|THE POSTHUMOUS VICTORIA CROSS AWARDED TO LEADING SEAMAN JACK MANTLE ( HMS FOYLEBANK ), ROYAL NAVY, HAS BEEN LOANED TO THE ROYAL NAVAL MUSEUM IN PORTSMOUTH.|
|15 June 2006|
( select to enlarge )
|Medal entitlement of Leading Seaman Jack Mantle,
|The Victoria Cross and other medals awarded to Leading Seaman Jack Mantle have been loaned to the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth.
British harbours were dangerous places at the beginning of the Second World War for they were attractive targets for enemy squadrons based in nearby France. The capitulation of France in mid-1940 had left Britain exposed. Dive bombers singled out one British harbour after another and on 4th July 1940 it was the turn of Portland, where some convoys had assembled. Part of the protecting force was the armed merchant cruiser HMS Foylebank and one of its 40 mm rapid-fire pom-pom guns was manned by 23-year-old Leading Seaman Jack Mantle of Wandsworth, London.
Mantle already had a reputation, being at that time one of the few naval gunners on convoy protection duty to have shot down a German raider. He had done this with an old-fashioned Lewis light machine gun while serving on a French ship and for this feat had been Mentioned in Despatches.
On 4th July 1940 he reclined in his gunner's swivel chair and faced the fearful sight of more than 20 Stukas diving at him, firing their machine guns and dropping bombs. His exemplary gallantry under fire was witnessed by Foylebank's captain, P.J. Wilson. Foylebank was sunk and Jack Mantle lost his life. His VC citation on 3rd September 1940 is brief and poignant.
For the award of the Victoria Cross.
[ London Gazette, 3 September 1940 ], Portland Harbour, England, 4 July 1940, Leading Seaman Jack Foreman Mantle, Royal Navy.
Leading Seaman Jack Mantle was in charge of the Starboard pom-pom gun when HMS Foylebank was attacked by enemy aircraft on the 4th of July 1940. Early in the action his left leg was shattered by a bomb, but he stood fast at his gun and went on firing with hand-gear only: for the ship's electric power had failed. Almost at once he was wounded again in many places. Between his bursts of fire he had time to reflect on the grievous injuries of which he was soon to die but his great courage bore him up till the end of the fight, when he fell by the gun he had so valiantly served.
Jack Mantle's Victoria Cross was the only one awarded to the Navy for an act of valour on mainland Britain. He had joined the Navy at the age of 16 and, fittingly, he was buried in the Royal Naval Cemetery, Portland Bill, Dorset.
Iain Stewart, 15 June 2006