James Joseph Magennis VC
Name: James Joseph Magennis
Conflict: Second World War
Gazetted: November 13, 1945
Service: Royal Navy
James Joseph Magennis VC
Place/date of birth: Belfast, Northern Ireland/October 27, 1919
Rank when awarded VC (and later highest rank): Acting Leading Seaman
Date of bravery: July 31, 1945
London Gazette citation:
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 31st July, 1945, on a Japanese cruiser of the Atago class. Owing to the fact that 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 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.
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Other decorations: N/A
Place/date of death: Halifax, Yorkshire/February 12, 1986
Grave/memorials: Nab Wood Cemetery and Crematorium, Shipley, Yorkshire; City Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland; Garrison Church, Portsea, Hampshire
Origin of VC to the Lord Ashcroft collection: Purchased at auction, Sotheby’s, London, 1986
Current location of VC: Displayed on rotation at The Lord Ashcroft Gallery: Extraordinary Heroes exhibition, Imperial War Museum