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San Demetrio London

San Demetrio London

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San Demetrio London  The San Demetrio of the title is a British merchant ship in an Atlantic convoy in 1940. Disabled and left to the mercy of patrolling U-boats the crew must keep her afloat and out of harms way.

Quite a shock

San Demetrio London  The captain of the Jervis Bay, Captain E. S. F. Fegen Royal Navy, was the escort commander for convoy HX84 traveling between Halifax and Great Britain.

The Jervis Bay was an armed merchant cruiser only equipped with four inch guns but quite adequate to deal with any German U boats which might happen to ‘ chance their arm. ‘

It was therefore quite a shock when he encountered the German pocket battleship, Admiral Scheer in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Certainly not where he would have expected a German surface raider to be.

Taking a gamble Captain Fegen engaged the raider, itself equipped with radar controlled eleven inch guns, and thus allowed the convoy a further twenty minutes to escape into the darkness which by that time was beginning to fall.

Several of the merchant ships were still badly damaged subsequently by the Admiral Scheer. San Demetrio was abandoned by her captain and crew, but later rejoined by part of her crew without the captain. This latter point together with the refusal to accept assistance once in home waters allowed the insurers to make salvage payments to all who embarked on the perilous voyage.

A member of the party interviewed after the war said that the men would have made every effort to save the ship and cargo in any event. Great Britain being upon its knees and fighting alone for her very existence against Germany, Italy and Japan with a neutral USSR and USA observing with a casual interest.

The King later awarded Captain Fegen the Victoria Cross in recognition of the courageous sacrifice of himself and his crew.

The film renders an entertaining account of this anal of the sea.

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