again took up position.
Throughout this action, Captain Ervine-Andrews displayed courage, tenacity, and devotion to duty, worthy of the highest traditions of the British Army, and his magnificent example imbued his own troops with the dauntless fighting spirit which he himself displayed.
Post-World War II
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.
He later achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel. The last Irish VC to die on 30 March 1995, aged 83. His memorial is at Stonyhurst College, Clitheroe, Lancashire. His VC is held at Blackburn Museum.
Harold Ervine-Andrews married Emily Torrie in 1939 with whom he had two children; a girl born in 1941 and a boy in 1943. Their marriage was dissolved in 1952. She died in 1975, thus permitting him to remarry, in 1981, to Margaret Gregory. This union was childless.