15 April 2007

Victoria Cross: I. E. Fraser and J. J. Magennis


Lieutenant, Royal Naval Reserve; commanding HM Midget Submarine XE-3

Born: 18 December 1920, Ealing, London
Died: 1 September 2008, Wirral, Merseyside

Citation: Lieutenant Fraser commanded His Majesty's Midget Submarine XE-3 in a successful attack on a Japanese heavy cruiser of the Atago class at her moorings in Johore Strait, Singapore, on 31st July, 1945. During the long approach up the Singapore Straits XE-3 deliberately left the believed safe channel and entered the mined waters to avoid suspected hydrophone posts. The target was aground, or nearly aground, both fore and aft, and only under the midships portion was there just sufficient water for XE-3 to place herself under the cruiser. For forty minutes XE-3 pushed her way along the seabed until finally, Lieutenant Fraser managed to force her right under the centre of the cruiser. Here he placed the limpets and dropped his main side charge. Great difficulty was experienced in extricating the craft after the attack had been completed, but finally XE-3 was clear, and commenced her long return journey out to sea. The courage and determination of Lieutenant Fraser are beyond all praise. Any man not possessed of his relentless determination to achieve his objective in full, regardless of all consequences, would have dropped his side charge alongside the target instead of persisting until he had forced his submarine right under the cruiser. The approach and withdrawal entailed a passage of 80 miles through water which had been mined by both the enemy and ourselves, past hydrophone positions, over loops and controlled minefields, and through an antisubmarine boom.

(London Gazette Issue 37346 dated 13 Nov 1945, published 9 Nov 1945.)


Temporary Acting Leading Seaman, Royal Navy; HM Midget Submarine XE-3

Born: 22 October 1919, Belfast, Ireland
Died: 12 February 1986, Halifax, Yorkshire

Citation: 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. Because XE-3 was tightly jammed under the target the diver's hatch could not be fully opened, and Magennis had to squeeze himself through the narrow space available.
He experienced great difficulty in placing the limpets on the bottom of the cruiser owing both to the foul state of the cruisers 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 clean 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 Lt. 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.

(London Gazette Issue 37346 dated 13 Nov 1945, published 9 Nov 1945.)

Note: The cruiser which XE-3 attacked was the Takao.
Temporary Sub-Lieutenant William J L Smith RNZNVR, of XE-3, and Lieutenant John E Smart RNVR, of XE-1 (which had accompanied XE-3 on this mission), were made Companions of the Distinguished Service Order. Temporary Leading Seaman Walter H A Pomeroy and Engine Room Artificer Fourth Class Henry J Fishleigh, who served as crew on XE-3 and XE-1, were awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

Update 1123 3 Sep 08: Added death date for Lieut Fraser.

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