Reginald Jamison (1878 – 1942)


   1. His childhood

Reginald Jamison was born on 8 September 1878 at St Helens, Lancashire, England. He was christened on 17 Nov 1878 at the Prescot Parish of St Helens.1

Reginald was the only son and the second of three children born to Dr Arthur Andrew Jamison (1844 – 1900) and Isabella Green (1841 – 1937). Reginald’s older sister was Evelyn Mary “Evie” (1877 – 1972) and his younger sister was Catherine “Kit” (1880 – 1968). At the time of his birth, Reginald’s father was the local medical practitioner and surgeon of St Helens. About ten years later, the family moved to 18 Lowndes Street, Belgrave Square, Middlesex, (now Belgravia in London), England where they stayed for more than 40 years.2-5

Reginald completed his schooling at St Paul’s School at 153 Hammersmith Road, Hammersmith, London.6 The selective independent school for boys, aged 13 to 18, was founded in 1509 by John Colet, an unmarried priest with no family who inherited a substantial fortune. A large portion of this he used towards the school to fulfil his great desire to educate children and bring them up in good manners and literature. In the late 1960s the school moved to a larger site located on the Thames River in Barnes, London.7Reginald lived during the reign of Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V, before leaving for the Union of South Africa. All three monarchs were considered worthy rulers of the British Empire. The Victorian era saw the expansion of the British Empire through the colonization of Africa, Middle East and Asia. Better living conditions and improved medical and schooling systems emerged. It was generally a time of peace and prosperity. 8-11 Reginald, who was fortunate to grow up in an upper-middle class home, was able to attend the best schools and university.2,6 He definitely benefitted from the social changes that materialised during the course of Queen Victoria’s reign, but also from the hard work of his grandfather and great-grandfather who sought to create better lives for their families and following generations. As the eldest son, Edward VII succeeded his mother Queen Victoria, as king to the throne of the United Kingdom. The Edwardian era from 1901 to 1910 was a peaceful period, with further advances in technology and society. King George V, the second son of King Edward VII, reigned from 1910 to 1936. This era was characterized by radical changes in the political landscape. A rise in socialism, communism, fascism and Irish republicanism was observed. The Indian independence movement grew. And, World War I (The Great War of 1914 to 1918) and the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-1919 caused havoc in Europe.8-11

   2. His wife

Reginald Jamison married Eanswythe Elstrith Heyworth on 9 April 1908 at St George, Hanover Square, London, England.6,12 Together they had four sons, Peter Lawrence (*1909), Antony Geoffrey (*1910), Robin Ralph (*1912) and Reginald Ivor Heyworth (*1916).5,13,14

Eanswythe’s parents were Colonel Lawrence Heyworth (1831 – 1903) and Rosina Kate “Rose” Mortimer (1844 – 1936).15 Eanswythe was born on 20 November 1877 at Waun Fawr, her parents’ house at Risca, Newport, Monmountshire, Wales.5,16,17 Risca is a small village in the Newport district in the county of Monmouthshire. It lies about 10 km northwest of Newport. The village is on the river Ebbw and the Crumlin Canal with the Sirhowy and Newport railways passing through it.17 She was one of eleven children, and the twin sister of Heyworth Potter Lawrence Heyworth, who was killed in action, aged 37, in 1915 in Turkey during World War I. Heyworth was also the only son of four who survived into adulthood. The other three brothers all died within one year of birth.5,14 READ MORE on the Heyworths.

Eanswythe moved with her husband and children to South Africa in 1921. Although the family took happily to their new life, Eanswythe found herself homesick for England and her extended family, therefore also her desire to see her sons complete there secondary education in the United Kingdom (known as High School in South Africa).18 Four years after their move to South Africa, Eanswythe died on 8 July 1925 at the age of 47 years at Seapoint, Cape Town (Kaapstad in Afrikaans). She was buried at the Maitland Cemetery.5,19  The death of their mother, must have impacted the young boys tremendously. Peter, Antony, Robin and Ivor were 16 years, 15 years, 13 years and 9 years old, respectively, at the time of Eanswythe’s death.

Eanswythe set up her will in London on 14 October 1920 in the presence of two witnesses, Rose Heyworth, her mother and Evie Jamison, her sister-in-law sister. She bequeathed her real and personal estate to her husband and if he would die before she did, to her four sons in equal shares. She appointed her two sisters Winifred Kennard (neé Heyworth) and Gundreda Heyworth as guardians should her children be minors in the event of the simultaneous death of both their parents. Reginald was appointed sole executor of her estate.20 The will was possibly arranged in preparation for their move to Cape Town in 1921.

   3. His career

Reginald graduated in 1905 in medicine (MA BM BCh) at Trinity College, University of Oxford in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England.4 The College was founded as a training house for Catholic priests in the 16th century. It became a pillar of the Anglican Community in the 17th and 18th century. In the 19th century it developed further into a centre of educational reform as part of the Oxford University.21 Reginald completed his supplementary training at St Bartholomew Hospital (St Barts), and then remained there serving over time as Interne Midwifery Assistant, as Clinical Assistant in the department Outpatients for Diseases of Women and as House Surgeon to Dr William Harrison Cripps (1850-1923).6 Dr Cripps studied at St Barts too, and after graduating in 1875, was appointed House Surgeon. He made his name as rectal specialist, abdominal surgeon and medical teacher. He was a dynamic man and a medical visionary with a quick wit. He retired in 1909 and became a Governor of St Barts.22,23

William H. Cripps was the husband of Blanche Potter (1852-1905), the daughter of Richard Potter (1817-1892) and Lawrencina Heyworth (1821-1882), and first cousin of Eanswythe Elstrith Heyworth. Lawrencina was the sister of Colonel Lawrence Heyworth, father of Eanswythe – the future wife of Dr Reginald Jamison.23,24 Did Dr Cripps perhaps play a match-making role by introducing his skilled House Surgeon to his lovely niece? Just a thought, though…..  How did they meet otherwise?

