WWII

80 Years On: Heroism Of Battle Of Britain’s Only WWII Naval Victoria Cross Winner

Anti-aircraft gunner LS Jack Mantle was killed by German planes in the Battle of the Channel.

On the morning of 4 July 1940, air-raid sirens across Portland Harbour, on England's South Coast, alerted the crew of HMS Foylebank to an incoming threat.

HMS Foylebank prepared to defend the harbour against the start of what the Germans called the Kanalkampf – the Battle of the Channel.

The events that followed resulted in the only Naval Victoria Cross awarded during the Battle of Britain.

Twenty Junkers 87s escorted by twin-engined Messerschmitt 110 fighters were sent across the Channel for the initial strike, 20 bombs estimated to have hit the vessel.

During the eight-minute onslaught, 23-year-old Leading Seaman Jack Mantle's leg was shattered.

But despite his injury and an electrical system failure, requiring guns to be operated by hand, the Londoner managed to return fire and inspired his shipmates to fight back.

German Stukas attacked HMS Foylebank on 4 July 1940 (Picture: Royal Navy).

The gunner died shortly after the attack, whilst the vessel was later sank - taking more than 70 men with her.

A Conspicuous Gallantry Medal was later elevated to a Victoria Cross in recognition of Leading Seaman Mantle's bravery.

He remains the only sailor to receive the accolade for actions in the UK itself.

Cover image: Leading Seaman Jack Mantle  (Picture: Royal Navy).