Why No VC for HMS Rawalpindi Commander, Captain Kennedy?

April 21, 2009

Why No VC for HMS Rawalpindi Commander?

Hello Mac:

I have been doing some research and came up with a question that perhaps you can answer.

HMS Jervis Bay, outgunned,  bravely fights Admiral Scheer. Loses. Captain Fegen is awarded VC.

HMS Rawlpindi , outgunned, bravely fights Gneisenau and Scharnhorst. Loses. Captain Kennedy is "mentioned in dispatches".

I realize the "Mentioned in Dispatches" is an honor accorded to few, but Captain Kennedy's actions would seem to merit a VC.

Am I missing something here?

I am a Texan and have a fine appreciation of the fight against the hopeless odds, simply to protect the greater good (  that's the story of the Alamo), and both of these officers did that in spades. Captain Fegen has been honored at the highest level, but Captain Kennedy does not seem to have been given his just due.

Your thoughts would be appreciated.


Greg Taggart GKTTxAg@aol.com
College Station, Texas

Hello Greg,

Nice to hear from you, and you pose an interesting question.

In the case of Captain Fegan in Jervis Bay his ship was the sole escort for 37 Merchant Ships, when Admiral Scheer attacked his convoy, he ordered them to scatter, and faced an unwinnable and fatal battle with the German ship.

Although 5 Merchant Ships were sunk, Fegan bought enough time by his sacrifice to alllow 32 ships and their crews to escape.

Captain Fegen was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross as a result of this action. The citation for the Victoria Cross reads "Valour in challenging hopeless odds and giving his life to save the many ships it was his duty to protect."

It is recognised that his action saved many ships and lives.

In Captain Kennedy's action, it was an Armed Merchant Ship against Gneisnau and Sharnhorst.

Again the odds were were too high, but no other ships were saved, a totally different set of circumstances altogether.

I think that luck pays a big part in wartime awards, to be awarded a VC or not is often about timing, who makes the recommendation, the need to celebrate a hero etc.

The Royal Australian Navy has never been awarded a VC, although many would argue, including myself, that three actions could well have seen such an award made.

Captain Hector Waller in HMAS Perth.

Ordinary Seaman Sheehan in HMAS Armidale.

Lieutenant Commander Rankin in HMAS Yarra.

With best wishes,


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