After completing an additional apprenticeship and the related examination, he received a diploma that allowed Reginald to work as a senior surgeon (specialist in modern terms equal to gynaecologist) in Ireland and United Kingdom. On 10 October 1907, Reginald became a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) and a Fellow (FRCS) on 12 December 1907.  In 1909, Reginald published a book, in collaboration with Dr Herbert Williamson, titled “A Guide to the study of the specimens in the sections of obstetrics and gynaecology. Museum of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.”6

He married Eaynswythe in 1908. By 1911, his family lived at 27 The Causeway, Horsham, Sussex, England. They had four domestic servants in their employment: Margaret Croft (Nurse), Mary Elizabeth Gaincher (Servant), Edith Harriett Mitchell (Parlourmaid) and Ellen Grace Page (Cook).14

Reginald enlisted during World War I and was gazetted Captain on 14 May 1918 and promoted to acting Lieutenant-Colonel on 28 July 1919. He served as consulting surgeon with the North Russian Expeditionary Force in 1919 and was mentioned during dispatches.6 Britain, France and America intervened in the October Revolution during the Russian Civil War (1917-1922) by supporting the White Movement, a loose confederation of anti-communist forces under the headship of Alexander Kolchak. The goal of the Allied Forces was to protect their military stockpiles at Arkhangelsk (Archangel in English) in North Russia from falling into the hands of the German Forces or Marxist Bolshevics (Red Movement). The communistic Bolshevic Movement, led by Vladimir Lenin, was the main instigator of the Russian Civil War which led to the overthrow of the rule of Tsar Nicolas II, who was a cousin of King George V of the United Kingdom. (Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany also was a cousin of King George V, but they didn’t get along well). The Allied Forces, together with the White Army, also sought to defeat the advancing communistic Red Army of Lenin. However, increasing mutiny and desertion amongst White soldiers forced the Allied forces to eventually withdraw by 1920. The combination of World War I and the Russian Revolution left Russia devastated.25,26Reginald received a military decoration for his services in the Royal Fusiliers.27 Also, his article “Two cases of traumatic aneurysm of the common carotid [in soldiers wounded in the North Russian campaign]” was published in the British Medical Journal of 1919, vol 2, p 489.6 The Americans referred to the North Russia Intervention as the Polar Bear Expedition, and rightly so. Arkhangelsk has a humid subarctic continental climate with cool summers and no dry season. Winter temperatures range from -5 °C to -20 °C.26,28 The wet, icy cold winters of Russia undermined Reginald’s own physical condition and specifically his respiratory health, which led to the development of severe asthma. Upon returning to England after the war, the asthma persisted. Clean air and a drier, warmer climate was advised, thus his move from cold, wet England to settling his family in beautiful, sunny Cape Town in the Union of South Africa in 1921.6,18,29,30 The boys were respectively 12, 11, 9 and 5 years old upon their arrival in Table Bay. Reginald continued to practice medicine in Cape Town, running a family practice from his house.30,31Reginald became a keen yachtsman and member of the Royal Cape Yacht Club in Cape Town. He took his four sons sailing off the Cape Town coast at every possible opportunity. Reginald participated in many races and often walked away with the winning trophy or cup. He also became an avid yacht builder. His son, Robin used most of his spare time to assist his father in the design and construction of ocean-going yachts. These ‘Royal Cape One Design’ yachts were of such good craftsmanship that they were in high demand among yacht racers. Reginald’s own two yachts, Parergon I and Parergon II took part in many sailing contests held off Cape Town. He was Commodore (Chairman) of the yacht club for some time and was greatly admired for his seaman- and yacht-building abilities. His youngest son, Ivor also became an enthusiastic yachtsman and was a prominent member of the Yacht Club until the 1980s. The Dr Jamison Cup is still awarded at the annual Lufthansa Twilight Summer Series in the category Div 4 CATS & Cruisers. Reginald was still in the process of building a new yacht called the Parergon III – a heavy weather, 45-footer boat – when he fell ill and eventually passed away.5,13,29,30,32-34   4. His death

Reginald died at the age 63 years, 4 months on 4 January 1942 from a combination of pneumonia and infectious polyneuritis (also known as Guillain-Barre Syndrome). At the time of his death, he still recided in the family house called Redbourne (now Flamingo apartment and shops) on 148 Main Street, Sea Point, Cape Town. He died at Groote Schuur Hospital, Mowbray, Cape Town and was buried at the Maitland Cemetery. His death notice was signed off by J. Geoff, his housekeeper at the time of his passing.35,36 His estate was settled after the war on 7 June 1946.37Reginald might have had a peaceful childhood during the late Victorian era, but his adult life was marred by the horrors of world wars, having himself enlisted in the British Army during World War 1 and seeing his sons enlisted in either the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and South African Army during World War II (WW2). One son died just as the war started in a submarine accident. Another ended up a prisoner-of-war camp for the remainder of the war, but this knowledge he was spared as this occurred five months after his death. Dr Reginald Jamison, a man who never remarried after his wife died, continued to raise his minor sons and ensured that they were educated in England, as his wife had wished for. To me, he seemed to have been a man of quiet courage. In a tribute by one of Reginald’s colleagues, he’s described as a well-informed scholar, a good doctor, a brilliant surgeon, an avid yacht builder, a loyal friend and a man with high standards and a quiet, shy, gentle disposition. Read his full obituary here.

