Magennis VC – 75th anniversary of Operation Struggle
Last Friday 31st July 2020 was the 75th anniversary of Operation Struggle, the action in which James Magennis earned the Victoria Cross for his role in the attack on the Japanese cruiser, Takao.
Published in November 1945 his citation read;
‘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.’
A year later, his portrait in oils by Belfast artist Robert Taylor Carson was unveiled. After its display in the Ulster Academy of Art Exhibition it was purchased and donated to what is now the Northern Ireland War Memorial.
Pictured below, the painting of Northern Ireland’s only Second World War VC winner hangs proudly on display in the museum.
Head to our Learning Tab: http://www.niwarmemorial.org/learning-resources/ and have a go at our Colouring Challenge of James Magennis inspired by Robert Taylor Carson’s portrait. Remember to tag us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #niwarmemorial so we can see your wonderful work.