   5. His children

All four children of Reginald and Eanswythe were born in the United Kingdom, but they spend a part of their childhood in the Union of South Africa.  All of them eventually returned permanently to Britain, except for the youngest who remained in South Africa until his death.

5.1 Peter Lawrence

The eldest son, Peter Lawrence was born on 20 February 1909 at Paddington, Marylebone, Middlesex, London, England.5.13,29,38,39 He returned to England for his secondary education at Dartmouth Community College (now Dartmouth Academy), Dartmouth, Devon, England.18,39,40 Peter thereafter joined the Royal Navy on 15 September 1922 as a Cadet, and four years later on 30 April 1926 completed his officer’s training at the Britannia Royal Navy College, also at Dartmouth.39,40 He never returned to South Africa again.30

On 1 May 1926, Peter served for the first time as Midshipman on one of the navy’s ship, the HMS (His Majesty’s Ship) Ramillies. For the next five years he served on various cruisers such as the HMS Renown, HMS Warwick and HMS Vanessa, while moving up to the rank of Sub-Lieutenant.5,39 Thereafter, he volunteered for the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm (FAA), and from 17 May 1931 to 27 April 1932 completed his flying training at Leuchars Station near the historic town of St Andrews on the east coast of Scotland. During this time, on 1 July 1931 at the age of 22, he was promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant. After completing his training, until the outbreak of WW2, Peter Jamison served on various cruisers and aircraft carriers. It included spending two years on the Senior Officer’s ship in the Fishery Protection Flotilla (now Overseas Patrol Squadron) and more than two years at the China Station.39,42

At the age of 27 years, just eight months before the outbreak of the war, Peter married the 17 year-old Catherine Betty Partridge (7 October 1919 – May 2004) on 19 December 1936 at All Saints Church, Marylebone, Middelsex, London.5,13,39,41,43,44 A year after his marriage to Betty, Peter inherited the Mortimer fortune from his maternal grandmother, Rosina Kate Heyworth (née Mortimer) (1844-1936), as there were no remaining direct Mortimer or Heyworth male heirs alive. Rosina Mortimer was the only child of John Baskerville Mortimer and Susan Roden Bates (neé Payne) and thus the sole heir of her father’s large fortune. She was therefore the last generation that would carry the Mortimer family name, since there were no brothers, and thus no one to pass on the family name to future generations. Also, Rosina’s only son died in 1915 in World War I. Therefore, according to family folklore, a request was made to the extended family – a male relative who was willing to take on the Mortimer family name, would be the heir to a rather attractive inheritance package. Peter Lawrence Jamison, the eldest of the four sons of Reginald and Eanswythe Jamison felt obliged and accepted the arrangement.13,30 Added to this, he also inherited property from a distant relative, Charles Lysaght Mortimer (1850 – 1937).  On 23 February 1938, Peter Lawrence Jamison was granted an official Coat of Arms by the Royal Charter. In the same Charter he changed his surname from Jamison to Mortimer by Deed Poll which was signed by the Knights of the Garter.39

During WW2, when Peter was in his early thirties, he served as a naval aircraft pilot, carrying the rank of Lieutenant-Commander (ranked on 1 July 1939). About 18 months into the war on 1 April 1941, Peter was appointed the first commanding officer of the newly established No 831 Albacore Squadron, a torpedo/spotter/reconnaissance unit.39,41 Six months later, on 11 October 1941, the squadron joined the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable, which was at that time near Jamaica where it had completed contractors trials required for commissioning.39,45,46 The ship initially carried only Albacore biplanes, with Barracudas steadily being introduced over time and replacing the three-manned Albacores altogether by May 1943.39,45 The Barracuda and the Albacore, nicknamed “Apple Core”, were both torpedo dive bombers but were rather under-powered for the torpedo load they carried. It took some nerves to take off on the short runway of a moving carrier knowing that your fully-loaded aircraft will first drop towards the swelling sea before it had enough thrust and power to climb towards the sky.47,48 But these men did it, anyway! LOOK HERE at flying Albacore planes during WW2.Peter Mortimer described his experience serving on the HMS Indomitable in 1941 and 1942 as the “most eventful period of the war!” 39 Soon after he and his squadron boarded the HMS Indomitable, she sailed from Jamaica via Cape Town in the Union of South Africa towards Aden. These pilots participated in several skirmishes in the Indian Ocean. After trying to reinforce Singapore just before its capture, the HMS Indomitable joined the Eastern Fleet in defending Ceylon. With the Japanese forces gaining ground in the Far East, significant pressure was put on the main military and supply sea routes of the Allied Forces in the Indian Ocean.39,49,50

Because of the presence of Axis forces in the Indian Ocean, the Allied leaders feared that the Japanese would occupy Madagascar next, because from there Japan could easily gain control of the sea route around the Cape. They could then without effort occupy Simonstown (also spelled Simon’s Town) that hosted the Royal Navy’s Africa Station, a strategically important naval base equipped with crucial and adequate docking, repair and maintenance facilities for all the Allied naval forces. Even during the interwar period of 1920s – 1930s, the South African naval base continued to be of vital importance. Patrolling warships based at Simonstown continued to protect the Atlantic and Cape sea trade routes as well as the African coastline stretching from Gambia in East Africa, down to Cape Town and up east toward Mozambique.49-53

As a matter of fact, since 1942 lurking U-boats, which were German submarines, had already been spotted in South African waters and they sank several military vessels and merchant ships with cargo and war supplies. Many times warning shots were fired from the forts at Cape Town harbour at these preying U-boats. Madagascar was a French colony, but after the invasion of northern France in 1940, France effectively became a German puppet colony known as Vichy-France.49,50,52 Before the Vichy-France government could come up with the bright idea of handing Madagascar to Japan on a silver plate, so to speak, the Allied powers executed Operation Ironclad. On 20 April 1942, the HMS Indomitable with Peter Mortimer on-board joined the military convoy to Madagascar.39,45,48 Between 3 and 5 May 1942, his squadron provided significant aerial support during the assault on Diego Suarez, a major seaport of Madagascar. Peter and his squadron launched attacks in support of shore operations and provided air cover for assault shore landings. From Diego Suarez the occupation of the whole island was orchestrated in the following months, particularly during September to November. For his conduct during Operation Ironclad, Peter Mortimer received the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery and enterprise in July 1942.39,45,49-52A mere two months after Operation Ironclad, the HMS Indomitable was deployed to Gibraltar to partake in Operation Pedestal in August 1942.39,45,54 It was a British operation aimed to carry supplies to the island of Malta in the central Mediterranean Sea. A British air and naval base was stationed at Malta from where the supply route to the North African Allied forces based in Egypt were defended. From Malta, the Royal Navy and Air Force also attacked Axis supply convoys and combat airplanes en route to Libya. Malta was already under severe pressure from the Axis forces, and if the island was to be lost, the Allied powers would lose all presence in the central Mediterranean.54,55 On 3 August 1942 the Pedestal convoy of 50 ships sailed from Britain. Of these, 14 were merchant ships including an American oil tanker, the SS Ohio. The rest of the convoy was aircraft carriers, battleships, destroyers, corvettes, minesweepers and submarines, all tasked to provide air and sea cover of the 14 cargo and supply vessels. The Mediterranean was surrounded by the Nazi, Italian and Vichy France powers who ruled over the central Mediterranean and it made this operation extremely dangerous, like entering the lion’s den. However, on the night of 10 August – as quiet as mice – the convoy passed through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea and set out on a 72 hour-long voyage to Malta. The convoy soon came under the fierce and non-stop attack of Axis submarines, torpedo boats and bombers. Peter Mortimer and the Albacore Squadron under his command fought back bravely. At 18:30 on 12 August, the Indomitable was hit by the three armour-piercing bombs. Fortunately her Albacores were already airborne and were diverted to land on HMS Victorious, from where they continued operating for the duration of the operation. On the HMS Indomitable the lives of ten men were lost. When the fires were eventually brought under control with difficulty, the crippled ship returned to Gibraltar. Only 5 of the original 14 merchant ships, including the limping oil tanker, reached Malta. In total, approximately 500 lives were lost. Despite the many casualties and losses, the operation was a massive strategic victory. Enough supplies and fuel were delivered to the population and military forces on Malta to resist the enemy, and therefore secure the continued presence of the Royal Navy and Air Force in the central Mediterranean Sea. The HMS Indomitable was able to return to England for repairs.39,45,54-56

After Operation Pedestal, Peter was transferred to the Fairey Aviation Company at Hayes, a town 20 km west of London. He was representing the Ministry of Aircraft Production and as Overseer of the Navy’s Fairy Firefly project was responsible for the development, production and timely delivery of the aircraft while meeting all quality requirements. This involved cutting red tape while working at director’s level and  ensuring smooth working of the parent firm with daughter firms such as General Aicraft Ltd. at Hamworth. It was a considerable responsibility! From 1 September 1945 until 22 July 1947, he was lend to the Royal Canadian Navy to head the establishment of their first Fleet Air Arm squadron. He served as Air-Commander of their first aircraft carrier called HMS Warrior.39After two years in Canada, Peter returned to England where he was appointed Staff Officer (Plans) at the Headquarters of Flag Officer Air (Home) based at HMS Daedalus, the Royal Naval Air Station at Lee-on-the-Solent, a seaside town 8 km west of Portsmouth, Hampshire.39,57,58 He was responsible for the planning and organisation of the 24 Naval air stations in the Home Air Command. He served in this post for seven year until his retirement from the Navy on his 45th birthday on 20 February 1954, in the rank of Commander. He received several awards during his lifetime as a naval officer, including being made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in recognition of his service.39 An MBE is the third highest ranking Order of the British Empire award (excluding a knighthood/damehood). It is awarded for an outstanding achievement or service to the community which has had a long-term, significant impact.39,59 Peter looked for other work opportunities after he left the Navy, but eventually retired to his farm,  called Lower Farm at Whitsbury, near Fordingbridge in Hampshire, England, where he died at the age of 53 years on 23 September 1962.39,60 There were two settlements from the estate: to his wife on 2 November 1962 and jointly to his son and brother-in-law on 17 May 1963.60

Peter and Betty Mortimer had two children; a son, Charles Peter Lysaght (*ca 1939) and a daughter, Rosina Elizabeth Mary (6 June 1950, Liss, Hampshire, England – 7 January 1980, Inverness, Scotland). Rosina was buried in the Tomnahurich Cemetery at Inverness. Betty missed her daughter terribly and requested to be buried in the same plot as her daughter, who had died at the age of 29.5,13,29,39

Their son, Charles Mortimer initially immigrated as a young man to Canada but later moved to the United States of America, where he met and married his wife, Virginia Cropsey (*26 September 1944). They have one child, Stephen. Charles and Virginia are currently living in Mansfield, Texas.5,13,39   5.2 Antony Geoffrey

The second son of Reginald and Eanswythe, Antony Geoffrey “Tony” was born on 5 March 1910 in Horsham, Sussex, England, United Kingdom. He followed in his older brother’s footstep’s, returned to England and completed his secondary level education and naval officer’s training at Dartmouth.5,13,18,29,61

On 4 September 1934, Lieutenant Antony Jamison joined the crew of the light C-Class Cruiser, HMS Carlisle, which was recommissioned at Devonport (previously Plymouth Dock) in south-western England for a further two-and-a-half years’ duty at the Africa Station based at Simonstown. Royal naval forces, together with South African forces, were still patrolling the South, East and West African waters during the interwar period of the 1920s – 1930s.53 Being posted to South Africa, gave Antony the opportunity to visit his widowed father in Cape Town.

Sailors were often entertained with various sporting fixtures and garden parties. One such party was arranged in February 1935 at Admiralty House in Simon’s Town, the Headquarters of Vice-Admiral E.R.G.T Evans, the Commander of the Africa Station. Lieutenant Jamison and fellow officers attended.53 Were these younger officers ‘volunteered’ for garden party duty? Nonetheless, they were ‘flying the flag’ and most politely engaged in social conversation with the burghers and ladies of the town. For some younger generation individuals, these parties evidently provided ample hunting ground for prospective spouses!During his assignment in South Africa, Antony traveled first class to England on the steamship Llangibby Castle, owned by the shipping line Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company Ltd, and arrived in Southampton on 11 November 1935.62 The reason for this journey is not known. After the completion of the consignment to the South African naval base in approximately 1937, Antony transferred to the Royal Navy Submarine Service, also known as the Silent Service. He joined the crew of the HMS Trident, a British T-class diesel-electric submarine.53,63 It was also from around 1937 that the rearmament of Germany started to become a threat to the peace in Europe.

In mid-1939 while the HMS Trident was still being fitted out, Antony was invited as an Training Observer aboard the newly built HMS Thetis during some of her commissioning trials.13,64-69 On 29 May 1939, the day before Tony left for Birkenhead, he was still visiting with his younger brother, Robin in Derby, Derbyshire, where they played a game of tennis. Tony won, of course!5 The submarine was built in England at the Cammall Laird shipyard at Birkenhead, a naval port on the west bank of River Mersey opposite Liverpool on the east bank. It departed from there at 09:40 to launch its first diving trial in Liverpool Bay in the Irish Sea, 20 km north-west of the coast of Great Omre, Llandudno, Northern Wales. It carried a normal crew of 53 sailors, with an additional 50 people: 26 Cammall Laird shipyard employees, 9 dockyard managers and fitters, 9 Royal Navy officers from submarine headquaters, 4 Vickers Armstrong employees and 2 representatives of a Liverpool catering business, who were supplying the pies, sandwiches and beer. The captain, Lieutenant-Commander Guy Bolus, was leading the diving exercise. Tragedy, however, struck on Thursday, 1 June 1939, during the maiden dive of the HMS Thetis. Once the dive – which was scheduled to last three hours – started at 2 pm, the submarine continued to remain too light to submerge. For 25 min the vessel struggled to dive, when suddenly she went under. The Thetis nosedived and its bow ploughed into the muddy sea bed, approximately 45 m below the sea surface. The submarine was unable to resurface and a SOS distress signal went out from the Thetis. Two front compartments flooded! Providentially, the quick action of Lt Tony Jamison prevented the flooding of the entire vessel, when he managed the closing of certain doors, as was testified afterwards. An uncontrollable rush of water had entered the vessel, after Lt Woods decided to check whether the No’s 5 and 6 tubes were full of water or not as there was uncertainty as to wether these tubes were flooded. But because the test-cock holes were clocked with spray-paint (which later transpired during the investigation that followed), he got no warning that the bow-cap of No.5 tube was open to the sea. With the hydroplanes set for diving and the sudden extra weight of the water in the bows, the Thetis nosed down and began to plummet. Woods and his men fought against the gushing water to close the forward watertight bulkhead, but a jammed butterfly nut and the difficulty of pulling a heavy door upwards against the angle which the Thetis had taken made this impossible. They thought that unless they retreated to the next watertight door and closed it, the water would hit the submarine’s batteries and release clouds of deadly chlorine gas throughout the vessel. Just as they closed the second door there came the impact of the ship’s bow hitting the bottom of the sea. Valiant attempts were made to get into the tube space to close the bow cap, but without success. The ship still had some buoyancy left and overnight the crew started to dump 60 tons of drinking water and fuel, allowing the vessel to rise stern first out of the water for some time on Friday, 2nd of June. Due to poor communications, and the fact the Grebecock, the tug that acted as escort during the exercise, had drifted away from the diving position, the submarine was not discovered until 07.45. Four men slipped through an escape hatch, all suffering asphyxia and severe shock. They were Captain Harry P.K Oram, torpedo officer Lt. Frederick Woods, Leading Stocker Walter Arnold and Mr. Frank Shaw, a Cammell Laird engine fitter. Yet, they testified of the calmness of the crewmen in the face of death. From the shore near Birkenhead, curious onlookers, concerned friends and anxious relatives could make out the stern of the helpless submarine rising 5.5 m above the sea surface.64-68 Among them was Robin Jamison, Tony’s 27-year old brother, who had rushed to the accident scene from Derby which was 115 km away from Birkenhead. Robin tried hard to convince the Admiralty that he, as an engineer, could lead a team to help save the rest of the crew. The Admiralty declined and Robin was left standing there frustrated, desperately hoping for a good word about his older brother.30 Rescuers worked tirelessly trying to keep the stern up and save more men. But more calamity struck when the next four men panicked and rushed through the escape procedure, causing the escape hatch to flood and leading to their drowning. The hatch was no longer operable. Rescue workers could hear banging coming from inside and were banging back to let those trapped inside know that they were there. But the vessel slipped back into the deep, cold water, leaving 99 men trapped. Rescue operations kept on failing and the remaining crew slowly succumbed to the low oxygen and rising carbon dioxide levels with surmounting symptoms of weakness, breathlessness, dizziness and ultimately an agonizing death. At 16:10 on Saturday, 3 June 1939, the Admiralty announced that all hope for more survivors was lost.64-68,70,71 VIEW HERE a clip of the Thetis disaster.

Four months lapsed before a major salvage operation was launched. The wreck was beached at Traeth Bychan near Moelfre Bay on the Island of Anglesey, northern Wales on 3 September 1939; the same day that Britain declared war on Nazi Germany. This was done to remove the bodies. Apparently the stench of decaying flesh was overwhelming for days after they opened the hull and laid the bodies on the sandy beach in view of curious sea gulls. The wreck was then towed to Holyhead.65,67,68

On 13 November 1939, the human remains of the last 34 crew members, which included Lt Antony Geoffrey Jamison, were retrieved from the wreck. Four days later on 17 November, they received a Christian naval funeral, with full naval honours, each coffin draped with the Union Jack flag. They were interned in a mass grave – together with the others victims who had already been buried – at Maeshyfryad Cemetery, Holyhead, Anglesey. At the graveside was a naval guard of honour and firing party. At the close of the service a volley was fired over the graves, and the “Last Post” and “Reveille” were sounded by naval buglers. The HMS Thetis Memorial was dedicated on 7 November 1947.64-69 VIEW HERE the casualty list of the HMS Thetis.

Investigations into the disaster highlighted a combination of design flaws, manufacturing mistakes, technical difficulties and human error as probable causes, but in the end no one was held accountable for this disaster. Although new yet flawed designs, particularly those that were introduced to the indicators of the test tubes, were confusing and complicating matters, the tragedy was primarily attributed to a tiny test-cock hole on the rear door of the number 5 torpedo tube which was blocked by enamel paint during the building phase, but nonetheless, Lt Woods is often blamed for the tragedy for not following the book instructions. Observers on the Grebecock became alarmed by the sudden dive and raised the alarm with the Navy’s Submarine Headquarters in Portsmouth, but it took over three and a half hours for the message to be received. The rescuing operation called Operation Subsmash, with Captain I.A. McIntyre in charge, was furthermore delayed with 20 hours and was rather disorganized and insufficient. Additionally, the commander of the Grebecock did not anchor the tug and had left it to drift out of position and so the exact position of the Thetis was not known. Aircraft flew over the area and located the submarine, but then called inaccurate locations. Only when the submarine’s stern lifted out of the water, did the rescuers know where the trapped men were. Cutting equipment was not ordered until it was too late. Naval divers who could have helped were stranded waiting for civilian colliers to load their ships’ bunkers. A salvage ship arrived in time to attach a wire hawser around the stern of the submarine and then with the help of winches an effort was made to pull the sub back to the surface. However, the strain on the wire cable was too much, the hawser snapped and Thetis sank to the bottom.64-68,70,71

The death of the submarine and her crew onboard, however, has since then been surrounded by various alleged conspiracy theories, and decades later turned out to carry some truth. Even Tony’s brother, Robin, tried for years thereafter to investigate the tragedy that led to his brother’s death, but was hitting a brick wall all the way.30 In 2009, Tim Booth revealed in his book Thetis down: The slow death of a submarine his discovery of archived memos of the Royal Naval Admiralty, that indicated their refusal to the rescue workers to have air holes drilled through the metal at the stern area, which would have taken a few minutes and would have saved the men from carbon poisoning and a resulting death by suffocation. Drilling air holes or cutting out an escape hole through the metal at the stern area were also denied. That would have saved the men’s lives, but would also compromise the submarine’s structure even after repairs. In light of the looming war, the Admiralty considered the holes inadvisable. It was clear that their overall rescue motive was to save the submarine at all cost, even if it was at the expense of its crew. The full extent of the findings of the investigation of the disaster, as well as the names of those held responsible for the tragedy, including revealing the inadequacies within the Admiralty, were withheld from the public. The final decision to release a ‘clean’ report to the public was made by none other than Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965), the Prime Minister of Britain at that time.72,73 Clearly, this decision was politically motivated …. the Thetis disaster made news headlines and the government certainly didn’t want to loose face with the people of Britain at a time when the country was engaged in a serious war and its citizens urgently being called and mobilized to patriotic duty and support. VIEW HERE the BBC documentary on the actual findings of the Thetis disaster as de-classified decades later.

The Thetis was indeed salvaged, and after an extensive rebuild, recommissioned for war on 3 December 1940 as the HMS Thunderbolt. It was sunk again on 14 March 1943 in the Mediterranean Sea by an Italian corvette, leaving no survivors.64-68,70,71

Antony Jamison died at the age of 29 years. He was unmarried and had no issue. His estate of £3278 7s. 7d was settled in London on 10 August 1940 by his brother, Robin, acting executor on behalf for their father, Dr Reginald Jamison of Cape Town.74

5.3 Robin Ralph

The third son, Robin Ralph (my husband’s grandfather) was born on 12 July 1912 and died on 18 March 1991 at Bristol, England. He married Hilda Watney Wilson and they had four children.5,13 Robin was the only son of Reginald and Eanswythe who continued the Jamison family line. The death of his brother Antony was a great trauma for Robin and had a major impact on him – he named his firstborn son, Anthony Alan, in honour of his brother. READ MORE on Robin Jamison.

5.4 Reginald Ivor

The fourth son of Reginald and Eanswythe, Reginald Ivor was born on 31 August 1916 at Horsham, Sussex, England. 5,13,75 He moved with his parents to South Africa when he was five years old, but attended secondary school in Britain. Ivor, as he was called, also completed his secondary and tertiary education in England, but thereafter returned to South Africa as a qualified architect in need of employment.5,13

During a WW2 recruitment campaign, Ivor volunteered to serve in the South African Army. Under the influence of General Jan Smuts, Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of the Union of South Africa, about 334 000 South Africans in total enlisted voluntarily in support of the Allied Forces during the course of World War II. Of these, 12 080 men lost their lives and were buried in Egypt, Libya and Italy.76 Ivor Jamison was enlisted in Cape Town into the 6thAnti-tank Battery of the 2nd South African Infantry Division (Field Regiment), where he was to serve as an artillery gunner.5,13,76,78 The Division was formed on 23 October 1940. The new recruits received combative training and then remained on alert in South Africa until the troops were deployed to North Africa on 20 April 1941. After spending six weeks at sea, they arrived in Egypt on 6 June 1941. Ivor and the rest of his South African Division resorted under Commander-in-Chief Claude Auchinleck (1884 – 1981) of the Royal Army. (The South African Forces formed part of the Royal British Force.)  The 2nd Division participated in various battles in Egypt during the North Africa Campaign.76

In January 1942, however, Erwin Rommel, commander of the German Africa Corps, launched a fresh attack from Tunisia into Libya. In reaction Auchinleck moved his troops into Libya on 22 March 1942 and posted the 2nd South African Division under the command of 39 year-old South African Major-General Hendrik Balzazar Klopper (1903 – 1977) at Tobruk with the main purpose to protect the stockpile of Allied fuel, ammunition, equipment and vehicles being kept there. Rommel, however, was gaining ground and the Allied forces evacuated toward the east thinking that Rommel was heading for Cairo. This left Tobruk fairly isolated from the rest of the Allied forces. The remaining garrison comprised approximately 33 000 soldiers and labourers, of which a third was South African men, including Ivor Jamison. The 11th Indian Brigade and British troops made up the rest. By June 1942 orders were given by the Winston Churchill that Tobruk was to be evacuated and the majority of troops moved towards El-Alamein and Alexandria in Egypt on 13 June 1942. Only the 2nd South African Infantry Division remained in Tobruk to guard the fortress and war supplies. On 20 June 1942, however, the Africa Korps of the German-Italian Army commanded by Field Marshal Johannes Erwin Eugen Rommel (1891 – 1944), nicknamed “The Desert Fox”, launched a surprise attack on Tobruk and with tactical superiority pushed passed the the thinly spread Allied Forces and on the night of 20 June launched the final onslaught.77-81Ivor recalled how he and his mates fought like hell through-out the night until the next day, but Rommel was advancing fast and they needed to fall back. When they turned around to hook up the anti-tank artillery to the trucks, the trucks were gone! 30 There they were ….. left behind, stranded, sitting ducks on a frozen lake, so to speak, though they were well aware of the heated pressure from Rommel and the blazing heat of the Sahara Desert. Ike Rosmarin, a war correspondent based in Tobruk, described the battle as “terrifying [but] worst of all was the fact that we did not know what was happening as there were no orders from our officers. Confusion reigned with fear and panic.” One article summarises it as follows: “With regard to orders, some testimonies indicate that a so-called “every man-for-himself” order was given, while others recall orders to the contrary, including one which stated that a “tank-hunting” force was to be sent out during the night of 20 June, of which Ivor Jamison was part of.” 61 Nevertheless, Klopper was forced to surrender on 21 June 1942; the fall of Tobruk was one of the worst Allied defeats of the war. More than 30,000 Allied soldiers were taken prisoner of which 10 772 were South Africans, a third of the total South African Armed Forces involved in the war at that point.77-81

For a couple of weeks thereafter, the prisoners-of-war (POWs) were held in temporary wire-fenced camps around Tobruk, under the watchful and often harsh eye of Italian guards and the Senussi (local tribes men). Food and in particularly, water, were scarce. Their fate soon became clear when the prisoners were shipped off to Italy on cargo ships. During the 5 to 8 day trip they were deprived of food, water, movement and basic sanitation facilities. Dysentery was rife among the already weakened men and they also had to battle a severe lice epidemic. – the lice thrived in the dark, damp, filthy and foul-aired hulls of the ships. Once in Italy, they could at least wash and be deloused.82

Bombardier Reginald Ivor Jamison (British POW no 29776), then in his late 20s, spent the remainder of the war in POW-camps, first near Genova (or Genoa) in north-western Italy until the country’s surrender to the Allied Forces in August 1943. Ivor was then moved to Germany to the notorious camp Stalag VIII-B, later renamed to Stalag 344, near Lamsdorf in Nazi Germany (now Lambinowice in Poland).5,83

Lamsdorf has comfortable summers, but winters are windy and extremely cold with high humidity all year round. The camp had a high wired fence, and were guarded by patrol dogs, as well as Guard and Searchlight Towers. There were between 8 000 to 15 000 prisoners at any time. Each barrack housed 400 men, with three-tier bunkers next to each other. In the middle was a washing trough and a large copper kettle to boil water for tea, but firewood was scares. Each man was allowed a shower only every ten days. Bedbugs, lice and flies were continuous irritations. The latrines had forty seats over deep pits, but the lids were later stolen by the men for firewood. Food were adequate although in low calorie quantities. It included bread, sauerkraut, potatoes, oatmeal, white cheese, as well as meat like bacon, liver and offal once a week. Additional weekly food parcels of tinned fish and ham as well as other food supplies were delivered by the British Red Cross. The parcels also contained luxury items such as soap, chocolate and cigarettes. Often, however, these parcels would not arrive for weeks due to the circumstances of conflict and enemy movement. Also, in September 1944 the large-scale destruction of the Red Cross tinned food stocks by German guards in the 8B-camp resulted in the onset of semi-starvation among the prisoners, which remained so until the end of the war.83,84

He was able to correspond with his family via letters which were handled by the Red Cross. In one of them he mentioned that he was taking lessons in yacht design from a New Zealander, and that he was busy designing his own dream boat. His letters were fairly upbeat – not necessarily because his circumstances were good – but was rather an effort to put his families’ hearts and minds at ease.5 Letters with negative comments on their circumstances or treatment by guards were confiscated by the prison authorities, anyway.83,84

As the Soviet Army was advancing into Germany by January 1945, the Germans started to march POWs westward in groups of 200 to 300 individuals. These winter marches became known as the Death March which lasted about four months. Hostile German guards forced exhausted, malnourished and ill-equipped men forward to the east of Germany in the most extreme winter conditions, in temperatures dropping down to –25 °C during blizzards. Insufficient clothing and deficient food supplies caused hardship and starvation, and even death for many due to hypothermia. Diseases like typhus and dysentery also added to their suffering, affecting up to 80% of prisoners. Ivor left Stalag 8b on 22 January 1945. How did he manage like others to survive on a slice of bread for three days at a time? Was he also able to find an already putrid sausage, and keeping it in his pocket rationing himself to just one bite a day like one prisoner did? Some men even tried to still their hunger by eating grass and leaves. Did Ivor also quench his thirst with snow or ice like many others? Did he also wake up one morning like others to find that his friend had frozen to death where they spent the night in a debilitated barn or in the open field? In the spring of 1945 several of these prisoner groups ran into the advancing Allied Forces and Ivor was freed by the Americans on 12 April 1945.83,85,86 After a few months of recovery in Britain, he was sent home.5As a result of his extended and extreme exposures to hardship and hunger during the march, Ivor developed diabetes mellitus which he had to manage for the rest of his life. Although Ivor talked about the battles he participated in during the war, he refused to talk about his experience as a prisoner-of-war.30 READ MORE on the long marches of 1944 – 1945.

Traveling documents show that the 38-year old Ivor spent some time in the Caribbean and in Europe (England) in 1954. He returned from Trinidad & Tobago in the Caribbean Sea, boarding at Port of Spain onto the Patricia 3 owned by Swedish Lloyd Shipping Line, which departed earlier on from Kingston, Jamaica. He disembarked at Tilbury, London on 22 April 1954. Ivor stayed in England for another four months before returning home to Cape Town. He boarded the Sterling Castle of Union Castle Shipping Line on 2 September 1954 in Southampton.87,88 The reasons for his trips are not clear. Maybe he treated himself to a world-wide tour vacation? Or maybe he went to visit friends and family? One can but speculate.

Ivor was a quiet, reserved man and never married. He was employed as an architect by the Cape Town Municipality for the remainder of his working life. Like his father, Ivor loved yachting and spent lots of time at sea.30 He was also a member of the Royal Cape Yacht Club in Cape Town. Ivor participated in numerous races, challenges, cruises and regattas, including Trans-Atlantic and South Atlantic open ocean races such as the Cape2Rio (Cape to Rio de Janeiro) Race. He won so many cups and trophies, it is too many to list here. Initially, between 1947 and 1953, he competed with his father’s yacht, Parergon II, but in between was able to complete the building of his father’s unfinished Parergon III. This yacht dominated the racing scene in the mid to late 1950s, and carried her heavy weather status with pride for many years, with Ivor Jamison as skipper and joint owner with Basil Lindhorst.32,33,89 Ivor died of bronchi-pneumonia at the age of 71 years on 2 November 1987 at Wynberg, Cape Town, South Africa.13,90The Mossel Bay Race – South Africa’s Oldest Ocean Race – over a distance of 470 km in the Indian Ocean, was conceived by Ivor Jamison and Frank Morgan. The two yachtsmen decided “that it was high time that the Royal Cape had a ‘real’ ocean race – something with a bit more of a challenge to it than the annual runs to Dassen Island and back”. The uninhabited Dassen Island lies in the Atlantic Ocean 55 km north of Cape Town. And so, sixty plus years ago, on 26 December 1955, six yachts started a yacht race. The race, however, has over time occurred intermittently, lacking the continuity the founders intended.32


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